US Navy destroyers test drone-fighting capabilities off Florida

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A U.S. Air Force Academy student operates an unmanned aerial system aboard a rigid hull inflatable boat during exercise Black Dart. Photo: US Navy
A U.S. Air Force Academy student operates an unmanned aerial system aboard a rigid hull inflatable boat during exercise Black Dart. Photo: US Navy

Sailors aboard U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) and USS Lassen (DDG 82) tested their skills in fighting against drones during exercise Black Dart off the coast of Destin, Florida.

During the exercise which took place September 20, both Jason Dunham and Lassen were able to track UASs launched from Eglin, Air Force Base. In the initial scenarios, routes of the UASs were known to all operators, which allowed all systems, linked operators and sensors the ability to verify system settings and operator procedures. In advanced scenarios, routes of UASs were unknown, which increased the realistic aspect of the training.

Air Force cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy operated UASs from Jason Dunham’s rigid hull inflatable boat about two nautical miles away from Jason Dunham, providing an opportunity for the cadets to test the UASs in a maritime environment and allowing Jason Dunham opportunities to test sensor and tracking systems from different ranges and elevations.

“We got a lot of work accomplished yesterday validating and experimenting with new systems that we have,” said Cmdr. Kevin Hoffman, Jason Dunham’s commanding officer. “Overall, the communication across all the Department of Defense agencies and different entities that we have here has been great. We have the opportunity to employ some systems that we have not tested before, so it’s a great experience for not only the ship, but the outside operators as well.”

The counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) exercise provided a venue where participants from industry, government and operational forces were able to bring different systems together, share awareness of the latest developments in C-UAS capabilities, and train, evaluate and improve upon current systems.

Exercise Black Dart is planned, coordinated and overseen by the DoD’s Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization and is sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

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