Thursday, February 25, 2016

DARPA's Aviation Shopping List: Drones, X Planes & Hypersonics, oh my!

DARPA is up to mischief again. In some cases, mischief that has been delayed by budgets and elsewhere.

1. AFRE (Advanced Full-Range Engine) seems to be taking over from the old MOTR. Both were/are engines that were supposed to work from subsonic all the way up through high supersonic or even potentially low hypersonic speeds. This sounds a lot like the concept Lockheed's SR-72 was supposed to work with. This is at the the (re)kick off stage with a request for $9 M.

2. Hypersonic weapons! DARPA has two hypersonic weapon programs requested. HAWC (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept), a hypersonic scramjet powered cruise missile as I understand it and has requested $49.5M for completing the first CDR and ground tests of the hydrocarbon powered scramjet. DARPA has also asked for $22.8M for TBG (tactical boost glide weapon): an air launched, rocket powered hypersonic boost glide warhead. They want to launch from existing aircraft and be compatible with the Navy's VLS system. The TBG is intended to be test launched by the end of 2017.

3. Despite rumors of the XS-1 being canned in December, due to fuel danger problems, it seems DARPA has requested an additional $50.5M for the small sat launcher.

4. DARPA has also requested $52M for a VTOL X Plane with a selection on source *this* quarter and have a flying demo by the end of 2017. Is this something leaking in from the Black? Should we call the move from the black to white world 'white washing?'

5. TERN gets another $12M for CDR and assembly of the VTOL Predator equivalent for shipboard use on destroyers, cruisers and frigates.

6. Finally, at least for this post, Gremlins, the effort to design and build UAVs that can be launched and recovered in the air gets an additional $36M requested.

I am really intrigued with the VTOL X Plane. If its jet powered, I'd be really surprised given the time frames. Maybe its not?

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