US Navy Orders Submarine-Launched UAS from AeroVironment

AeroVironment, an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) provider for military and commercial applications, has won a contract from the US Navy for continuation and expansion of its Blackwing small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) program.

The contract includes orders for multiple Blackwing vehicles, sensor payloads and refurbishment kits for approximately $2.5 million. The initial set of vehicles are anticipated for delivery by May 2018, and final delivery anticipated by November 2018.

Blackwing is a small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft that employs electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, integrated inertial/GPS autopilot system and secure Digital Data Link (DDL), all packaged into a vehicle that launches from under the surface of the sea, from manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

“Since first being deployed just a few months ago, Blackwing has delivered valuable new capabilities to United States naval undersea warfare units,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. “This contract is consistent with the Navy’s plans to resupply existing vessels and equip additional submarines with the Blackwing capability.”

AeroVironment developed the Blackwing system as part of a 2013 Navy and United States Pacific Command (PACOM) sponsored Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM). This JCTD was completed in September 2015 with recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet.

“Blackwing can also be integrated with and deployed from a wide variety of surface vessels and mobile ground vehicles to provide rapid response reconnaissance capabilities to help warfighters proceed with certainty, even in the most challenging settings, helping to ensure safe and successful missions,” Flittie said.

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport (NUWCDIVNPT) awarded this contract to AeroVironment, the only manufacturer of the Blackwing UAS, on a sole source basis in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) guidelines.

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