Digital Talon: Demonstrating New Capabilities Delivered by a UAS


Recently, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Task Force 59 demonstrated a new mission capability which a UAS can deliver for the fleet.

As J.P. Lawrence wrote in a 3 November 2023 article published in Stars and Stripes:

“The 5th Fleet has used drone boats extensively in the Middle East for surveillance over the past two years, but the use of lethal weaponry in the exercise moves the Navy “beyond just maritime domain awareness,” Cooper said.

“During Digital Talon, unmanned surveillance drones and crewed ships worked together to find and destroy orange target boats. Then, a MARTAC T38 Devil Ray unmanned speedboat launched missiles at the targets, scoring direct hits each time, the statement said.

“A sailor at an operations center in Bahrain was in charge of firing the missiles, and Special Operations Forces Central Command also took part in the exercise, the statement said.”

In this screenshot from video, munitions launched from a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System destroys a training target in the Persian Gulf during Exercise Digital Talon, Oct. 23, 2023. U.S. Naval Forces Central Command recently completed Exercise Digital Talon, demonstrating the ability of unmanned platforms to pair with traditionally crewed ships in manned-unmanned teaming to identify and target hostile forces at sea. Then, using munitions launched from another unmanned platform, engaged and destroyed those targets. (U.S. Navy)

In a 2 November 2023 article by Joseph Trevithik published in The WarZone, the author added additional details:

“For this particular test, the T38 was equipped with a small, portable six-round launcher loaded with Switchblade 300s, which the U.S. military officially calls the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS).

“Whether or not any special modifications were made to the drone boat to enable it to employ these munitions is unclear. Pictures and video from the test do show that the USV was equipped with what appears to be a SpaceX Starlink satellite communications antenna, as well as a small commercial navigation radar and electro-optical/infrared camera turrets.

“Personnel assigned to Task Force 59 at a facility ashore both controlled the T38 during the test and executed the Switchblade attacks.

“The Switchblade is a small loitering munition, a type of weapon also often referred to as a kamikaze drone, and has a four-pound high-explosive warhead. It has a maximum range of up to 10 kilometers (just over six miles) away and can stay aloft for around 15 minutes.”

Although this is a test with a particular weapon system, the MARTAC family of USVs can be configured with a range of weapons.

This graphic from the company highlights some of the possibilities:

As one analyst has noted:

“It is plausible that the U.S. could have anticipated the decision to test lethal munitions as a strategy to signal to Iran and the Tehran-backed region-wide network of armed militias Washington’s steadfastness to counter malign activities of the Resistance Axis,” Leonardo Jacopo Maria Mazzucco, an independent researcher on the security affairs of the Gulf region and an analyst at Gulf State Analytics said.

The featured photo: A live-fire target being lowered into the water from the Avenger-class USS Dextrous during Exercise Digital Talon in the Arabian Gulf in October. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Nye

Also, see the following:

Digital Talon