Over the past 15 years, SEACORP has developed a family of launchers with their patented technology using different sized and powered Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) automotive airbag inflators to provide the impulse energy for launching a wide variety of payloads. Originally developed in partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center to replace the surface ship torpedo launcher aboard U.S. Navy surface combatants, the program has grown to incorporate payloads from UAVs weighing less than 2 lbs to 740 lb torpedoes. Launch platforms for these launchers include surface ships, submarines, USVs, aircraft, and ground vehicles. Extensive live fire testing has been successfully completed demonstrating the versatility of this technology. Testing has been conducted both at sea and at land based sites, and in SEA CORP’s indoor Dynamic Test Facility.
Combined with simulation modeling, the tests have given SEA CORP a wealth of data for the characterization of system performance under various conditions with different payloads.
The reliability and long shelf life (over 15 years) of COTS airbag inflators makes it possible for the development of modular payload launching systems, completely self contained in a combination shipping container/launch canister. This “All-Up-Round” concept allows for relatively simple mounting to ships, vehicles, or aircraft, and electrical connection to an appropriate fire control system.
The prototype Hellshot UAV launcher uses four automotive airbag inflators to impulse the UAV from the its launch tube and provide a high enough exit velocity to thrust the UAV to transition to flight while imparting low G forces on the UAV. The Hellshot launcher was specifically developed for the Army under a contract with L3 Communications – Geneva Aerospace. It deploys their CUTLASS folded wing UAV that was developed for launching from a Type A size sonobuoy canister from an aircraft. This size very closely matches the 120mm Army mortar as well. Use of multiple COTS inflators for the impulse energy facilitates operational flexibility, weight reduction, and payload variability. The launcher can be adapted to similar sized UAVs with only minor modifications to the push points.
The Close Combat Lethal Reconnaissance (CCLR) program deploys a very small, one time use, man-portable UAV developed by Raytheon Missile Systems for the Army. SEA CORP developed a prototype launcher using a single inflator plus the control electronics. The follow-on launcher was a more tactical configuration incorporating features for the fiber optic UAV control tether. The entire launcher weighs less than 2 lbs.
SEACORP is currently developing several UAV launchers to be deployed from submarines. These launchers will deploy from the submarine’s Trash Disposal Unit (TDU) or from a Tomahawk size tube, ascend from depth to the ocean surface, and then launch the UAV while floating there. The TDU launcher version can accommodate UAVs up to 13 lbs, while the larger version is intended to launch the Scan Eagle Compressed Carriage (SECC) UAV which has up to 20 hours of flight duration.
In addition to these launchers, SEA CORP has also designed and built UAV launchers for mounting in aircraft, on USVs, and on ground vehicles. This latter included an adaptation of a TOW missile tube to launch the Maveric UAV from existing Bradley and Striker vehicles.