On January 11, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a weapons program that sounds as sinister as it does science fiction.
In a program it inelegantly calls Upward Falling Payloads, the clandestine military research and development group plans to build weapons vehicles that will be stored dormant underwater for years and then suddenly surface when summoned by remote control and deliver their payloads — including drones — by “falling upward.”
“The goal is to support the Navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over large maritime areas. If we can do this rapidly, we can get close to the areas we need to affect, or become widely distributed without delay,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager. “To make this work, we need to address technical challenges like extended survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressure, communications to wake-up the nodes after years of sleep, and efficient launch of payloads to the surface.”
In an announcement, DARPA reasons that the sea is the perfect place to hid these deadly nodes. Keeping the weapons below the surface will give their attacks the element of surprise and the vastness of the oceans “provides opportunity to simultaneously operate across great distances.”
DARPA describes the scope of the sea-bound program:
DARPA seeks proposals in three key areas for developing the program: Communications, deep ocean "risers" to contain the payloads, and the actual payloads. DARPA hopes to reach technical communities that conduct deep-ocean engineering from the telecom and oil-exploration industry to the scientific community with insights into signal propagation in the water and on the seafloor. Since the program will emphasize the use of ambient pressure containment with its risers, there is no need for specialization of payloads to accommodate the extreme pressures of the deep sea. Communities with technical background in unmanned platforms; distributed sensors; networking; sensor packaging; information operations; electronic warfare; anti-submarine warfare, etc. may all be able to play a role.
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