The US Navy is to operationally deploy the Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle aboard its Aegis-class cruisers and is looking at also fielding the system aboard FFG7 class frigates.

The initial Aegis ship deployments are to commence within four to six months, according to the head of the US Navy's PMA-263 programme office Capt Paul Morgan.

Complete air vehicle systems will be supplied by Boeing and Insitu under ongoing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services contracts renewed by the navy last month.

Morgan says: "We are now moving away from the 'gator' navy as we call it and we are moving onto the Aegis class ships. The fleet has also asked us to put this on the FFGs as well."

The USN has not operated a fixed-wing UAV from its major surface combatants for at least a decade after it transferred its Pioneer UAVs to the US Marine Corps. Those systems had been launched from large warships using rocket boosters and were recovered using a net landing system.

Scan Eagle is catapult-launched and uses a proprietary "skyhook" landing system that allows the aircraft to be captured on a vertical wire suspended beside the ship.

"It will be within the next four to six months, and that is a big deal for us," says Morgan. "As anybody who is familiar with the navy knows, the Aegis cruisers are where the action is in the surface navy and for us to help them with this capability is just going to be terrific."

The USN and USMC now field 19 Scan Eagle detachments, with these owned, operated and maintained by Boeing and Insitu.