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Watch a Navy drone resupply a ballistic missile submarine at sea

Past and future collided when a drone resupplied one of the Navy’s oldest ballistic missile submarines on Monday.

The sea service released video showing electronics technicians piloting a quadcopter-style drone to deliver a small payload to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine Henry M. Jackson, which has been in service since 1981. The test was successful, with the drone dropping its package on the submarine’s hull and returning to operators aboard a nearby surface ship.

The resupply, which took place near the Hawaiian Islands, was “designed to test and evaluate the tactics, techniques, and procedures of U.S. Strategic Command’s expeditionary logistics and enhance the overall readiness of our strategic forces,” according to image descriptions.

While short in distance and small in size, the experimental resupply demonstrated potential for future resupply without the need for ports or nearby ships.

An unmanned aerial vehicle hovers above the Henry Jackson to deliver its payload, Oct. 19. (MC1 Michael B. Zingaro/Navy)
An unmanned aerial vehicle hovers above the Henry Jackson to deliver its payload, Oct. 19. (MC1 Michael B. Zingaro/Navy)

The Henry Jackson reached a milestone 100 strategic deterrent patrols earlier this year, a feat few other ballistic missile submarines can boast. Following maintenance and COVID-19 mitigation measures, the submarine deployed on March 31, exactly 108 years after the birth of namesake Senator Henry Martin Jackson, and returned on Aug. 5.

Sailors watch as the Henry Jackson gets into position to receive a payload by drone near the Hawaiian Islands. (MC1 Devin M. Langer/Navy)
Sailors watch as the Henry Jackson gets into position to receive a payload by drone near the Hawaiian Islands. (MC1 Devin M. Langer/Navy)

“We are still reliable and credible,” Cmdr. Freniere, the submarine’s commanding officer, said at the time. “The fact that Jackson sailors are able to meet the same number of days underway this year as were expected when the ship was commissioned, is a testament to these Sailors' superior maintenance skills, ingenuity and grit.”

Electronics Technician, Submarine, Navigation, 1st Class Carlos Gonzalez and Chief Electronics Technician, Submarine, Navigation Michael Inman, both assigned to Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, pilot the drone after delivering a small payload to the Henry Jackson. (MC1 Michael B. Zingaro/Navy)
Electronics Technician, Submarine, Navigation, 1st Class Carlos Gonzalez and Chief Electronics Technician, Submarine, Navigation Michael Inman, both assigned to Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, pilot the drone after delivering a small payload to the Henry Jackson. (MC1 Michael B. Zingaro/Navy)

The Henry Jackson was one of only four ballistic missile submarines in the Navy to receive a conversion from Trident I to Trident II missiles. In 2016, the ship was also the first ballistic missile submarine to undergo a 32-year extended refit period to ensure its longevity, the Navy reported.

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