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Stiletto Does Carrier Trials!

January 17, 2010

From 2006--The crew of experimental boat ship Stiletto readies the ship as it prepares to launch an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) during Exercise Howler.

Not as far fetched as it sounds. The experiment M80 Stiletto craft pictured above in an older photo has been used as a test platform lately for ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicles. Here is the latest update from Def Pro:

AAI Corporation… announced today that its Aerosonde Mark 4.7 small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) successfully completed a week of flight operations aboard the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s M-80 Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Test Bed. AAI conducted a series of Aerosonde Mark 4.7 SUAS flight tests at sea, concluding with multiple successful launches and recoveries aboard the Stiletto vessel.

The Stiletto shipboard trials established AAI’s unique, integrated launch and recovery system at technology readiness level (TRL) 7 during multiple successful aircraft recoveries in a maritime operational environment. The shipboard Aerosonde Mark 4.7 SUAS includes the integrated launch and recovery system; the Mark 4.7 aircraft with enhanced, leading-edge wings; on-the-move navigation; automatic takeoff and landing capability; and shipboard integration to the command and control center. AAI’s integrated, one-piece launch and recovery system easily fits aboard small ships without necessitating shipboard alterations.

The pictures above and below are from 2006, when trials with a Manta UAV were conducted. Note also the report said the system was for “launch and recovery“. It is plain to see how the UAV is launched but I am unsure how the recovery is done. If any of our Expert Readers has details, it would be much appreciated within the comments.

Again from 2006--A "Manta" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) launches from the flight deck of experimental boat ship Stiletto during Exercise Howler off coast San Diego.

Consider for a moment the implications when high performance UAVs, even combat drones are launched from tiny stealth craft such as Stiletto (60 tons). The use of such cost saving yet enormously versatile and effective planes (as we see from our land wars) by our military staggers the imagination, but also ominously so if such easily deployable technology is used against us by a enemy power.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 18, 2010 6:08 am

    I would say not.

  2. leesea permalink
    January 17, 2010 11:56 pm

    it would appear to me that the Stiletto is not underway?

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 17, 2010 3:49 pm

    Thanks for all the extra info everyone!

  4. Scott B. permalink
    January 17, 2010 3:00 pm

    Chuck Hill said : “Strange that it obviously has wheels, and they are down or fixed at launch from a catapult mechanism.”

    Second pic in Mike’s blog entry is a Manta, not a Mark 4.7.

    Wheels getting in the way during net recovery is not a problem with the Mark 4.7. You’ll find out for yourself whenever the pics I mentioned earlier get posted (if they do).

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 17, 2010 2:35 pm

    Strange that it obviously has wheels, and they are down or fixed at launch from a catapult mechanism. Wheels would get in the way landing via net as well, and they constantly exact a performance penalty in drag if fixed and weight even if retractable.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    January 17, 2010 2:26 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “It is plain to see how the UAV is launched but I am unsure how the recovery is done. If any of our Expert Readers has details, it would be much appreciated within the comments.”

    Aerosonde Mark 4.7 recovers into a net. I might have a couple of pics showing how it looks like. If you’re interested, just drop me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you.

  7. CBD permalink
    January 17, 2010 1:03 pm

    According to their brochure, the 4.4 version is belly-landed and there is a mechanism to withdraw the payload into the airframe during landing. Sounds like a pretty harsh landing mode vs. the ScanEagles…maybe the 4.7 has a different catch mechanism?

  8. January 17, 2010 12:59 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    many of these small aircraft will have stall speeds which are lower than the speed of a vessel like Stiletto.
    When the aircraft can fly at the same speed as the ship it can conduct a relative vertical landing.
    If it is small enough it could even fly into the hands of the crew.
    Not unlike the earliest days of manned naval aviation!


  9. January 17, 2010 9:51 am

    This press release mentions:

    “The Aerosonde Mark 4.7 system also incorporates AAI’s unique Launch and Recovery Trailer, comprised of an AAI-proprietary Sliding Frame Launcher and hydraulically actuated Soft Hands™ Net Recovery System.”

    This company also makes the Shadow UAS and you can see a picture of a net recovery system on page 2 of this PDF: presumably something similar is used for this model.

    The press release mentioned above also promises a flying display at the Bahrain International Airshow scheduled for January 21-23 2010 at the Sakhir Air Base in Bahrain. Hopefully we will get some more images/videos from that appearance.

    For now, you can see the company’s image gallery here, news announcement library here and a video demonstrating land-based system operation here.

  10. Marcase permalink
    January 17, 2010 9:27 am

    I’m not sure about Aerosonde (which was the first UAV to cross the Atlantic IIRC, long-range, recoverable on land), but the comparable Boeing/InSitu “tuna hunting” ScanEagle can be recovered by simply dangling a wire from a pole, which it snags via its wingtips. Both Aerosonde and ScanEagle have long range/endurance, making them very attractive for small craft like the Stiletto.

    They *are* a bit smallish though, so ISR payload is limited, nvm weapons.

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