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Posted: 2/22/2006 6:58:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/22/2006 6:58:42 PM EDT by COLE-CARBINE]
The Navy’s Swimming Spy Plane
It floats, it flies, it eliminates enemy targets—meet the water-launched unmanned enforcer

By Bill Sweetman | February 2006
(popularscience.com)



Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, famed for the U-2 and Blackbird spy planes that flew higher than anything else in the world in their day, is trying for a different altitude record: an airplane that starts and ends its mission 150 feet underwater. The Cormorant, a stealthy, jet-powered, autonomous aircraft that could be outfitted with either short-range weapons or surveillance equipment, is designed to launch out of the Trident missile tubes in some of the U.S. Navy’s gigantic Cold War–era Ohio-class submarines. These formerly nuke-toting subs have become less useful in a military climate evolved to favor surgical strikes over nuclear stalemates, but the Cormorant could use their now-vacant tubes to provide another unmanned option for spying on or destroying targets near the coast.

This is no easy task. The tubes are as long as a semi trailer but about seven feet wide—not exactly airplane-shaped. The Cormorant has to be strong enough to withstand the pressure 150 feet underwater—enough to cave in hatches on a normal aircraft—but light enough to fly. Another challenge: Subs survive by stealth, and an airplane flying back to the boat could give its position away.

The Skunk Works’s answer is a four-ton airplane with gull wings that hinge around its body to fit inside the missile tube. The craft is made of titanium to resist corrosion, and any empty spaces are filled with plastic foam to resist crushing. The rest of the body is pressurized with inert gas. Inflatable seals keep the weapon-bay doors, engine inlet and exhaust covers watertight.

The Cormorant does not shoot out of its tube like a missile. Instead an arm-like docking “saddle” guides the craft out, sending it floating to the surface while the sub slips away. As the drone pops out of the water, the rocket boosters fire and the Cormorant takes off. After completing its mission, the plane flies to the rendezvous coordinates it receives from the sub and lands in the sea. The sub then launches a robotic underwater vehicle to fetch the floating drone.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is funding tests of some of the Cormorant’s unique systems, including a splashdown model and an underwater-recovery vehicle. The tests should be completed by September, after which Darpa will decide whether it will fund a flying prototype.


Link Posted: 2/22/2006 7:01:38 PM EDT
Between these, SSGNs, and the kinetic energy trident d-5 we are going to have to put the Ohio class boats back intor production.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 7:18:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
Between these, SSGNs, and the kinetic energy trident d-5 we are going to have to put the Ohio class boats back intor production.



I'm a big fan of the SSGN conversion of the Ohio class to Tactical Trident, this may be some of the best defense cash spent. Now if they can just fill all 154 tubes with Tactical Tomahawks.....
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 8:23:15 PM EDT

After completing its mission, the plane flies to the rendezvous coordinates it receives from the sub and lands in the sea. The sub then launches a robotic underwater vehicle to fetch the floating drone.


...and the bad guys track this "robatic underwater vehicle" back to the sub.

Sounds like a rather complicated, trouble-prone scheme, just to make the "plane" reusable. Why put the security of an umpteen-billion dollar sub at risk (along with her crew), just to save a few bucks on the plane?
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 8:48:15 PM EDT
Tag.

Not sure how I feel about this.
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 8:50:47 PM EDT
Is this more of that there alien technology I keep hearing about?
Link Posted: 2/22/2006 10:47:25 PM EDT

LOCK-MART SKUNK WORKS DEVELOPING SUB-LAUNCHED DO-IT-ALL...


How are they going to fit the Superhornet in there?
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 11:50:29 AM EDT
bump just 'cuz I think this is neat as hell.
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 12:06:32 PM EDT
[vito113]HA! The Royal Navy has done it already![/vito113]

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Link Posted: 2/23/2006 1:04:01 PM EDT
Holy frick and frack Batman!

Can anyone say group buy?
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 1:20:54 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Skibane:

After completing its mission, the plane flies to the rendezvous coordinates it receives from the sub and lands in the sea. The sub then launches a robotic underwater vehicle to fetch the floating drone.


...and the bad guys track this "robatic underwater vehicle" back to the sub.

Sounds like a rather complicated, trouble-prone scheme, just to make the "plane" reusable. Why put the security of an umpteen-billion dollar sub at risk (along with her crew), just to save a few bucks on the plane?



Take note of the fact a separate vehicle travels to the surface to do the retrieval. So one robot picks up another robot and then travels back to the sub. Wonder what the range on the retrieval vehicle is? Worst case you lose the UAV and retrieval vehicle.
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 3:38:47 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/23/2006 3:39:25 PM EDT by COLE-CARBINE]

Originally Posted By Skibane:

After completing its mission, the plane flies to the rendezvous coordinates it receives from the sub and lands in the sea. The sub then launches a robotic underwater vehicle to fetch the floating drone.


...and the bad guys track this "robatic underwater vehicle" back to the sub.

Sounds like a rather complicated, trouble-prone scheme, just to make the "plane" reusable. Why put the security of an umpteen-billion dollar sub at risk (along with her crew), just to save a few bucks on the plane?



Agreed that this set up is complicated and not "Murphy-proof." However we have no idea of the range of the UUV/UAV, could something the size of the UUV even be tracked underwater let alone a targeting solution? The UUV is p'rolly very quiet running on battieries, the UAV is most likely at risk at launch, after that it's small size and stealth will be enough to protect it. IIRC they were talking about using the booster from a Tomahawk to launch it and keep cost down. YYMV.
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 6:38:36 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Armed_Scientist:
Between these, SSGNs, and the kinetic energy trident d-5 we are going to have to put the Ohio class boats back intor production.



If they do end of developing the conventional D-5, is it multiple warheads or a unitary design?
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 6:43:39 PM EDT



They're violating Kelly Johnson's 15th operating rule for the Skunk Works.
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 6:44:22 PM EDT
Seaquest DSV
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 6:57:41 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Janus:

They're violating Kelly Johnson's 15th operating rule for the Skunk Works.


??
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:03:02 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 7:05:04 AM EDT by Janus]

Originally Posted By 71-Hour_Achmed:

Originally Posted By Janus:

They're violating Kelly Johnson's 15th operating rule for the Skunk Works.


??




"Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don’t know what in hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy."
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:06:23 AM EDT
It looks like LadyLiberty's avatar.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:14:19 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/24/2006 7:33:48 AM EDT by AeroE]
hit the damn back space
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:33:16 AM EDT
Round motors like round air.

An 8000 pound vehicle displaces 125 cubic feet of sea water at 70F. Let's guess the waterline shape is a symmetric diamond 20 feet long and 4 feet wide - that area is 40 square feet, so the draft is 3.1 feet, and that's a piss poor guess based on that photo. If the empty weight is 45% of the gross weight, that's 3600 pounds and the draft is 1.4 feet, so is also wrong.

Let's say the keel is a symmetric trapezoid 15 feet long at the root, 3 feet deep, 9 feet long at the tip and averages 6 inches thick. That volume is 36 cubic feet, so now the draft from the root of the keel to the LWL is [(3600/64) - 36]/40 = 0.51 feet, just a little over 6 inches when the airplane is empty, and still looks too deep on that configuration to my eye, particularly any sea state wavier than a bath tub.

I have a fair bt of experience with door seals and the design of the structure required to support the loads imposed by them. All I can say iabout that is that I will be interested to follow this project.

Foam in internal bays just transmits the external loads to other parts and doesn't keep anything from crushing on its own. Compartments pressurized to any useful level will also be interesting, but heck, they have foam in the adjacent bays and beefy structure to support the door seals so they are likely sufficiently stiff to keep from pillowing out like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Out of the box thinking and a pretty view graph. Like I said, stay in tune, should be interesting.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:52:32 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Skibane:

After completing its mission, the plane flies to the rendezvous coordinates it receives from the sub and lands in the sea. The sub then launches a robotic underwater vehicle to fetch the floating drone.


...and the bad guys track this "robatic underwater vehicle" back to the sub.

Sounds like a rather complicated, trouble-prone scheme, just to make the "plane" reusable. Why put the security of an umpteen-billion dollar sub at risk (along with her crew), just to save a few bucks on the plane?



It's still a prototype and there should be further refinements. The recovery robot keeps the sub away for now.
Link Posted: 2/26/2006 5:42:06 PM EDT
The pop sci magazine (paper) has this concept as not likely to see development. YMMV.
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