It seems you can hardly flip a page of the news these days without reading something about drones. You may be reading about how one dangerously collided with a commercial aircraft or better yet how one mysteriously ended up on the White House lawn. Even I just recently wrote a piece here about how drones had the distinct possibility of becoming the IED’s of the future for terrorist organizations. Well, now I have a new drone story to add to the already-large stockpile.
One of my favorite parts of keeping an eye on military events for US Patriot Tactical is anxiously waiting to see what DARPA comes up with next. Well, here it is and it adds nicely to the drone story mix. They are improving on an old technology that became obsolete with the improvement of radar and taking that one step further by making it reusable. What is this reinvention of an old project? It is what DARPA describes as an air launched swarm of gremlin drones that is designed to overwhelm and confuse an enemy’s radar defenses.
The concept of launching drones from aircraft before an attack is one that is hardly new. As far back as the 1950’s, B-52 bombers carried turbojet powered drone missiles or ‘quail missiles’ as they were known at the time. The quail was programmed to mimic a B-52’s flight tendencies and could even drop chaff to confuse enemy radar even more. Radar advances in the 1960’s made these drones obsolete. There have been a steady number of successors since then – with each subsequent one improving on the former drone model’s capabilities in most circumstances.
Why drones? Because drones are much cheaper than aircraft and they also do not put a pilot in harm’s way. They can slip more easily inside the desired 500 mile comfort range where electronics jamming and other electronic countermeasures work best. Also, no country has an unlimited supply of surface to air missiles and there is nothing we would like to see more than those big expensive missiles being used up on lightly important drone aircraft.
What is DARPA’s vision for these new types of drones? Well, to start with they would be launched in volleys into the airspace where an attack was about to take place. Once the drones entered this enemy airspace, their job would be to ‘wreak havoc’ there by confusing the heck out of the enemy. DARPA hopes to be able to send in highly affordable drones (under 1 million dollars each) that can perform multiple roles such as radar jamming (most would do this), electronics intelligence gathering and being decoys. Best of all, the drones that survived in theatre would be recoverable and able to withstand the rigors of over 20 of such missions.
It’s another ambitious project from DARPA to add to their long list of them, but many of their ideas are sailing the seas, arming military vehicles or actively doing something else in the military. So don’t be surprised if launching a gremlin drone horde into enemy airspace becomes a very real military option in the coming years.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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