Groton, Connecticut - 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 Connecticut 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. “We went out and we proved that.”
The drone was launched from a shelter attached to the top of the submarine that can also be used for the undersea deployment of divers and special forces.
The navy sees the drones, also known as unmanned undersea vehicles, 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.
The navy has used unmanned vehicles to simulate enemy submarines for training purposes since the 1970s, and they also have been used to detect mines and map the ocean floor. 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.