British Navy uses Puma drone to support landing operations of Royal Marines Commando

According to information released by the British Navy on June 24, 2021, Puma drone has been used by the British Navy to support HMS Albion amphibious transport dock and Royal Marines of 45 Commando as part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment to the North and Baltic Seas, including during their participation in the large-scale Baltops exercises alongside militaries from 17 other nations.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 700X Naval Air Squadron deploy the Puma drone from the flight deck of the HMS Albion amphibious transport dock during operations in the Baltic Sea.(Picture source British Navy)

The RQ-20 Puma is a small, electrically powered, American, hand-launched unmanned aircraft system produced by the American company AeroVironment based in California. The Puma AE can operate under extreme weather conditions including temperatures ranging from −20 to 120 °F (−29 to 49 °C), wind speeds up to 25 knots (29 mph; 46 km/h), and an inch of rain per hour.

The Puma is just over 1.35 m long, with a wingspan of 2.75 m. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 500ft and has a maximum speed of 83km/h and range of 15km. The flight endurance of the UAS is two hours.

The payload of the Puma includes an electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR) camera, and IR Illuminator. It can be used to conduct reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions over sea or land. The drone can monitor an area larger than the size of Greater Manchester during its flights, feeding back real-time footage to help sailors and Royal Marines make accurate tactical decisions.

The fixed-wing Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) is flown by 700X Naval Air Squadron – normally based at Culdrose in Cornwall – and can be launched from Albion’s sprawling flight deck or from the open decks of landing craft.

The Puma carried out reconnaissance of potential landing areas, feeding vital information to Royal Marines as they landed on coastlines at night on training missions.

The drone remained close to the commandos as they moved inland, tracking enemy movements and sending information back to help battlefield decisions using the onboard infrared camera. It was also on hand to respond to reports of enemy positions and moved in to search the area, giving commandos an extra edge as they moved in.

The Puma’s ability to support warships at sea is being developed quickly, with the drones also being utilized to conduct Maritime Patrols, giving ships a better understanding of what is around them.

The HMS Albion is an amphibious transport dock of the Royal British Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class. The aft flight deck has two landing spots for aircraft the size of a Chinook, although it has no hangar or aircraft storage facility. Below the flight deck is the dock and vehicle deck. The latter has the capacity to hold thirty-one large trucks and thirty-six smaller vehicles or six Challenger 2 tanks and thirty armored personnel carriers. The dock can hold four Landing Craft Utility MK10, each large enough to carry vehicles up to main battle tank size, which is then launched by flooding of the dock area.