In a first for the U.S. Navy, a submarine has launched and recovered an underwater drone used in a military operation.
The attack submarine USS North Dakota returned to its base in Groton on Monday following a nearly two-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea specifically to test the drone-launching capability.
“This was something they thought we could go do,” Capt. Douglas Gordon, the vessel’s commanding officer, said in an interview at the base. “We went out, and we proved that.”
The drone was launched from a shelter attached to the top of the Virginia class submarine that can also be used for the undersea deployment of divers and special forces. Gordon declined to provide details of the mission.
The Navy sees the drones, also known as unmanned undersea vehicles, or UUVs, as a cost-effective way to extend the reach of its submarine fleet, which has been gradually shrinking in size since the end of the Cold War.
“We can do a dual mission,” Gordon said. “UUVs do their thing while we do other operations.”
The drone deployed by the North Dakota was a Remus 600, a 500-pound, 10-foot-long vehicle that its maker, Hydroid, says can be equipped with video cameras, GPS devices and sonar technology. Gordon declined to say whether it was self-guided or piloted by a member of the submarine’s crew.