The US Navy is now using submarines as aircraft carriers. In recent exercises, the possibility of using sub-launched Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) as surveillance and targeting drones has been explored. Blasting off underwater from the sub's missile tubes, the tiny robot planes would be employed as kamikaze target spotters, relaying pictures and co-ordinates of enemy activity back to sea, ready to call down the wrath of a fully-fledged strike.
The great hope for the sub-deployed UAV concept is that the tiny robo-planes will become the stealthy eyes and ears of the "sharks of steel", whose commanders will be fed real-time information on their targets, whilst still remaining covert. A proposal by Northrop-Grumman seeks the design of a capsule to protect the UAV during the high-shock, underwater launch from the sub's missile tubes. Once the package had been boosted clear of the water, the protective shell would be blown off, leaving the jet-powered UAV to take off on its mission. The vital part of the concept is to keep radio emissions from the submarine to as near zero as possible. That is why the UAV will be mostly autonomous, using GPS rather than human remote control to navigate. To keep it's own radio profile as low as possible, the UAV will be equipped with a target recognition system, meaning it won't have to be continually sending data back to sea, but only transmit short bursts when a likely enemy concentration is found.