A US Navy submarine has become the first to launch and recover an underwater drone used in a military operation.
The USS North Dakota, a US Navy’s attack submarine, returned to its base in Groton, Connecticut, on Monday following a nearly two-month deployment in the Mediterranean Sea, which main purpose was specifically to test the drone-launching capability.
Capt. Douglas Gordon, the submersible vessel’s commanding officer said in an interview that the Mediterranean Sea mission proved submarine-launched drones are a viable option for the Navy. He declined to provide details of the mission.
The submarine is equipped with a shelter attached to its top surface, which is usually used for the undersea deployment of divers and special forces. In this military operation, the shelter was also used for the drone launching.
After the end of the Cold War, the range of US submarines has gradually decreased, so the US Navy sees now the drones, also known as unmanned undersea vehicles, as a cost-effective way to extend their monitoring ability.
The unmanned vehicles have been used by the Navy to simulate enemy submarines for training purposes since the 1970s, also to detect mines and map the ocean floor.
Over the past few decades, the military has been researching how to use them more for other purposes including intelligence gathering and even anti-submarine warfare.
The drone deployed by the USS North Dakota was a Remus 600, a 500-pound (227-kg), 10-foot-long (3-meter- long) vehicle.