American cruise missile submarine to launch drones in Europe

This year marks a pivotal moment for the US Navy with several critical tests slated for the European theater. Reliable sources indicate that the nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, USS Delaware [SSN-791], will soon become the first to launch drones via its torpedo tubes. 

American cruise missile submarine to launch drones in Europe - USS Delaware SSN-791
Photo credit: Flickr

This involves the REMUS 600 UUV drone, affectionately known as the “Yellow Moray,” aimed at enhancing the submarine’s mission capabilities, including protecting vital underwater infrastructure. With this advancement, the USS Delaware is set to become the pioneering active submarine in the US Navy to achieve this feat. 

“We will start installing UUVs on the USS Delaware in a few weeks, and they are scheduled for deployment by the end of the year,” revealed Vice Admiral Rob Gaucher, commander of the US Navy’s submarine force, to attendees. The Navy had previously tested Huntington Ingalls Industries’ REMUS 600 UUV—capable of exiting and re-entering a submerged submarine through its torpedo tube—on the USS Delaware last year.

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Photo by Ashley Cowan

The USS Delaware [SSN-791] is a Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine in the United States Navy. It is the 18th vessel in its class and was commissioned on April 4, 2020. The submarine measures 377 feet [115 meters] in length, with a beam of 34 feet [10.4 meters]. These dimensions allow it to navigate various maritime environments effectively. 

Propulsion for the USS Delaware is provided by a single S9G nuclear reactor, which powers a pump-jet propulsor. This advanced propulsion system allows the submarine to operate quietly and efficiently. The crew of the USS Delaware typically consists of approximately 135 personnel, including both officers and enlisted sailors. This complement ensures the submarine can perform a wide range of missions. 

The USS Delaware has a submerged displacement of around 7,800 tons. This substantial weight is a testament to the vessel’s robust construction and extensive capabilities. The submarine is equipped with a variety of weapons, including 12 vertical launch system [VLS] tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles and four 533mm torpedo tubes for Mk-48 torpedoes. These armaments enable it to engage both surface and underwater targets effectively. 

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Photo credit: Ashley Cowan / U.S. Navy

The maximum depth at which the USS Delaware can operate is classified, but Virginia-class submarines are generally believed to have a test depth of over 800 feet [244 meters]. The nuclear reactor allows the USS Delaware to remain submerged for extended periods, limited primarily by food supplies and crew endurance. This capability provides significant strategic and tactical advantages.

The REMUS 600 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle [UUV] is a versatile and advanced underwater drone designed for a variety of missions, including mine countermeasures, hydrographic surveys, and environmental monitoring. Developed by Hydroid, a subsidiary of Kongsberg Maritime, the REMUS 600 is widely used by both military and civilian organizations. 

In terms of dimensions, the REMUS 600 has a length of approximately 3.25 meters [10.66 feet] and a diameter of 32.4 centimeters [12.75 inches]. Its compact size allows it to be easily deployed and recovered from various platforms, including ships and submarines. 

Yemeni Houthis 'seized' US Remus 600 AUV, sparks Iranian probe
Photo credit: Kraken Robotics

The propulsion system of the REMUS 600 consists of a rear-mounted propeller driven by an electric motor. This design provides the UUV with a high degree of maneuverability and allows it to operate efficiently in diverse underwater environments. 

The maximum immersion depth of the REMUS 600 is 600 meters [1,968 feet]. This capability enables it to conduct missions in deep-sea conditions, making it suitable for a wide range of underwater tasks. 

Regarding its endurance, the REMUS 600 can stay submerged for up to 24 hours, depending on the mission profile and battery configuration. This extended operational time allows it to cover large areas and gather substantial amounts of data during a single deployment. 

Yemeni Houthis 'seized' US Remus 600 AUV, sparks Iranian probe
Photo credit: Hydroid

The REMUS 600 is equipped with a variety of systems tailored to its specific mission requirements. These include high-resolution side-scan sonar for detailed imaging of the seafloor, multi-beam echo sounders for precise bathymetric mapping, and environmental sensors for measuring parameters such as temperature, salinity, and turbidity. Additionally, it can be fitted with cameras and other specialized payloads to enhance its data collection capabilities.

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