The USS North Dakota brought home good news Monday as it returned from a two-month mission in the Mediterranean Sea. It announced the successful trial run of an undersea drone, which is expected to be used in military operation both as a weapon and a reconnaissance device. Capt. Douglas Gordon, USS North Dakota's commanding officer, said, "This was something they thought we could go do," and "we went out, and we proved that," in an Associated Press interview. The crew was able to launch and recover the device in what the military called as unprecedented feat.
The undersea drone, which is also known as unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV), will be the first of its kind for the U.S. Navy. It is considered an important technological breakthrough because it will significantly augment the capability of the U.S. submarine fleet without spending huge amount of money. This is important since the number in the submarine fleet has steadily declined since the end of the Cold War, the Daily Mail learned.
The UUV can be launched from the top of a Virginia-class submarine, the area that is used to launch divers and special forces. According to Gordon, the drone can allow them to multitask, "We can do a dual mission: UUVs do their thing while we do other operations," Naval Technology reported.
The U.S. Navy has been using unmanned vehicles to simulate enemy submarines during training exercises since the 1970s. The drone, however, is expected to perform a different role as it can be used as a weapon against other submarines or ocean vessels aside from serving intelligence gathering and information diseemination functions. It is equipped with video cameras, GPS devices and sonar technology, the Daily Mail learned. Officials did not elaborate on whether it will be outfitted with weapons as is the case with the current aerial drone used in the U.S. military air strikes.
The 10-foot long drone, identified as Remus 600, was made by Hydroid in partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center based in Newport, R.I.