In a Navy first, drones fly resupply parts and medicine to underway submarine

Military Tech

VIDEO: That time the Marine Corps added reflective belts to drones

In a first for the Navy, a quadcopter drone was flown more than a mile from shore on Oahu to deliver a 5-pound payload of circuit cards, medical supplies and food items to the submarine USS Hawaii in a potentially radical new way to provide logistics resupply of small items to subs at sea, officials said.

The partnership with the University of Hawaii to develop the capability, leading to the Oct. 10 test, resulted in the creation of the submarine force's first unmanned aerial vehicle squadron in the Pacific, according to the Navy.

The new drone application comes with the Pentagon sharply increasing its unmanned-system funding and testing as a more economical way of meeting challenges from China and Russia.

An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a five-pound payload to the the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu. Oct. 10 2019 (Navy photo / Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)

A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, and drone delivery could remove the need to pull into port for some parts or medical supplies, said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, who is with the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force.

The concept originated with the Submarine Force Innovation Lab (iLab) a year ago. A partnership was created with UH's Applied Research Laboratory to put the idea to the test with a $50,000 Skyfront Perimeter gas-powered quadcopter.

"We are already seeing the impact that this one idea can have on the entire fleet," Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander of the submarine force for U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a Navy release. "The joint effort between the sailors at COMSUBPAC and the University of Hawaii has resulted in delivering necessary supplies to submarines that can save time and money, allowing us to stay in the fight."

The UH-Navy team developed a "snag" pole that is extended off the sail of the sub and a release mechanism for the package being delivered. A prototype was tested on the back of trucks.

"As the training progressed and the drone innovations became more reliable, the team was able to demonstrate the capability onto a small patrol boat out of Pearl Harbor," Keithley said in the Navy release.

UH said the delivery method was straightforward, but the university tried to make "the homework tougher than the test" with extensive training of sub sailors over six months.

Sailors volunteered to attend weekly training at Bellows Air Force Station to become proficient drone pilots.

With the drone flown off the west side of Oahu on Oct. 10, the snag pole and delivery design "performed perfectly as the payload of parts was safely delivered onboard the submarine, making history as the first-ever drone delivery onboard an underway submarine," Keithley said.

The Pentagon's fiscal 2020 budget prioritizes innovation and modernization, and requested $3.7 billion for unmanned/autonomous systems. Aerospace and defense market analysis firm Teal Group said in November that worldwide adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles and demand for unmanned combat aerial vehicles are driving rapid growth in the market.

The Navy plans to deploy 51-foot unmanned submarines that can travel up to 7,000 miles. A 132-foot robot warship — the Sea Hunter — last year became the first ship to successfully navigate autonomously from San Diego to Pearl Harbor and back to San Diego.

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield, meanwhile, flies AH-64 Apache helicopters in tandem with RQ-7B Shadow drones that act as spotters for the attack choppers.


©2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less

On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.

As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.

Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.

"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."

Read More Show Less
In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

Read More Show Less

An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.

This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.

Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less