Devil Ray and Switchblade Combine to Create New Strike Capability at Sea


In an article by John Trevithick published on November 2, 2023, the author highlighted the weapons/platform combination represented by the Devil Ray USV with the Switchblade UAV:

“The U.S. Navy drone speedboat armed with Switchblade 300 loitering munitions was able to successfully destroy multiple mock targets at sea during a recent test. A combination like this could be useful in various contexts, including providing close-in protection against swarms of small crewed and uncrewed boats. This also underscores the Navy’s interest, as well as that of the U.S. Marine Corps, in various tiers of armed drone boats capable of carrying out defensive and offensive missions.

“The test involving the Switchblade-armed MARTAC Devil Ray T38 uncrewed surface vessel (USV) took place in the Persian Gulf last week. This was part of a large exercise, nicknamed Digital Talon, led by the Navy’s Task Force 59. Established in 2021, Task Force 59 is a testbed unit that is tasked with experimenting with the integration of new uncrewed and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into day-to-day naval operations across the Middle East. It also offers the Navy a means to explore how it might operationalize those technologies more broadly.”

Further details were highlighted by an article published by NREF on November 7, 2023:

“Special Operations Forces Central Command, the U.S. military’s top special operations command in the Middle East, also helped coordinate this test. The Switchblade 300 has been in active use by American special operators for years now. 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). 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.”

And in a story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Vernier, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet, published on November 29, 2023, the pairing of the Devil Ray with Switchblade was highlighted as follows:

“U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) continues advancing lethality at sea, utilizing the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) as a staging base and command center for a host of unmanned systems during live weapons firing exercises in the international waters of the central Arabian Gulf, Nov. 27.

“Digital Talon 2.0, the second exercise of its type in as many months, showcased “manned-unmanned teaming” by meshing together Indianapolis, three unmanned surface vehicles, and an unmanned aerial vehicle to create a single common operating picture and what is known as a “mesh network” providing targeting data to all stations taking part in the exercise.

“NAVCENT’s Task Force 59 – the Navy’s first Unmanned and Artificial Intelligence Task Force – partnered with Indianapolis to demonstrate the ability of unmanned platforms to pair with traditionally crewed ships. The manned and unmanned teams identified, targeted, engaged and then destroyed simulated hostile forces at sea, represented through the use of a target boat.

“This second iteration of Digital Talon continues building on our earlier successes,” said Capt. Colin Corridan, TF-59 commodore. “We keep progressing toward fulfilling NAVCENT’s priorities of deterrence and de-escalation by demonstrating live firing from a tight ‘manned-unmanned teaming’ model.”

“In multiple firing events, a T-38 Devil Ray unmanned surface vessel (USV), equipped with a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System, and successfully scored direct hits on the target boat each time. As with the previous Digital Talon exercise, a human operator ashore at TF-59’s Robotics Operations Center made the engagement decisions.

“The unmanned vehicles taking part in the exercise included a Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle; an Arabian Fox MAST-13 USV; and an additional T-38 Devil Ray USV.

“Digital Talon 2.0 took a significant step forward, Corridan said, noting the results from this event, “have proven these unmanned platforms paired with our manned combat ships can enhance fleet lethality. In doing so, we are strengthening regional maritime security and enhancing deterrence against malign activity.”