General Dynamics Mission Systems and General Dynamics Electric Boat have announced that they have demonstrated multiple mission command, control and communication capabilities connecting Bluefin Robotics’ unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) and an AeroVironment Blackwing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a simulated AN/BYG-1 submarine combat control center ashore. A Stackable Air-powered Launch System (STAPLS) designed for use aboard submarines was also used. The goal of the General Dynamics demonstrations was to provide available solutions to the communications challenges of operating in a contested, undersea environment. Each demonstration took place at the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, as part of the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) 2017.
The General Dynamics team demonstrated capabilities for real-time, two-way communications from the AN/BYG-1 control center to change the mission Bluefin SandShark UUV, via the UAV while the Bluefin SandShark was operating in the water. In another demonstration, the Bluefin SandShark communicated with a simulated undersea communications network comprised of an acoustic communication node connected to a fiber optic cable that relayed information from the Bluefin SandShark back to the AN/BYG-1 via a surface buoy.
The General Dynamics team also launched both a Bluefin SandShark UUV and a Hammerhead canister containing the UAV from two platforms, a Bluefin-21 medium-weight UUV and then from a STAPLS launcher designed by General Dynamics Electric Boat.
“This demonstration proves that General Dynamics and its partners can solve significant challenges to establishing tactical communication networks quickly and effectively using assets undersea, at the surface and in the air,” said Carlo Zaffanella, vice president and general manager of Maritime and Strategic Systems for General Dynamics Mission Systems. “We look forward to working with our partners and the Navy to make these capabilities mission ready.”
General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Applied Physical Sciences organization developed the prototype STAPLS launcher as a powerful, cost-effective solution to launch tactical assets like the Bluefin SandShark and Blackwing UAV from a submarine. This simple, scalable launcher, developed with Electric Boat’s internal funds, can increase submarine payload options without displacing existing payloads. Adaptable to a wide range of payloads, insertion on fielded and new construction submarines is envisioned.
Kenneth Perry, a vice president of General Dynamics Electric Boat said, “The General Dynamics team successfully demonstrated our innovative STAPLs submarine payload launcher with UAV and UUV payloads, all integrated via an air-land-undersea network. It reflects General Dynamics’ commitment to delivering advanced and relevant undersea capabilities for the Navy.”