USS Monsoon tests RQ-20A Puma AE
USS Monsoon, a Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship of the US Navy, has tested the capabilities of the AeroVironment RQ-20A Puma All Environment (AE) small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS), the navy announced on 3 August.
The RQ-20A Puma AE was tested during a Griffin missile system test in the Arabian Gulf. The goal of the testing was to assess how SUAS can give 'eye in the sky' situational awareness capabilities to vessels that don't have an embarked helicopter or organic airborne capability of some kind.
The Puma AE weighs around 14lbs and can fly for over three hours at an altitude of 500ft with a range of 15km. It can be assembled, hand-launched and operated by a two-man team using GPS or manual control. With its infrared and electro-optical camera, the UAS can be used for missions such as personnel recovery, search and rescue, man overboard and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises.
Lt Cmdr Bryan Hart, commanding officer of the USS Hurricane, said: 'Puma is most commonly employed as a precursor search and overwatch platform to support her VBSS team, and it is also commonly used for area surveillance and range clearance during gunnery exercises. During a recent gunnery exercise, Puma operators were the first to identify inbound navigational concerns, allowing for increased reaction time from the navigation team due to the significant increase in the distance in sight Puma provides beyond that of the ship.'
The Puma has previously been used on USS Gonzalez, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, but was not fully integrated as part of the ship's weapons cache to use for intelligence-gathering during deployment.
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