Sunday, December 08, 2013

USS Providence Credited with Submarine History

In 2008, USS Providence commemorated the 50th anniversary of submarine history, the polar transit by USS Nautilus (SSN 571) in 1958, by breaking through the ice at the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean, while en route to the U.S. 7th Fleet's AoR.

Congratulations are in order for the captain, crew, and the dozen or so 'riders' on USS Providence (SSN-719).  The oldest LOS ANGELES class sub of the 30 (active) fitted with 12 vertical launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles,  USS Providence becomes the first sub to successfully luanch a drone while submerged.
The Navy announced Dec 5th that in a recent feat developed over six years,  an XFC UAS-eXperimental drone was recently launched using a similar methodology to how the Navy deploys Tomahawk cruise missiles. 
The test launch was followed by what the Navy says was a successful, "several hour" flight. The XFC itself can last for more than six hours on fuel cells, and be launched from something as small as a pickup truck when on land, the Navy says.
Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful several hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas. source
The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. source

The timing of the announcement two days before Dec 7th (Pearl Harbor Day) may have been designed to 'throw water on' or delay anticipated announcements of rather superficial drone/submarine progress by Iran, Russia, China, and even North Korea.

As usual, the future will let us know the exact nature of such announcement(s).  Stand by.

Submarines are always silent and strange.

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At 08 December, 2013 19:41, Blogger Pete said...

Hi Vigilis

While the XFC provides an extra eye (and other sensors) in the sky, I was wondering whether it may alert the opposition that that there is a parent sub in the vicinity?

In that sense the XFC becomes a roving flare with wings.

Or perhaps its too small or plasticized to be detected? Or perhaps it could be used as a tactical decoy in some game plan?



At 09 December, 2013 22:57, Blogger Vigilis said...

The recently launched XFC is just one early prototype (of at least eleven models).

If you are asking whether sensor comms are slaved to its parent sub, my guess would be not likely for a variety of practical, tactical (and perhaps even strategic) reasons.

Network-centric comms has not been a new idea to either the submarine nor space defense communities.

To maintain stealth, digitized (encrypted) "burst" signals can certainly emanate from temporary (expendable, seld-destruct) buoys.

I consider the recent announcement of launch success as enticement for the opposition to funnel their scarce funds down rabbit holes.

Knowing what we do about the NSA, satellite surveillance,and the latest spy aircraft (RQ-180?):

...the luxury of all U.S. subs having the capability suggested by the XFC launch is certainly nice, but very unlikely to be used except in war, or to start one. The foregoing methods plus HUMINT are vastly superior in most instances and would certainly not sacrifice valuable sub stealth.

When and where actualy advantaged, why not launch aerial drones from small craft or pickup truck, which had been done easilly years before and involves more expendable platforms?

At 15 December, 2013 19:28, Blogger Pete said...

Thanks for your comprehensive reply Vigilis. Yes its early days with many possibilities.

I was looking up the other day, which identifies one gap that the XFC might fill:

"The difficulty with autonomous submarines is that, in contrast with other robotic applications, their sensors will not be able to give them sufficient information to make an informed decision.

Specifically, if the submarine were to encounter a ship that is transporting enemy supplies, there would be no way for the submarine to know how many civilians are on board. Without that knowledge, it would not be allowed to sink the ship for fear of killing too many innocents..."

So the XFC launched by an armed UUV could provide the needed eye in the sky.



At 16 December, 2013 15:00, Blogger Vigilis said...

Pete, as you rightly observe, the Wiki link makes a valid point that we had overlooked earlier.

In addition, we believe it raises a second issue for U.S. submarine strikes not pre-cleared by the CO's standing orders:

Without pre-clearance, individual strikes would have to be cleared by higher command on a cumbersome, case-by-case basis.

In turn, a capacity for timely 2-way comms, target value, and stealth could each be overriding circumstances.

Thanks again, for bringing this to our attention.


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