Six years ago the military wanted to be able to launch an unmanned aircraft from a submerged submarine. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on Thursday announced that dream has become reality with the successful launch of a small drone from a submerged submarine. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) was behind the program with funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO).

The all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) was fired from from the Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) submarine while it was submerged. The XFC UAS (eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System), as the military calls it, was fired from the submarine's torpedo tube using a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system.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. The submarine was able release the Tomahawk launch canister from the torpedo tube and then on the surface of the water the tube floating like a buoy opened and out came the drone.

"This six-year effort represents the best in collaboration of a Navy laboratory and industry to produce a technology that meets the needs of the special operations community," said Dr. Warren Schultz, program developer and manager, NRL. "The creativity and resourcefulness brought to this project by a unique team of scientists and engineers represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV propulsion and launch system
The military said that the drone flew for several hours and completed a mission with live video streaming capabilities. Pretty cool stuff and it is pretty neat to see the USS Providence taking part in the exercise.  The USS Providence was the first submarine to launch a Tomahawk missile from the Vertical Launch System and now it is the first submarine to use the same system to launch a drone!

XFC unmanned aircraft