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 a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • ShamWowed

    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.

  • conradswims

    Another hole in the ocean to pour money into.

    • ShamWowed

      Possibly, but I like the idea of prepping resupply that may not be easily detected and destroyed. I think it is far-fetched due to the operating environment though. Still the easiest way to defeat an assault force is to prevent its resupply. Making that less vulnerable has benefits.

  • Marc Winger

    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.

    • ShamWowed

      I agree with both of your points Marc. I would much prefer discussing the different aspects of any given project than first dealing with the Traitor, Government employee, defense shill and whatever else I have had flung my way. As it stands though, for the first time in a week, two individuals have been relatively quiet. This site needs active moderators. Instead, it was a playground for a dedicated few instead of a forum to spread different aspects of all things military. I have been on it for less than a week, and picked up quite a few things, but I had to wade through the muck of these dedicated antagonists. If more would stand up to this abuse it would cease.

    • xXTomcatXx

      Well said on your latter point. Glad to see more people are bringing it to light.

    • Teacher

      Marc Winger,

      Your post sounds definitively negative and insulting.

      Just because others disagree with you doesn’t make your idea positive.

      This site is not about spreading what in your mind the vague, nebulous concept of positiveness. It’s simply a forum where everybody put forward their opinions.

      Learn to get that right first.

      • ShamWowed

        I have only been on the board for week, and noticed the same thing. There is a cult of FU on everything and everyone on this board. Not sure if you are appointed the captain obvious title but Marc was likely responding to my calling out two other posters at the beginning of this thread. If you have issue with it, take it out on me. This board could use a moderator or three, but until such time, Marc’s assertion is correct. There are internet warriors all over this site screaming how superior their specific projects are and how superior thinkers they are compared to the engineers and scientists at DARPA etc. So there is disagreement among individuals and there is BS. The best I can discern, the latter is the predominant method of choice.

  • jd2134

    And what to stop the Chinese from stealing these

    • ShamWowed

      Probably not revealing the location of the caches. Of course, this could be subversive to get them to waste time and money to look for them. Either way, win-win.

      • xsailor

        One thing the Chinese do seem to be adept at is hacking. If we can raise these, I see little reason they can’t figure out how to do it. A bigger worry would be not to have them steal them but to have them tamper with them, in a way that could cause injury to our servicemen and equipment.

    • xXTomcatXx

      Max depth of these is 7km. Max depth of the best subs is less than 1km. Assuming you stick them beyond the reach of subs then they can only touch them with ROVs. Even theyn they’re stuck doing quite a bit of hunting. Something the Chinese recently proved to be pretty poor at doing.

      • ShamWowed

        Good point on the Chinese…
        Also, I hope they will try to evolve the plan to keep the subs from surfacing to bring the payload aboard. Something like have the ROV or divers load it in the dive trunk (if possible due to dimensions etc.). The payload would need some sort of ballast like features though, else it would shoot straight to the surface.

        • Teacher

          Before you come up with more “ideas”, spend some time on Human Biology and effects of prolonged imprisonment in a sub.

          • ShamWowed

            Yeah let me jump on that. On a side note, while not imprisoned aboard a sub, I did many months aboard Gator freighters. Although, from the sounds of things you must be an expert and sub life must suck. That explains your bitterness and suckage in life.

          • Teacher

            I didn’t ask you to jump on anything. I asked you to spend some time on Human Biology and effects of prolonged imprisonment in a sub.

          • spaceridder

            Hay teacher why do you call working on a sub imprisonment? I had no problem with it an I did it for over 28 years

  • Dick CockPit

    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?

    • ShamWowed

      I could envision them being more specialty oriented for say specific weapons systems that need refill. Tomohawks or torpedoes maybe? I doubt they could contain food for 5000 carrier crew members unless we are talking MRE’s. I think the whole idea is a little far-fetched. However, who knows, DARPA could surprise us. Also, the larger the payload is the more attention the initial delivery platform would receive while placing it in the ocean. Would likely see a revolving tail of Chinese trawlers!

      • Kurt

        Good question Pit. Good answer Sham. I think consumables like torps or tomahawks and the like are more likely to be cached. Im not an expert, but I’m not sure if aviation fuel could stand sitting at 6 or 7km depth for 5 years without possibly degrading. But MREs at that depth might improve their texture.

  • tiger

    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.

    • hibeam

      You better check with Hank Johnson before you embarrass yourself any further on this site.

      • tiger

        Who is he?

  • Bernard

    Nukes? I hope not.

    • Musson

      Ramen noodles and Everready batteries.

    • rhutcheson28

      Seabed-emplaced nuclear weapons and “weapons of mass destruction” are prohibited by the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, which gives signatories the right of inspection.

      • Bernard

        That’s wonderful and all, but how exactly do you enforce that? The seabed is massive, I’m sure you could hide all kinds of things down there and no one would ever know. Actually, isn’t the fact that you can hide things there the whole premise of this “resupply” system?

  • Hunter76

    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.

    • ShamWowed

      You ride the Higgins boats my friend. I am sure most would prefer a more survivable approach.

  • stephen russell

    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.

    • Hunter76

      If someone attacks these systems, they’ll be inviting counter-attack, which will be deterrent for most. If US is slugging it out with someone, re-supply options could be invaluable.


    • NathanS

      If the enemy has compromised our military encryption, then a few caches at the bottom of the sea are the least of our worries.

  • rtsy

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

    • rtsy

      Seriously people, underwater earthquake detection from a system like this could save a lot of lives and better our understanding of this giant spinning ball we live on. It doesn’t all have to be about nukes and playing cat and mouse with the great powers of the world.

  • hibeam

    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?

    • Musson

      Common sense will get you down clicked on this board. But, it is dedicated to gee-whiz flash bang technology so I guess that is to be expected.

      • hibeam

        Thanks for the warning. Maybe we could put laser beams on sharks to guard our underwater weapons caches? I’ll up arrow this beauty myself to start the ball rolling.

        • tiger

          Sorry, we could only get Sea Bass…..

    • Kurt

      What works now may not work in the future. Otherwise we’d be issuing swords and shields.

    • tcivil

      At one point there was a concern that drones would be hacked and taken over. Its easy to sit on proven technology but we have to stay ahead. Maybe these nodes will fail but if not they open new possibilities for covert missions. Maybe these nodes can be dropped from stealth airplanes and rest on the bottom of the ocean until called for. What about a sub dropping nodes along an anticipated attack corridor 6 months in advance of an attack? Prepare for the next war not the last.

  • Bronco46

    A good idea worth pursuing.

  • JohnnyRanger

    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 ;-)


    • Hunter76

      How stupid are people who can’t write with lower case?

  • Connor Cook

    What’s to stop other countries or organizations from taking these little caches?

    • ShamWowed

      My guess is this idea will die on the drawing board. Since the depths of the oceans are difficult to access and expensive to conduct operations, this is a nice way to keep the bad guys busy.

      • Connor Cook

        Well since these little caches has a communications link, so the would be pretty much broadcasting each of their positions, whats to stop those other countries/organizations from just calling it and making it come to them? Or grab it with a underwater drone? I agree this will die on the drawing board.

  • ShamWowed

    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.

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

  • blight_

    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.

  • C-Low

    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.

    • ShamWowed

      I like that idea. Weaponize the supposed supply cache and when the enemy begins snooping, sorry for your loss! In a weird similarity this happened in Vietnam. I forget the operational name, but we supposedly had been inserting agents deep in the North and eventually determined that they had all been compromised. We had been sending supply drops which were falling into enemy hands. Once we finally determined they were compromised we rigged them with explosives.

  • 45k20e4

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

  • Israel

    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.

  • Kurt

    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.

  • Jim

    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!”

  • 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?

  • oblatt22

    next up storing equipment in volcanoes

    • Honokaa Chuck

      Actually old lava tubes are great places to hide things. I’ve partied in few of them myself! They are great for keeping things or activities out of sight…

  • Bosun Billy

    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.

  • wonkyeyedmonkey

    As good as any place to stash your porno mags.

  • CaptainDoc

    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.