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US Navy Launches Drone From Submerged Submarine

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the this-would-have-made-jack-ryan's-job-a-lot-easier dept.

The Military 55

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "MarineLink reports that a fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) aircraft has been successfully launched from the submerged 'USS Providence' (SSN 719). The drone flew a several-hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to the submarine, offering a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy's submarine force. 'Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about,' says Craig A. Hughes, Acting Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research. 'This demonstration really underpins ONR's dedication and ability to address emerging fleet priorities.' The XFC UAS — eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System — was fired from the submarine's torpedo tube using a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface, where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence's Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful mission."

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not impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621489)

since earlier in the week they refound one of the japanese submarine aircraft carriers from ww2

Re:not impressive (0)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 9 months ago | (#45621553)

There is a slight difference between the two. The Japanese sub had to surface and then the crew had to unfold the airplane wings. The one can be launched while the sub is underwater.

Re:not impressive (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 9 months ago | (#45621573)

okay, then how about them Polaris nuclear missiles JFK was so proud of? Launched from submerged subs.

Re:not impressive (1)

LuisAnaya (865769) | about 9 months ago | (#45621629)

... or tomahawks missiles for that matter. I presume that they meant: launched from a submerged submarine and landed without destroying anything. For some reason it reminds me the minisub from the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Re:not impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621687)

Did the Polaris nuclear missiles also "demonstrat[e] live video capabilities streamed back to the submarine, offering a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities"?

Re:not impressive (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 9 months ago | (#45623387)

No, but it made the 'Russkis' crap their pants; they weren't close to that at the time. :)

I feel like this drone announcement is one of those achievements for the "Special" kids, to make them feel better about themselves.

Based on what we've done in the past, I guess it is.

Re:not impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45624013)

The video transmission is what impresses me the most. Of course, it'd be interesting to know how deep and how maneuverable the submarine is during operation of the drone.

Previously communication with submerged submarines has been based on ultra low frequency transmission which is hardly suitable for either video or a drone, given the huge wavelength. How they managed to stream video to a submarine underwater would be interesting to know. I suppose it could be something boring like a fiber-optic cable between the buoy and the loitering submarine.

Re:not impressive (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about 9 months ago | (#45622535)

The only difference I can see is the buoy stage.
Launch, move away, then get the drone airborne. This way the sub isn't threatened as soon as the drone gets spotted.

But making a canister float and release remotely the drone isn't much compared to the normal launches.

Re:not impressive (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 9 months ago | (#45623121)

How about a land, air, or ship launched drone that flies to a pre-set location then submerges and homes-in on a submarine?

I built guidance systems for ASROCs... []

So I tend to think of things going the other way. It actually wouldn't be that hard to build such a drone with the hardware & tech available these days compared to the 1970s.

I wonder how the Navy would feel about swarms of civilian flying-submersible drones shadowing & recording their submarine fleet?


Fuel cell based (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#45621501)

Somehow military hardware manages to be less destructive than civilian.

Re:Fuel cell based (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 9 months ago | (#45621581)

Well money is not an issue but reliability, longevity, and speed of refueling are all requirements.

Re:Fuel cell based (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621715)

In this case longevity and stealth is more important. The link shows that it's designed to be an expendable stealthy observation platform, so a sub could sneak up to a coastline, launch on of these things and it has 7 hours of loiter time. It's supposed to gather up to date intelligence ahead of a spec-ops insertion.

Re:Fuel cell based (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#45623555)

This begs the question, is the fuel cell technology in fact less destructive than whatever would normally have been used? A typical high-end hobbyist drone today uses the very clean and recyclable LiFePO4 [] chemistry, which also has more recharge cycles than previous Li-Ion technologies. Fuel cells are often made of exotic metals in high-energy processes. Most fuel cells are hydrogen cells, and most hydrogen is cracked from natural gas in an energy-intensive process. I know that Protonex works with hydrogen fuel cells [] , but I don't actually know for a fact that this is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

I suspect that this is in fact more energy-intensive than the drone would have been simply using batteries, and if you used a nice clean fuel, it's certainly more energy-intensive than it would have been to use a microturbine.

Look out terroist! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621521)

You wont be fighting on an equal footing - young stupid men against young stupid men fighting for some nebulous ideology like Freedom or whatever!

You will be fighting against robots. Robots who are guided by men in the US who think of you as nothing but an animated target in a video game. The same for your families.

You REALLY need to rethink your strategies.

Weddings? Celebrations of any sort?

Firing them AK-47s in the air, are we?


Die Motherfucker! Die! At least the folks you don't kill before they get to you...

The Christian Death Cult does have a point - even if their timing is off - the end of days are coming.

Richard Dawkins is right - Religion is the roo tof all evil.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621543)

Yet another wonderful Cut And Paste from Hugh Pickens pimping his blog for page views.

reload (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621577)

it's kind of a pain to get the torpedo tube and all the parts after and reload it back into the sub though.

"Expendable"? (3, Insightful)

cmuld3r (1863052) | about 9 months ago | (#45621583)

I'd be more impressed if it were reusable. What happens to the buoy and the toy plane once it's done flying?

Re:"Expendable"? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621621)

Amazon buys them

Re:"Expendable"? (2)

kwiecmmm (1527631) | about 9 months ago | (#45621865)

before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC)

The drone then landed at a site. It seems like they didn't throw away the drone here, the buoy could have been pulled back in (I am guessing it was tethered).

I have other questions about the usefulness of this:
1. What is the range of the drone? Could it fly halfway across an ocean to find a landing spot?
2. Are these drones going to be able to do attacks? If so this could be a dangerous first strike vehicle controlled from halfway around the world, where folks have limited or no knowledge of what is happening on the ground.
3. How many drones can subs hold? If it is only a few then it can only do a limited number of surveillance (or attack) operations before it needs to dock or surface to get another drone, which would most likely take it out of the areas that need to be monitored.

Re:"Expendable"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45622411)

Just think of the drone as being a cruise missile that has the warhead replaced with a reconnaissance package. Then you'll understand from a technology standpoint it's not really much of an accomplishment. It was just a matter of putting together some parts they had on the shelf for years. Odds are likely that any drones deployed from subs take up a slot that could have otherwise been a missile.

Re:"Expendable"? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 9 months ago | (#45624249)

You're wrong on all counts. Then again, I've actually served on a submarine, whereas you apparently haven't.

Re:"Expendable"? (2)

HtR (240250) | about 9 months ago | (#45622151)

I believe they tried to make it reusable, but they had some technical glitches in getting the plane to fly back into the torpedo tube.

Well, at least I thought I was funny.

Re:"Expendable"? (2)

Dorianny (1847922) | about 9 months ago | (#45622599)

The point of it is to be able to launch it without giving away your location to an enemy by surfacing. Once its mission is concluded you can land it in water and pick it up once the area is secure or the threat has passed.

Re:"Expendable"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45622727)

If it were to fly back and land on the submarine, it would give away the submarine's location, which would promptly be hunted down. Better to loose a few thousand dollar drone than a few billion dollar submarine.

Re:"Expendable"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45622747)

Many instruments at sea are expendable. It is often more convenient if they are cheap enough. Ever hear of an XBT [] ?

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621587)

Is this now Hugh Pickens website? Why come here when I could just go there?

Take this to NK and then we can be done with them (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#45621589)

Also put seal teams 1-6 on the sub ready to go as well.

Re:Take this to NK and then we can be done with th (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45622607)

Perhaps you can list a few "wars" where this strategy worked?

NK is just fashionable today, like "Vietnam" was back in its day.

Honestly, lets say NK is a terrible place and all that, why not just avoid it?

Who says you need to be the world police? How many times has the world police made a situation worse then before?

Re:Take this to NK and then we can be done with th (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 9 months ago | (#45623869)

NK is working on getting nukes and you don't really want to that to happen.

Re:Take this to NK and then we can be done with th (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 9 months ago | (#45641403)

Who says you need to be the world police? How many times has the world police made a situation worse then before?

The general consensus of the free world made us the world police in our sphere of influence. The collapse of the various SSR's made our sphere of influence global. See also, the world asking the US to get involved in the first Gulf war, and the Yugoslavia breakup.

Also, see our failure to act in Africa, and how no one else did.

We tend to make things better more often than not. Success stories: Germany, Japan, South Korea, (First) Gulf War, Yugoslavia. Failures: Vietnam, (Second) Gulf War. To early to tell: Afghanistan. And the Second Gulf War was a retarded from the get-go.

Yeah, Vietnam was really bad. But there we were explicitly asked to go in.

anyone else remember the 1980 movie 'Virus'? (1)

themushroom (197365) | about 9 months ago | (#45621619)

Launching a drone out of a submarine (in the movie's case, to gather air samples and get video of major cities) has been done before, in movie form anyhow.

Re:anyone else remember the 1980 movie 'Virus'? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 9 months ago | (#45623351)

[] Launching a drone out of a submarine (in the movie's case, to gather air samples and get video of major cities) has been done before, in movie form anyhow.

So if aliens contact us it's not news worthy? Or FTL is invented? Because someone already showed it in a movie?

How far we've come (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 9 months ago | (#45621623)

It's like an episode of Star Blazers come to life.

RF? (1)

jdmuir (207188) | about 9 months ago | (#45621723)

No worries that the Sub will be easier to find based on RF output?

Re:RF? (1)

Kaptain Kruton (854928) | about 9 months ago | (#45621851)

According to the article the UAS is completely autonomous. This means the sub can simply 'listen' to what the drone broadcasts without giving away its location. The drone may indicate a sub is within listening range, but it does not give away its location.

Re:RF? (2)

Bugler412 (2610815) | about 9 months ago | (#45621875)

spread spectrum, burst, drone broadcasts only during large portions of the flight, directional antennas working via satellite link to the drone. All ways of avoiding that problem, there's likely more too depending on the specifics. There may be missions where this isn't a concern, depends on the sophistication of the adversary I suppose

Since the 60's (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621791)

Breaking news:
The Beatles had this technologies on their yellow submarine back in the 60's. YAWN...

Re:Since the 60's (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 months ago | (#45621815)

Don't forget Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, with their flying sub.

Oh, and UFO, with their sub-launched fighter.

Re:Since the 60's (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 9 months ago | (#45621905)

UFO's version was called SkyDiver.

In the NAVY! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 9 months ago | (#45622135)

Can't explain the utility of the mesh tunic uniforms though! Who let those women aboard?!!

Or the purple wigs.

Re:In the NAVY! (2)

sconeu (64226) | about 9 months ago | (#45622201)

The purple wigs were for Moonbase. Gerry Anderson allegedly claimed they were for anti-static.

But they did have some women in those mesh uniforms on SkyDiver!!! A 13 year old boy's dream!!!!

mod do3n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621793)

- Netcraft has you a7l is to let Not going home

Navy's drone program... (2)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about 9 months ago | (#45621825)

I knew the Navy's drone program was sunk.

And it was delivering an Amazon order (1)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 9 months ago | (#45621829)

....of a micro-USB cable to a customer on Christmas Island.

Life imitates life (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45621935)

So, it turns out we are the Protoss all along. I always new that spamming carriers was the best way to win!

Recovery (1)

Cidtek (632990) | about 9 months ago | (#45622103)

How is it recovered after a mission?

Air Force (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45622525)

The Air Force are now developing a drone Sub which can be deployed from any aircraft and beam back live tactical streaming audio & video from underwater. It believed to have been successfully tested at Miami beach, and around Cancun, though video captured has been classified.

Sharkpedo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45623325)

Pppffttt! Get back to me when they can launch a shark with a frikken laser beam attached to it's head!

details (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45623637)

Tomahawks are not launched from torpedo tubes.

wrong one launched (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45623725)

Let's hope they don't accidently launch a tomahawk thinking that they were launching a drone from a given tube.....

Also, launching is nice, but a real trick would be to see it land on the sub while it was still underwater, otherwise once launched, they're lost unless near land somewhere. If they try to recover, they would give away their position

Up, Up, Up, Up Periscope (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 9 months ago | (#45623747)

Johannes Gutenberg gave us the periscope, history later developing to the cleptoscope. The "Office of Naval Intelligence" has already gone way above this recently, with the launch of NROL-39 [] The drone is aka "middle management".

Act II (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45625135)

They'll launch a submarine from a drone.

TLA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45625699)

Must be a government operation, given the excessive number of TLAs [] in TFS.

Ok, now land it back on the submarine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45626941)


in other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45628911)

... Amazon announces plans to deliver lobster straight from the ocean to your house.

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