Textron Systems Corporation, a Textron Inc company, announced that the Aerosonde® Unmanned Aircraft System aboard the USS Miguel Keith, designated ESB 5, took its first operational flight. The inaugural mission follows an October 2022 contract award by the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to provide unmanned aviation support aboard the ship for up to five years.
The ESB 5 supports a broad range of military and aviation operations as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force. Textron Systems is tasked to deploy its Aerosonde UAS to provide extended range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services with enhanced mission payloads aboard the ESB 5. The company’s Field Service Representatives (FSR) will work alongside the sailors onboard to provide support for a variety of maritime missions.
“Having an unmanned aircraft system operational aboard the ship acting as a remote sensor contributes to overall maritime domain awareness and mission success,” said Wayne Prender, Senior Vice President, Air Systems. “The Aerosonde system is providing added reach beyond the horizon and an ability to operate multi-INT ISR consistently, both great examples of the benefits of teaming unmanned aircraft with manned ships.”
In addition to the USS Miguel Keith, the Aerosonde unmanned system supports maritime operations aboard the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) and two DDG-class ships, bringing the total number of U.S. Navy ships supported by the system to four.
The Aerosonde system has amassed more than 600,000 flight hours while serving multiple U.S. customers and international allies. It is designed for expeditionary land- and sea-based operations in austere environments and is equipped for multiple payload configurations.