U.S. to Test Seabed Resupply Systems by 2016

Upward Falling Payloads 2The Pentagon wants to set up a network of seafloor-bedded “nodes” that would include anything from supplies to weaponry to be called to the surface for military action when needed.

The Defense Department could begin field testing its “Upward Falling Payloads” anytime after October, according to the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

The system will be made up of a payload – a surveillance or communications system, for example – that goes into action once it reaches the surface in its “riser,” an ocean-resting pod and launch system, and the communications link that will trigger the “riser” to launch, according to DARPA.

During the first phase of the project, DARPA funded more than 10 study and design efforts, the agency’s program manager for UPF said on the DARPA’s science blog earlier this month. The first part also dealt with different kinds of mission payloads, Andy Coon said.

“We really learned about how the pieces come together, and built a community of developers to think differently about unmanned distributed solutions for the maritime domain,” he said.

The seafloor-based node – in which the UFP will live until summoned to the surface – has to survive at depths greater than 6 kilometers, according to the DARPA announcement. It also must last up to five years and operate within two hours after a command to launch.

They also have to be able to report on their “health status,” the DARPA announcement states, so that defense officials always know if they’re functioning normally.

Phase 2 testing is slated for the first half of fiscal year 2015 through the first quarter of 2016.

“These tests will include one research vessel shared by multiple performers, and should be assumed as [a U.S. government ship],” DARPA says. Though the likely venue will be in the Western Pacific, there could also be demonstration off Hawaii, in the Atlantic or other areas, depending on the payload application being tested or cost-effectiveness.

The third phase, which will include thorough testing of all key systems and subsystems, is scheduled for the third quarter of FY2017, according to the DARPA announcement.

Upward Falling Payload

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is an associate editor and White House correspondent for Military.com. Bryant covers all corners of the military arena, is an expert on "Don't Ask Don't Tell" issues, religious proselytizing and other ongoing military policy issues. He has covered Air Force support missions during the Kosovo War and in 2006 the aero-medical evacuation mission out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.A journalist since 1979, Jordan also covered stories in Lebanon, Gaza and Morocco. During the Vietnam War he was assigned to 15th Admin. Co., 1st Cavalry Division, Bien Hoa Army Base. Before joining Military.com Jordan was a staff writer and deputy news editor for Military Timesnewspapers in Springfield, Va.

29 Comments on "U.S. to Test Seabed Resupply Systems by 2016"

  1. Queuing Oblattipuss and Depends… Please shed light on the evils of Darpa. We have not yet atoned for our sins. Guide us to the light.

  2. Another hole in the ocean to pour money into.

  3. It has strategic possibilities. Especially in the vastness of the Pacific. Instead of airdrops for the subs that stay down there for months at a time & instead of mining a straight or region.
    Most comments here, lately, are purposefully negative. In the way, that children speak in order to sound like adults or like they know what they're talking about.

  4. And what to stop the Chinese from stealing these

  5. I'm curious about the size of these containers and how big they would need to be to be militarily useful. For instance if a carrier was low on aviation fuel, or bombs or food would two or three of these be enough?

  6. Darpa sounds more like they watch "Agents of Shield" too much…….

    Dear Darpa,
    The USA at last check still owns may specks of dry land in the Pacific to store stuff. From the Aleutian chain to places like Wake, Midway, Howland, & Baker Islands just off hand. Empty of people, US owned, on land & far from any foes. A far cheaper & simpler solution. Some how the KISS principle seems to be a odd idea at your offices.

  7. Nukes? I hope not.

  8. Makes sense if you're planning on long-term, mostly conventional war. This is not pushing at the edges of technology. Production systems should be designed for low cost. Higgins boats, not F-35s.

  9. stephen russell | April 21, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    Good idea, but problems:
    sea salt eating into modulles
    enemy forces laying mines on them or sabotage them
    enemy forces tracking & ID said depots.
    "mole" sends data to enemy.

    Otherwise Great for Non defense.


  11. Is it too much to ask that these be used for scientific purposes as well?

  12. Did this idea come from the same group that gave us the F-35 attack blimp? I just saw drones chopping up Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Why can't we spend money on what works, works well, and has tremendous bang for the buck?

  13. A good idea worth pursuing.

  14. I believe our subs can produce potable water, and in any case, I'm not sure that fresh water would "keep" for 5 years, so I'm ruling water out. Even if these "modules" were large enough for 21" weapons, they'd need a crane ship to load them, in which case why not just ship the weapons on the crane ship, so I'm ruling weapons out. MRE's will "keep" for 5 years, but having been resupplied with nothing but MRE's for the next several months, the sub crew would (understandably) defect, so I'm ruling MRE's out. Leaving only "Field Manuals", which is a worthy cargo and well worth the investment ;-)


  16. What's to stop other countries or organizations from taking these little caches?

  17. Depends! I knew you were alive. Welcome back. Yeah I know Marines suck and are traitors. I should write code for free. F-35 sucks at everything and 1970's era aircraft are the pinnacle of aeronautical engineering. Did I leave something out?

    You might want to visit the doc to get that case of butt-hurt checked out.

  18. Agree with many sounds interesting but many practical problems and not good to use against a enemy that can destroy/sabotage them.

  19. These canisters must be made to resist crush depth and must be good for years. It will be bad for business if canisters are needed and many are found to be damaged. 6km depth for very large canisters is presumably quite ambitious, and without lots of titanium probably very expensive as well.

    Bringing these things to the surface will also be interesting. The cheapest way to do it would be to attach ballast weights and simply detach them on command, with enough reserve buoyancy to bring your container to the surface. This requires them to "fail-by-surfacing", which means you're likely to see these things pop up and surface near the end of their service lives. The alternative is fail-by-staying-under, which would require that the container itself be flooded, with capable machinery to eliminate water with enough reserve buoyancy to surface, or a mechanism to generate positive buoyancy to surface (gas bladder+potassium azide?).

    As a tangent, the latter mechanism would also be a novel failsafe system to rescue a submarine from crush depth.


    This will be one of the most expensive way to store things: underwater, at great depth for great periods of time. The cost of this system will scale as a function of the depth it will be required to stay at and how long it stays under without servicing and size.

  20. Long range torpedoes sunk to the bottom waiting for the target update link would be deadly. Patrolling UAV could be leveraged to get the initial target zone to home in on. Then after the attack successful or not would leave the enemy with a useless search for a sub that didn't exist.

  21. So, who is recalling the fuel blimp from the movie Stealth?

  22. Maybe this an aim to increase the longevity of current projects or future projects we may not know about. In theory this looks very promising. From a cost analysis hello no. But then again what ever really is. If it is viable and sustainable then it is worth looking into this.

  23. I think this is a concept that reads well on paper but the logistics and cost of practical implementation make it a negative. It's great that DARPA keeps rolling out "outside of the box" ideas to give us an edge.

  24. The folks at DARPA have enough works to do without wasting billions on a LUDICROUS idea like this.
    1. Design an RFP to replace the F-22 and F-35 (neither of which can fulfill their missions.) Use the Kiss system and award the contract to the company whose prototype is FULLY FUNCTIONAL with $0 up front.
    2. Rent the LCS "boats" to groups who want a "total Immersion simulation" experience of what it must be like to sail on a real warship. Take the proceeds to reverse engineer Russian or German surface warfare vessels who have the capability to fight a real battle and win!
    3. Take all usable parts of the U.S.S. Ford. Send them to Bath Iron Works . Tell Bath they are now the sole source for carriers, AND DON'T GIVE INGALLS A SINGLE CONTRACT TO BUILD ANY MORE SHIPS. Former members of the Huntington family are rolling in their graves at the junk that's sliding down the ways and what was once the greatest shipyard on earth. Steam cats work OK, and how the hell do you make a carrier "stealthhy" when satellites can take 8×10 glossies from 100 miles up?
    4. Trade with the Brits and French for Typhoons and Rafales so we have some 5th generation jets that work until the aerospace monopoly can get its act together.
    5. Convert any leftover C-27 Spartans for the Navy ,thus ending their critical COD shortage.
    I Could go on and on. In 36 months the US will have hollow armed forces with weapons that won't work. Back to the "03 rifle with laser sights and a hydraulic recoil pad.!
    The real shame is all of the officers and NCOs who put it all on the line when their country needed them-multiple deployments of SW Asia and who will be on the street with a piece of paper (honorable discharge) as their "separation bonus!"

  25. Gee one depth charge, and goodby resupply….Oh and just how long would it take someon to hack the system and reap the goods? especially using Chinese back door chips?

  26. next up storing equipment in volcanoes

  27. This is an interesting concept. I wonder if it will have a spin-off in the development of another capability for MSC. I would imagine the pods would need servicing, restocking, etc. Would this be a contractor function or would DoD/Navy want to keep exclusive control? Just thoughts on potential ramifications.

  28. wonkyeyedmonkey | April 24, 2014 at 12:25 am | Reply

    As good as any place to stash your porno mags.

  29. For nuclear, biological or chemical incidents everything stored under water will be clean as all of the mentioned items are neutral when they hit water. This would be an excellent way to replenish subs, no one would know about the replenishment and be able to respond in time to stop the replenishment. There are many scenarios that these could be put to use in.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.