Navy Vital Supplies Could Soon Be Delivered Exclusively by Unmanned Cargo Aircraft

Aircraft carriers and frigates are always in the middle of the action, as the main pillars of the navy forces around the globe. But their impressive achievements would not be possible without the work that’s carried out behind the scenes, by the dutiful ships and helicopters that deliver supplies throughout the year. The Royal Navy wants to change things up and turn to drones for these duties instead.
A U.S. Navy drone was used to deliver supplies at sea, during summer trials 6 photos
Drone Delivery for the Royal MarinesDrone Delivery for the Royal MarinesHelicopter Supply DeliveryU.S. Drone Supply DeliverySupply Delivery via Tanker
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) has played a major role in supporting the Royal Navy since 1905. Tankers sailing parallel with warships, or helicopters carrying large payloads, were the main means of transportation used to deliver vital supplies, such as fuel, food and water, medical supplies, ammunition, and spare parts.

The supply ship RFA Fort Victoria delivered almost 900 loads to HMS Queen Elizabeth and other ships from the Carrier Strike Group during the Group’s deployment in the Pacific and on its way back hom, this year. Merlin and Wildcat helicopters also delivered more than 354 tons of supplies in total.

RFA is working on taking some of the pressure off the supply ships and helicopters by turning to uncrewed aircraft for deliveries. Although most of these drones are currently unable to carry some of the bigger payloads, most of the regular resupply missions carry loads of no more than 100 lbs (45 kg), which drones can handle perfectly.

The head of the RFA, Commodore David Eagles, wants to follow the example of the Military Sealift Command - the U.S. equivalent of the RFA. Together with the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command, the department has been conducting various trials of drone deliveries at sea. For now, the goal is to deliver smaller payloads (maximum 25 lbs/11 kg), but over greater distances (more than 200 miles).

This summer, a small cargo with supplies for repairs was successfully delivered via drone, from a warship to an annex of the Military Sealift Command.

The Royal Marines have also tested resupply operations carried out by drones from Malloy Aeronautics, with bigger payloads of up to 150 lbs (68 kg).

The RFA Commodore stated that he keeps in touch with his counterpart in the U.S., Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer, and that the two teams will share the progress they’re making with this transition to delivery drones that could transform military resupply operations.

press release

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