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Showing posts from January 13, 2013

Puma Goes to Sea (Again)

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Continuing a recent string of articles on unmanned air vehicles, this month's US Naval Institute's Proceedings features an article (membership required) by CDR Rich Lebron, Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) and two other officers in his wardroom.  The piece highlights recent at-sea testing of the Puma AE small tactical unmanned aerial system onboard Benfold last year.

The article discusses the utility that even a short-range, hand-launched UAV can bring to a surface combatant.  Benfold tested the Puma off the California Coast against simulated small boat attacks and to monitor a visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) exercise with similar results.

Lebron et al conclude that despite range limitations, the Puma is quite suitable for use by independent steaming surface combatants such as Benfold, which usually operates without external support on long duration ballistic-missile-defense missions.  It is affordable, requires no additional crew, little add…

Unmanned ISR and Future Air Wing Composition

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According to Defense News, the U.S. Navy's inventory of manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconaissance (ISR) platforms - land-based P-3 Orion and EP-3 Aries - will be cut by more than a quarter over the next few years.  The current consolidations are not the first time in recent history the Navy has trimmed ISR capability.  As late as the 1990s, a typical carrier air wing deployed with a number of organic platforms capable of collecting intelligence, including tactical aircraft such as the F-14 with the Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) and ES-3A Shadows for electronic signals intercept (ELINT).  These aircraft were supplemented by a robust ground-based P-3 fleet along with numerous FLIR and radar capable helicopters on smaller cruisers and destroyers. Today's remaining manned aircraft, such as the venerable, but still effective, P-3s are today often found flying over-land missions in support of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.  The…