By Mark Wachtler
August 12, 2013. Laurel, MD. (ONN) The Defense Dept. quietly unveiled a Request For Proposal last week at a gathering of Defense contractors. The proposal asked for ideas about how to develop the world’s premier future warship. The only Naval vessel the US will ever need again, it’s a submarine, aircraft carrier, cruiser, transport, shipyard, silo, air force – all in one. And every bit of it will be unmanned.
A 'submarine-carrier' isn't exactly a new idea. Image courtesy of SinoDefenceForum.com.
Can you imagine a giant submarine that has the ability to launch a dozen smaller subs, not to mention dozens of nuclear or cruise missiles? What if it could also release one thousand unmanned aerial war planes as well as carry troops, tanks, soldiers and other cargo? The Defense Dept.’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) can. And they’ve issued a Request For Proposal to America’s various defense contractors for just such a design.
Request For Proposal
The official DoD Request for Proposal announces the August 5th event where Defense officials laid out their vision for America’s future Navy. The gathering was held at Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland. The agency even gave the event the name, ‘Proposer’s Day’. The one and only subject of the all-day gathering – the Hydra.
While the Hydra is already the name of an existing wireless communications system in use by the US Navy, the Defense Dept. sees it as the perfect term to describe their vision of the perfect Naval vessel. In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a single seafaring serpent with nine heads. The center head was immortal, but when any of the other eight were severed, two more would grow back their place.
The DARPA RFP describes the Defense Dept.’s vision writing:
‘The Hydra program will develop and demonstrate an unmanned undersea system, providing a novel delivery mechanism for insertion of unmanned air and underwater vehicles into operational environments. Situated underwater, Hydra will use modular payloads within a standardized enclosure to enable scalable, cost-effective deployment of rapid response assets. Hydra will integrate existing and emerging technologies in new ways to create an alternate means of delivering a variety of payloads close to the point of use. The Hydra program seeks to develop and demonstrate initial examples of these payloads.’
While it’s technically a military subject, it was the financial reporters at The Motley Fool that shined a spotlight on the DoD’s request. They reminded readers why America’s current Navy is already at risk and how recent Chinese military advancements have leveled the playing field technologically. The US still enjoys the largest Navy in the world. But the Chinese now have the capability to threaten that advantage.
‘Even aircraft carriers have their vulnerabilities (Just ask Admiral Yamamoto),’ the publication explains, ‘They're perversely vulnerable to enemy aircraft. In the modern world, they're also at risk of being made extinct by new weapons such as China's DF-21D "carrier killer" cruise missile.’ The Defense Department’s solution – a vessel that can be a sub, carrier, cruiser and transport, all in one. Like an unmanned bee hive, it could theoretically release hundreds of unmanned mini-subs or thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Motley Fool may have summed the idea up best when it described the Hydra as, ‘A kind of mothership capable of deploying a robotic army (navy and air force) anywhere around the globe, anytime, and literally at the touch of a button.’
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for US adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.
To fulfill its mission, the Agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research. DARPA’s scientific investigations span the gamut from laboratory efforts to the creation of full-scale technology demonstrations in the fields of biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neurosciences and more. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.
For more information, visit Darpa.mil
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