Consider this scenario: A pizza drone delivery place in Waikiki gets a phone call. Pizza guy answers:
“Hello, Diamond Head Pizza … what can I do for you?”
“Yes, this is ballistic nuclear missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson … we’re currently a couple miles off the coast … we’d like 50 pepperoni and mushroom pizzas … five veggie pizzas … and five gluten free pizzas …
“Thick crust or thin?”
“Thin crust, please, and we’ll text you our co-ordinates …”
OK, so you’re saying to yourself, this is not funny. As character actor Edmund Gwenn once said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”
But before you dismiss this scenario … this past week, a large quadcopter-type drone, delivered a small payload, not much larger than a small backpack, on to the deck of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) around the Hawaiian Islands, The National Interest reported.
It was the first time the US Navy tested this method of delivery for supplying submarines while underway at sea.
The USS Henry M. Jackson has a crew of about 155 officers and sailors, so the small drone-delivered package probably wasn’t carrying food supplies — it was after all an evaluation.
It also didn’t travel far to get to the submarine. Photos from the event showed that the quadcopter took off from a small surface ship perhaps a few hundred meters away from the USS Henry M. Jackson, The National Interest reported.
But still, the potential is there.
The evaluation demonstrated potential ways in which submarines, and really any other surface ship can be resupplied without having to go into port.
Submarines crave the protection of the deep, hiding out of sight, Forbes magazine reported.
For modern nuclear powered submarines there are very few good reasons to surface at all during a patrol.
To come to the surface risks detection by enemy radars, negating their fundamental advantage: stealth. If they are seen, they can be attacked, and if they’re attacked they can be sunk.
A modern day hypersonic missile can go right through a surfaced sub.
Thus, it’s not uncommon for nuclear submarines to spend several months without breaking cover, Forbes reported.
Yet there are occasions when submarines need to recover supplies. They may need medical supplies, replacement parts, provisions or even snail mail.
Small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) may have some advantages over helicopters for this type of mission. Naturally they are much cheaper, even with military grade communications aboard, Forbes reported.
But there are other less obvious advantages. Launching several inexpensive single-mission UAVs frees up the more versatile helicopters to conduct more complex missions.
And if you lose a small UAV, that can be bad news operationally, but it won’t make headlines.
And you won’t use up valuable resources conducting search and rescue for the crew. In short, UAVs make good sense for some missions.
Especially if you’re ordering pizza for the crew.