New drone to be displayed on the USS Orleck

As the USS Orleck awaits the competion of its permanent home downtown, News4Jax reporter Jenese Harris gives us a close look at a drone that is being reunited with the warship.

As the USS Orleck continues to attract active military, veterans and military enthusiasts, it’s getting a new addition.

Before the world knew about drones, the U.S. military had them in the 1960s.

War sometimes creates unique tools that become common place.

We know drones for beautiful views of the city or for play in the backyard through our own Sky4.

But in the 1960s, the Navy started to employ anti-submarine warfare drones.

Justin Weakland with the Jacksonville Naval Museum USS Orleck has been working to get this new feature aboard the ship.

“It’s just like a helicopter, sounds just like a helicopter,” he said.

This one will be used as a display on board the flight deck.

“It’s something we definitely don’t see every day,” Weakland said. “There are probably about 10 of these left in the world or on display as well.”

It’s a rare find with lots of history.

The USS Orleck in 1959 started doing upgrade programs. The ships world war two configuration was changed to carry drones on board just like this one. And this drone also survived some severe weather, Hurricanes Laura and Rita.

This drone was restored piece by piece in February over three months, for about $31,000 and the help of about 20 people and Aviation Systems Engineering Company. Weakland is also an instructor with the company.

And the radio-controlled drone was tracked by radar and line of sight. It’s seen its share of war action too.

First it carried torpedoes, then cameras were added, then reconnaissance flights throughout Vietnam to see where the enemy was at, garnering the nickname “Snoopy.”

Now, this massive drone is a part of history that Weakland hopes will inspire a new generation to consider math and science.

“We have it on the ship and young boys and girls can see that and their imagination takes off one day they could become engineers or aircraft mechanics,” he said. “They could be pilots themselves, so thats the great thing about it.”

The museum is accepting donations to move the drone. They need 5k to get a very specific crane to get the drone on the USS flight deck.

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