The US Navy wants to find ships to kill using aerial drones launched from submarines

The name of the game in the Pacific is stand-off range. But with longer range torpedoes and anti-ship missiles in the arsenal, submariners are looking to a new domain to help them extend their deadly reach: The air.

In an October request for information, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Submarine Combat and Weapons Control Program Office asked industry for input into a “Submarine-Launched Unmanned Aerial System,” or SLUAS, currently in development.

The Navy has been interested in sub-launched drones for some time and has been testing prototypes, but the RFI shows the service is getting serious about the idea as it adds longer-range torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles to the arsenal of its attack submarines.

The idea for the SLUAS is an ambitious one.

The drone would launch from a submerged submarine out of a 3-inch ejector tube used for sonobuoys, flares and countermeasures among other things. The battery-operated UAS would then deploy its wings and operate for an hour, well beyond the range visible from just the low-in-the-water periscope.

Additionally, the UAS should have an “electro-optic capability with reliable target solution analysis,” the RFI said, adding that it should be able to “operate at ranges out to the line-of-sight radio horizon, and use a variable bandwidth encrypted datalink with at least 256-bit encryption strength.

The drone should also have a degree of autonomy and “include the ability to operate in an emission-controlled environment and operate without constant radio communication links.”

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