Over the past few years DARPA has been working on their version of the old U-Boat kite.
ICYMI, during WWII, the Kriegsmarine’s U-boat fleet used about 200~ Focke-Achgelis FA 330 Bachstelze (English: Wagtail) aircraft. The FA330 was a type of rotary-wing kite that weighed about 150-pounds and, using an unpowered 24-foot three-bladed rotor for lift, was winched out into the air behind a U-boat on a 500-foot cable, allowing the adventuresome sailor in its single seat to have the best view on the boote.
A simple idea, they were complicated in use as they took a long time (20-30 minutes to assemble) and, if the kiteman saw an enemy warship, slowed the dive of the submarine far too long than was safe.
Well, the ONR and DARPA have teamed up to do the same thing but in an updated (and unmanned) version that swaps out the rotating kite wing for a much safer parafoil.
Observe the Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) below, a low-cost, elevated sensor mast being tested out on USS Zephyr, a 179-foot Cyclone-class patrol coastal. It is the first time it was used aboard a U.S. Navy vessel, after being trialed on Sea Hunter, DARPA’s ACTUV vessel last year.
“Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could persistently carry intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.”
First they came for the signal flags, now they are coming for morse blinkers…but you have to admit, it the day where the average recruit has way more experience in text messages than in dots and dashes, it makes sense.
The Office of Naval Research TechSolutions-sponsored Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) uses a ship’s existing signal lamp to both send and receive optical lamp communications via an intuitive chat session on a tablet computer.
Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) TechSolutions program, FLTC features (1) a camera that can be mounted atop a signal lamp and hone in on Morse code bursts from another lamp within view, and (2) a hand-held device or laptop computer connected to this camera to display text messages sent and received.
Linking the commercially available camera and device is a proprietary converter that uses specialized software algorithms to process incoming light flashes into high-frequency signals-and then convert those into text messages. To reply to a text, a Sailor can use the device to type a response that is sent back as a Morse code message via specially powered LED lights that flash automatically.
The Office of Naval Research quietly released footage of the all-electric railgun spitting out a couple of rounds back-to-back at Mach 6.
The undated footage comes from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, named after the famous 19th Century admiral whose “Dahlgren Gun” changed naval warfare leading to his nickname as the “Father of American naval ordnance.” And the electromagnetic railgun may be just as revolutionary.
If they can just get the rate of fire up high enough and the gun’s battery pack with a small enough footprint..
These things are pretty interesting, and could really save lives, especially in MOUT-style operations. The only human input is the target image, a basic map, and a bearing to the search area, then the quad is off, in fully autonomous flight without GPS or remote control (RC) communication links.
Phase 1 of DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program concluded recently following a series of obstacle-course flight tests in central Florida. Over four days, three teams of DARPA-supported researchers huddled under shade tents in the sweltering Florida sun, fine-tuning their sensor-laden quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the intervals between increasingly difficult runs. DARPA’s FLA program is advancing technology to enable small unmanned quadcopters to fly autonomously through cluttered buildings and obstacle-strewn environments at fast speeds (up to 20 meters per second, or 45 mph) using onboard cameras and sensors as “eyes” and smart algorithms to self-navigate.
And if you don’t think drones are the new thing in the modern battlefield, just look at the report below on how ISIS forces are using commercial quadcopters and the like around Rakka today.
Buy a Chinese-made RC copter, attach a mortar shell or hand grenade to an actuator, and you have a sub-$1K attack craft. Using swarms of these things, some local forces are reporting 10-15 drones strikes against them per day. The DGI Phantom is reportedly the go-to quad for the IS air corps for recon and attack.
U.S. Army Prototype Anti-Armor Hand Grenade from 1973 – A Shaped Charge Packed in a Hollowed-Out NERF Football:
“Since a regulation size football weighs 14 ounces, it was considered feasible to make a shaped charge grenade within this weight limitation,” according to the official test report. “In addition, most U.S. troops are familiar with throwing footballs.”
Footballs, however, are not solid inside, making the prototype grenade unstable in flight. The project was cancelled and Parker Brothers (makers of the NERF footballs since 1969) was never officially involved.
Complete with lots of dramatic royalty free muzak, the above video from Lockheed-Martin is actually pretty interesting if you take the time to digest it.
It shows “Vector Hawk,” a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), on command from the little yellow submarine looking thing– “Marlin MK2” autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)– while a third vehicle, the “Submaran,” an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero (the sailboat looking thing), provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.
As noted by LM:
The four-pound Vector Hawk can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers. Operators can recover and re-launch the Vector Hawk in a matter of minutes (including changing the system’s battery). Vector Hawk is built on an open architecture to enable rapid technology insertion and payload integration.
Marlin MK2 is a battery powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250 pound payload capacity, 18-24 hour endurance, depth rating of 1000 feet and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. Its open architecture design and modularity allow new mission packages to be quickly integrated into Marlin to meet emerging customer needs.
There were only 52 made and many have been scrapped. Thankfully, this one (#S6533990) was transferred to the CMP for sale on the civilian market and is complete with the NF optic, PVS22 night scope, case (which is very interestingly marked on the outside!) and accessories to include data book.
From the DD:
These XM-3 sniper rifles used by the United States Marine Corps. In mid-2005, DARPA worked with Lt. Col. Norm Chandler’s Iron Brigade Armory (IBA) to field items to expeditionary units in Afghanistan. Since they already had a great working relationship, DARPA contracted IBA to build and test lightweight sniper rifles that incorporated the improvements the snipers desired in combat. The mission was to be lighter and smaller than the existing M40s, while having better accuracy, clip-on night vision that did not require re-zero, better optics, and better stock, and it had to be suppressed. The barrel had to be short enough to allow maneuverability yet long enough to deliver a 10” group at 1,000 yards. If the barrel was too heavy, maneuverability would decrease, yet if the barrel was too light it would only be able to shoot a few rounds before the groups started to shift due to barrel temperature. IBA tested a number of barrel lengths, ranging from 16 to 20 inches and in different contours. Each rifle with a different length was assigned an XM designator starting with XM1 through XM3. In each case, everything on the prototype rifles was kept the same except the barrel. During the final phases of testing it was found that the 18” barrels had no issues keeping up with their longer 20” brethren. The final barrel length was set at 18.5”, and the contour was a modified #7. The straight taper on the barrel was only 2” vs. 4” and the overall diameter at the muzzle was .85” vs. .980”. This helped reduce a lot of the rifle’s weight while not negatively affecting accuracy or effective range. A number of the groups at 1,000 yards were <1 MOA. The Marines of I-MEF were the first to field test the rifles at Camp Pendleton. Shortly after I-MEF took receipt of the XM-3s, the first units in II-MEF took receipt of theirs. By mid-2006 there were dozens of XM-3s in Iraq. There were 52 XM-3s made.
Of course, the bidding is past $20,000 but hey, it’s not your average Remmy M700