Nov. 11, 2014 By RAY LOCKER, USA TODAY – Defense News
The Pentagon is looking for ways to base multiple unmanned drones aboard larger aircraft, from which the drones will depart and return after they fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in hard-to-reach areas, according to a new request from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The request for information released over the weekend seeks drones that would be based on larger aircraft, such as B-52 or B-1 bombers or C-130 transport planes, to cite a few examples. The smaller drones would then fly from the larger planes, conduct their missions and return to the aircraft, which would then be able to fly away from potentially contested airspace.
“The agency envisions a large aircraft that, with minimal modification, could launch and recover multiple small unmanned systems from a standoff distance,” the request for information says.
Drones are continuing to play a larger role in US military and intelligence operations, including flights over Africa and the Middle East in search of terrorist groups.
DARPA’s latest request is part of a series of research programs aimed at developing aircraft and weapons that will enable US forces to cover large distances to get to coastal and other regions that are often protected by rival forces.
Earlier this year, DARPA released requests for long-range, anti-ship missiles that would break down the defenses of potential rivals such as China and Iran, as well as underwater drones that would be based aboard larger submarines. Another DARPA plan would enable multiple drones to communicate with each other autonomously without a central station on the ground.