RFA Cardigan Bay and Scan Eagle RPAS

A handful of images from RFA Cardigan Bay in the Middle East and the Scan Eagle Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS)

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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV RECOVERY
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV RECOVERY
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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV RECOVERY
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV RECOVERY
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The Royal Navy is holding its first ‘robot wars’, inviting firms at the cutting-edge of science to demonstrate unmanned aircraft, boats and submarines.
The Royal Navy is holding its first ‘robot wars’, inviting firms at the cutting-edge of science to demonstrate unmanned aircraft, boats and submarines.
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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV GROUND RUN
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV GROUND RUN
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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS
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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS Whilst operating in the Gulf Region, RFA Cardigan Bay has taken an opportunity to test out her latest piece of kit on board - a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). On the 21 January 2014, members of RFA Cardigan Bay's crew and specialist technicians embarked for the few days at sea trialled the relatively new piece of equipment currently in the Fleet. This involved a launch in the morning followed by a recovery in the late afternoon. Pictured: A Scan Eagle UAV is launched from an air powered catapult from RFA Cardigan Bay during trials. Picture: LA(Phot) Dan Rosenbaum RFA Cardigan Bay Consent forms signed and held at FRPU(E), HMS Excellent, Portsmouth
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS
Whilst operating in the Gulf Region, RFA Cardigan Bay has taken an opportunity to test out her latest piece of kit on board – a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). On the 21 January 2014, members of RFA Cardigan Bay’s crew and specialist technicians embarked for the few days at sea trialled the relatively new piece of equipment currently in the Fleet. This involved a launch in the morning followed by a recovery in the late afternoon.
Pictured: A Scan Eagle UAV is launched from an air powered catapult from RFA Cardigan Bay during trials.
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ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS
ROYAL FLEET AUXILLARY SHIP CARDIGAN BAY CONDUCTS SCAN EAGLE UAV TRIALS
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The Other Chris
January 6, 2015 9:44 am

I like Images 6 and 7 with the ScanEagle launch alongside the Phalanx.

Pull!

Martin
Editor
January 6, 2015 11:14 am

pitty we could not get some more of these. Having them on the new River Class OPVs could go some way to offsetting the lack of hanger facilities for a permanently embarked helicopter.

Observer
Observer
January 6, 2015 12:23 pm

Martin, depends on where those Rivers are being deployed. If it is somewhere down south, I suspect the winds might be too treacherous to use them too often. Scaneagles, while useful, are rather light and low powered.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 6, 2015 12:26 pm

Some how this reminds me of those sticks and strings biplanes flown off WWI Battleships.

http://www.adf-gallery.com.au/gallery/albums/Sopwith-1-1-2-Strutter/IWM_Q_18729.jpg

Anixtu
Anixtu
January 6, 2015 12:29 pm

Martin,

“Having them on the new River Class OPVs could go some way to offsetting the lack of hanger facilities for a permanently embarked helicopter.”

Will DEFRA be paying, and will we be the first country to use shipborne UAS for fishery protection?

Chris
Chris
January 6, 2015 1:00 pm

DejaVu – ref Sopwith – I trust you noted its take-off roll was not assisted by catapult and was just over one aircraft length? Clearly the RN has had the short take-off bug for a very long time. However, this is not a seaplane (later deployed aircraft were, which allowed them to land – water? – on the sea next to the ship ready to be winched aboard). Its not at all clear how this would be recovered for reuse?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 6, 2015 1:21 pm

Anixtu,
That would be a poacher-turned-gamekeeper story… As the origins of the gadget are in tuna spotting

Observer
Observer
January 6, 2015 3:41 pm

Actually Anxitu, you won’t be. We’ve been using those off our corvettes for a few years now, and while in theory those are warships, guess what they do most of the time?

But we cheat.

Our waters are so placid that we can get away with a lot of marginal things that would not work elsewhere.

Chuck Hill
January 6, 2015 6:25 pm

The USCG has also been testing them. They really need a radar, but that may be coming. One was used in a drug seizure about a year ago. Also testing the MQ-8B from a cutter.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
January 6, 2015 6:49 pm

Reminds me of this idea…

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA518429

Bays are very useful ships/empty floating boxes/modular motherships. …

Martin
Editor
January 6, 2015 8:39 pm

@ anixtu and observer

Was thinking more for APT(n) in the Caribbean or off African coast and hopefully it would be DFID paying.

A River with one of these would be a fairly cost effective way to replace a £400 million frigate with a £ 27 million helicopter for low end security tasks.

Would also be an effective contribution by the UK to EU naval task forces in the med stopping illegal migrants.

Martin
Editor
January 6, 2015 8:46 pm

@ ST

A UAV mother ship seems like a waste of money. surely it’s better to just use UAV’s from other platforms like CV, LHD, LPH.

Adding a UAV mother ship to the fleet would just rob the budget from another platform and would not give the flexibility of UAV’s spread across the entire fleet.

Repulse
January 6, 2015 10:05 pm

Would look good on the back of a new class of small (fast) patrol ships :)

Anixtu
Anixtu
January 6, 2015 10:18 pm

Martin,

Cost-effective for what effect? What parts of those tasks can a ScanEagle equipped River carry out, and what parts can it not? It still cannot catch or stop pirates or smugglers in 25+ knots skiffs or go-fast.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 6, 2015 10:33 pm

A better systemic solution might be an optionally manned RHIB (24 hour endurance, sea state 6, not really wind limited but a bit at the top end in Beaufort 8), towing an aerostat at anything up to 2,000 feet. Aerostat payload 5 kgs, 24 hour batteries.

Put whatever you want on the aerostat: camera, comms relay, both… The heavy gubbins is down below on the RHIB. Only the sensor and antenna is aloft.

Martin
Editor
January 6, 2015 11:04 pm

@ anixtu

How often do we need to chase bad guys in RHIbs doing 25knts outside of an episode of Miami Vice?

Challenger
Challenger
January 6, 2015 11:11 pm

@Anixtu

‘It still cannot catch or stop pirates or smugglers in 25+ knots skiffs or go-fast’

Yes, unless Scan-Eagle comes with a sharp-shooter hanging off the side to take out an engine then it’s not quite going to do the job.

The Other Chris
January 6, 2015 11:27 pm

@RT

Check out the Selex hyperspectral imager they’re considering putting on the HAV304 for the MoD trials this year.

Italian division design, meant for agricultural and science satellite work.

Earlier models already aloft can measure the amount of protein in maize crops at orbital altitudes amongst other tricks…

Anixtu
Anixtu
January 6, 2015 11:28 pm
Dunservin
Dunservin
January 7, 2015 12:28 am

& RT

RPAS and aerostats can’t shoot out the engine of a fast moving small craft, nor can they replicate a helicopter’s ability to:

Fire warning shots across the bow of a target vessel
Rapid-rope a boarding party to the deck of a target vessel
Mark and recover ditched contraband or other evidence before it sinks
Conduct VERTREP with an RFA
Transfer portable pumps and other heavy equipment to a ship that’s flooding or on fire
Air-lift heavy stores ashore/inland during a disaster relief operation
Air-lift security forces ashore/inland to deal with a local insurrection
Perform longer range SOOTAX, stores/mail pick-up and delivery or other non-delaying ship/shore errands

My ship’s helo was called on to perform all of these activities during a single deployment in the West Indies. It was also involved in several ASW and ASuW trials and exercise serials with own and other regional forces at AUTEC and elsewhere.

Observer
Observer
January 7, 2015 5:16 am

And what it does do is allow you early warning to preposition a slow arse ship in a position across the contact’s likely route.

It’s not ideal I know, a helo is much much more flexible, but sometimes you simply don’t have much of a choice. It’s scan eagle or nothing, especially for ships <1,000 tons

Martin
Editor
January 7, 2015 9:28 am

@ observer

My point exactly. I would love to have more frigates but we are not going to get them. So it’s a river with scan eagle or nothing in many cases. I would much rather have seen the rivers completed with hangers but it’s not going to happen. We have to make the best of what we got.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 7, 2015 9:29 am

Yep, this two pound radar is already old hat:
http://media.defenceindustrydaily.com/images/ELEC_NanoSAR_on_ScanEagle.jpg

But this boat is well under 1000 in displacement
http://media.defenceindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_UAV_ScanEagle_Small_Craft_Recovery_lg.jpg
Which is quite useful if you put the launch mechanism on a Bay on”serial fire”, have many of them up simultaneously to provide targeting for RM on a dispersed operation over a wide area, and still recover them at their extreme ranges.

Kent
Kent
January 7, 2015 2:32 pm

Maybe a nice Miami Vice cigarette boat with an RWS?

Anixtu
Anixtu
January 7, 2015 3:04 pm

Martin,

“So it’s a river with scan eagle or nothing in many cases.”

If the available assets cannot adequately perform the required task, save operating costs and do nothing. Don’t waste funds investing in assets that can’t quite do the job either.

MSR
MSR
January 8, 2015 3:03 pm

Agree with Anixtu. The only possible motive for throwing good money down such a toilet is political, and whether the politician in question wears a uniform or sits in parliament is irrelevant. Such equipment might meet a perceived need to acquire some sort of flag-waving, dick-swinging capability that will let us play in certain playgrounds internationally. Or it might be used to justify cuts to manned platforms domestically by using the Type 45 ‘super technology’ argument to explain why a much better manned platform (and the ship to operate it) weren’t bought instead. Either way the nation loses out and risks getting involved in situations where our gobby “punch above our weight” ambitions write cheques that our real-world, wheezing, flabby gut bodies can’t cash.

Changing the subject…

UAV motherships using (relatively cheap) MOTS UCAV designs will be the poor man’s aircraft carrier in the future, just like 8″ gunned cruisers were the poor man’s battleship during the dreadnought age.

I am very intrigued by the concept design Swimming Trunks linked above (link repeated below). Their launch solution strikes me as very workable and highly flexible. The idea of VLS or missile silo launched UAVs is not new, although most of these ideas treat the UAVs as expendable munitions, which makes it more desirable to use cheap and simple craft to control costs. The concept design makes use of what you might call breech-loading Soviet-style launch tubes mounted through the bows, fed by a warehouse-sized magazine of hundreds of UAVs below decks. One can imagine the combinations of aircraft type and payload that can be assembled, Lego-style, before being rammed up the tube and shot into the air. And that type of onboard assembly process was perfected decades ago with the likes of Sea Slug and Terrier.

A design like this might even be the next carrier that countries like Italy or Brazil operate. Or even the UK…

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf&AD=ADA518429

El Sid
El Sid
May 27, 2016 3:16 pm

Two recent developments of interest on the Scan Eagle front:
https://news.usni.org/2016/05/25/insitu-introducing-scaneagle-maritime-surveillance-sensor-expeditionary-launcher

FLARES is a quadcopter that allows Scan Eagle to deploy and retrieve from a negligible footprint – they talk about the back of a pick-up, I immediately started thinking of an ORC or a submarine. Although the sub would have to surface, it would have the advantage over some of the tube-launched UAVs of better endurance and reusability on long patrols.

ViDAR is a baby Gorgon Stare for broad-area surveillance at a range of 10 miles – they talk about covering 1000 square miles per hour, using software to home in on things that aren’t sea. Could be great for fisheries patrol and finding lifeboats etc as well as more sneaky missions.