Losing one drone for one submarine was a good exchange rate

Monday, November 27th, 2023

Swarm Troopers by David HamblingIn the late 1950s, David Hambling notes (in Swarm Troopers), the latest sonar could detect a submarine more than twenty miles away, but the best anti-submarine weapons only had a range of a few miles:

The US Navy wanted to bridge the gap with a Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter or DASH. This was a small helicopter capable of carrying a single weapon and dropping it at the required spot, guided by a controller back on board ship.

The DASH was based on a one-man helicopter called a “Rotorcycle” built by Gyrodyne Company. This had two rotor blades rotating in opposite directions for lift, and a propeller for forward motion. The drone version was the size of a small car and weighed just over a ton. By 1963, the US Navy had eighty of them.


DASH was designed to be expendable; when it dropped a Mk57 nuclear depth charge it would be within the lethal radius of the resulting explosion. The powerful warhead, from five to twenty kilotons, guaranteed that the sub would be destroyed, and losing one drone for one submarine was a good exchange rate. The idea that DASH should carry a non-nuclear homing torpedo and come back afterwards was a case of mission creep; according to the original design it was only supposed to make one flight.


Executive Officer Phil King of the USS Blue modified a DASH, adding a television camera for reconnaissance and gunnery direction. Known as SNOOPY missions, these involved the DASH flying out to find targets. The operator identified them via the television link, and the destroyer then opened up with its battery of five-inch guns. The drone operator could see where the shells were landing and tell the gunners how to adjust their aim.

Further developments followed, including NITE PANTHER and BLOW LOW versions equipped with additional fuel tanks for longer range, night-vision systems and airborne radar.

The next logical step was to convert the DASH from finding targets to attacking them. NITE GAZELLE, GUN SHIP, and ATTACK DRONE were all individual modified aircraft with a range of weaponry including a six-barreled minigun firing four thousand rounds a minute, grenade launchers, bomblet dispensers and bombs, as well as a laser designator for directing smart bombs. The idea was that drones with guns would deal with the ground defenses, leaving the way clear for the bomber drones to hit targets with pinpoint accuracy.


“It became quite evident that the Navy no longer wanted DASH and wanted to move onto LAMPS manned helicopters.”

LAMPS was the Light Airborne Multipurpose System, a new manned helicopter that would operate from destroyers and take over the role of DASH. Removing DASH from the picture meant there would be no competition, and nobody would be able to argue that LAMPS was unnecessary.


The LAMPS project became the SH-60 Sea Hawk, now a multibillion dollar success story.


  1. Gwood says:

    The DASHs had Porsche engines.

  2. Natureboi says:

    Why is it a success story? What strategic objective has it accomplished which could not have been achieved by pre-existing or less resource intensive means? When someone says that an investment is “successful”, this is a claim about opportunity cost. Why doesn’t anyone ever measure military “successes” based on opportunity cost? Blowing up the target is not a success if you could have achieved an equally valuable strategic goal without blowing it up.

  3. Jim says:

    War is about (a) manufacturing unholy quantities of bullets, bombs, shells, and missiles, (b) blowing up as much of your foreign adversaries’ shit as quickly and efficiently as possible, and (c) sending your domestic adversaries to go die doing it for you.

    Alternatively, “If you kill your enemies, they win.”

  4. Ceck says:

    “If you kill your enemies, they win.”

    If Israelis kill a lower-class Arab youth, the Arab poverty pimps and religious fanatics get more political support from lower-class Arabs in general. Similarly, if a US troop shoots an Afghan goat-herder, Afghans collectively hate the US a little bit more, and the anti-US Afghan leaders get more political support.

    “War is about…(c) sending your domestic adversaries to go die doing it for you.”

    A relatively poor and fanatical community can send its lower-class males to get killed. It does not endanger survival of the community, and it entrenches the powerful ruling class of that community. So part (c) is the flip side of “If you kill your enemies, they win.”

  5. Jim says:

    It would be extremely easy for the United States to eradicate the population of Afghanistan. USAID could then be repurposed to the task of causing the births of as many white children as possible in Kabul et al. The high-tech, “soft” approach would be to use the Federal Reserve’s bottomless well of freshly printed dollars to induce Afghani women to carry American IVF babies to term. It’s important to understand that the NGO Global Complex isn’t IVF’ing the world because it is too moral to do so—see “COVID” and a million other deliberate poisonings—but because it is owned and operated by haters of America and haters of Americans.

  6. VXXC says:

    “If you kill your enemies, they win.”

    Absolutely. That’s how the Germans beat the Russians in WW2, and how we lost to the Japanese.

    It’s also why the South won the Civil War [now I have your attention !].

    “This will inflame your ____ to____”

    As it happens, we the fighting caste are stepping away, so y’all can show us how it’s done.

    Perhaps you can make a good death, but I doubt it.

    All you wanted ‘was to be left alone?” Right?

    Congratulations, you are.


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