The US naval air systems command (NAVAIR) and Advanced Ceramics Research are developing a net-based landing system to allow their jointly developed Silver Fox UAV to be recovered aboard ships at sea.

Current production Block 4 Silver Fox UAVs already incorporate some marinisation features enabling the UAV to be recovered into water. That variant is now fielded by the US navy’s Special Clearance Team One.

Development work on the net landing system is currently focused on the US Coast Guard, with integration of a bungee catapult launcher on to a cutter using a 0.50 calibre machine gun mount planned. Anthony Brescia, NAVAIR programme manager for unmanned vehicle sensor payloads and airframes, says “they are doing a net recovery system for this as well”.

Silver Fox currently uses belly landing for both ground and water recovery. Full marinisation of Silver Fox for water landings is being worked on, Brescia says.

The air vehicles operated by Special Clearance Team One are launched from a catapult fitted into the bow of an 11m (36ft) rigid inflatable boat.

Brescia says an effort is also under way to develop a skid landing system for the NAVAIR-Advanced Ceramics joint development Manta UAV to replace its existing retractable wheeled undercarriage. The UAV currently uses either a catapult or a conventional runway for take-off with landing restricted to a runway.

“There is a process or programme that we have under way that is going to be skid landing,” he says.

Catapult is being used to support Manta launch from the Office of Force Transformation’s Stiletto very high speed technology demonstrator vessel, with flights being conducted since the beginning of 2006. Air vehicle recovery is to the shore at present.

Brescia says that as well as being in operation with Special Clearance Team One, Silver Fox is currently fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 15th and 31st US Marine Corp expeditionary units. The type is also being used by the US Special Forces in Columbia to support ongoing training of that nation’s army to conduct counter-narcotics operations.

NAVAIR and Advanced Ceramics are planning to again demonstrate Silver Fox in Australia in June of this year Brescia said, with this following an initial marketing effort conducted in October last year.