BAE Systems ima
A quadcopter drone called the T-600 launched a torpedo from the sky during a NATO training exercise in September. “[The drone] successfully released an inert Sting Ray training variant anti-submarine torpedo during a flight mission at sea for the first time,” drone manufacturer BAE Systems said in a press release. It sounds exciting at first, as if BAE is revolutionizing warfare by testing a drone that can launch a weapon traditionally fired from ships or submarines. The truth is that drones are older than everyone thinks, and that the Pentagon has been dropping torpedoes from UAVs since the 1950s. A few of them even carried nuclear bombs.
The name of BAE’s quadcopter is the T-600, which is also the name of a line of killer robots from The Terminator film franchise. According to BAE, the T-600 can carry a payload of more than 400 pounds. “It is around the size of a small car and is designed to be easily disassembled for transportation,” the press release said.It dropped a torpedo into the water as part of an annual NATO training exercise called Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Uncrewed Systems (REPMUS). Unlike drone-fired torpedoes, REPMUS is new; the first one took place in 2019, and it’s an excuse for NATO countries to get together and experiment with uncrewed systems in the water. This year, 25 different navies and more than 30 companies showed up to screw around and show off their fancy new drones.BAE Systems’ press release makes it sound as if the T-600 did something new and impressive by flying around and dropping a torpedo from a quadcopter. In reality, the T-600’s biggest innovation is its electric power source. The Pentagon was dropping torpedoes from unmanned helicopters as early as 1959.During the early stages of the Cold War, the U.S. believed that the Soviet Union was building submarines faster than it could build ships to attack those subs. To save money and manpower, it investigated cheap alternatives for launching sub-destroying torpedoes. It came up with the Gyrodyne QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH). Yes, we were already calling them drones back then.The QH-50 DASH took its first flight in 1959 and was used by the U.S. Navy until 1997. The original machines used retro-fitted Porsche engines. There were a lot of them too, 758 deployed on 165 ships. The Navy used them during Vietnam to survey for naval gun emplacements and one helped rescue a Marine during the war. Early plans even called for the drone to carry and deploy nuclear depth charges, a power the newer T-600 is lacking.