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Underwater Aircraft Carriers? Defense Dept Sees Drone Submarine As New Way To Launch Robot Planes

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In a development that could herald the end of the mighty aircraft carrier, the Defense Department has put out a call for technology firms to help it develop an underwater unmanned mothership that could launch drone airplanes as well as submarines and surface boats.

The call for bids from contractors went up on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities web site August 22. The project is known as Hydra, and the bid posting describes it as, “an unmanned undersea system, providing a novel delivery mechanism for insertion of unmanned air and underwater vehicles into operational environments.”

The Hydra project is being carried out by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an arm of the Department of Defense. DARPA is perhaps most famous in the public mind for inventing the earliest version of the internet, then known as ARPANET, in the early 1970s.

According to the Daily Finance web site, the most likely bidders on the project are the defense contractors that already build most of the American submarine fleet, Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics. But Boeing, which already builds a robotic submarine called Echo Ranger (pictured), is also a candidate.

Why build what is sure to be a costly new piece of military technology? Because, says the DARPA posting, it will save money in an era when we never know where the next threat coud come from.

“The rising number of ungoverned states, piracy, and proliferation of sophisticated defenses severely stretches current resources and impacts the nation's ability to conduct special operations and contingency missions,” DARPS says. “The Hydra program represents a cost effective way to add undersea capacity that can be tailored to support each mission.”

"The climate of budget austerity runs up against an uncertain security environment," Hydra program manager Scott Littlefield said, quoted by Information Week. "An unmanned technology infrastructure staged below the oceans' surface could relieve some of that resource strain and expand military capabilities in this increasingly challenging space."

SOURCES: Daily Finance, Information Week, Federal Business Opportunities

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