The US Navy is deploying a new weapon in drone warfare: Submarine-launched drones. Dubbed "Blackwings," these small reconnaissance drones can be tube-launched from submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles.

Developed by California-based AeroVironment Inc., the drones are about 20 inches long and weigh about four pounds. They fold up into a three-inch wide canister that can be tube-launched from the submarine. Once the canister clears the surface, the Blackwing pops out and its wings unfold.

Each unit has a motor that can last up to 60 minutes, and is fitted with  miniaturized electro-optical and infrared sensors, as well as its anti-spoofing GPS and a secure digital data link.

The Blackwing was developed to counter Chinese advancements in anti-ship ballistic missile and similar "anti-access, area denial (A2AD)" technologies. The Navy has given no deployment date, but given China's aggressive posturing, it may come just in the nick of time.

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