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The Navy’s Swimming Spy Plane [meet the water-launched unmanned enforcer]
Popular Science ^ | February 2006 | By Bill Sweetman

Posted on 02/23/2006 12:18:37 PM PST by aculeus

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.


TOPICS: Extended News
KEYWORDS: billsweetman; cormorant; darpa; lockheed; skunkworks; submarines; uavs
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1 posted on 02/23/2006 12:18:38 PM PST by aculeus
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To: aculeus

Looks like the Flying nun's hat...


2 posted on 02/23/2006 12:19:45 PM PST by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: aculeus

Will they be named after Ted kennedy?.........


3 posted on 02/23/2006 12:20:23 PM PST by Red Badger (And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him...)
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To: aculeus; SandRat

BTTT


4 posted on 02/23/2006 12:20:24 PM PST by Fiddlstix (Tagline Repair Service. Let us fix those broken Taglines. Inquire within(Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: Lx

I wasn't aware the Ohio's weren't still doing laps with nukes.


5 posted on 02/23/2006 12:21:17 PM PST by oldleft
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To: aculeus

I like the fires left behind.


6 posted on 02/23/2006 12:22:10 PM PST by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: stevie_d_64

ping


7 posted on 02/23/2006 12:22:32 PM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: aculeus
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.

Seems simple enough.

Even under combat conditions, I don't see anything complicated enough to go wrong with this scenario.

8 posted on 02/23/2006 12:24:17 PM PST by Hank Rearden (Never allow anyone who could only get a government "job" attempt to tell you how to run your life.)
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To: aculeus
Sounds cool, but parts of this story and its slant are just plain bravo sierra.

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...

Four trident subs have been (or are being) converted to carrry Tomohawk cruise missiles (154 of them each) and Seals. This aircraft could certainly fit into that new role of the SSGN.

But the tubes on the SSGNs and the SSBNs (the nuclear missile subs) are anything but "vacant". And, the role of the Trident SSBN is still absolutely critical and indespensable to our national security, therefore they are extremely useful. The SSGNs tubes are also not vacant and their ability to perform the role of a land attack arsenal ship is also very useful...with or without the UAV.

Just my opinion.

9 posted on 02/23/2006 12:26:50 PM PST by Jeff Head (www.dragonsfuryseries.com)
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To: aculeus

10 posted on 02/23/2006 12:27:12 PM PST by Yo-Yo
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To: aculeus

Alright...move over top gun, you're about the be replaced by a nerd who got his training on an X-Box.


11 posted on 02/23/2006 12:31:10 PM PST by CWOJackson (Tancredo? Wasn't he the bounty hunter in Star Wars?)
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To: All
And I'm thinking that the one thing combat aircraft return with more of than they left with is...holes. Maybe they will also use those cans of nifty hole-filling gel like when you get a flat on your bike.

Or maybe if they have holes in them we can just leave these billion dollar planes behind because we don't need them anymore.

Seems cool, but wasteful.

12 posted on 02/23/2006 12:33:25 PM PST by SpitfyrAce
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To: Jeff Head

I liked this line ... "U.S. Navy’s gigantic Cold War–era Ohio-class submarines..."

The author never saw a Typhoon. They were hugh! 175m, ~50 kilotons. THAT's hugh!


OK, only about 20 feet longer than an Ohio ;-)


13 posted on 02/23/2006 12:34:46 PM PST by Blueflag (Res ipsa loquitor)
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To: Blueflag

Hugh, hugh I tell ya!


14 posted on 02/23/2006 12:37:30 PM PST by RightCanuck (Not right enough.)
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To: aculeus

COOL!


15 posted on 02/23/2006 12:37:45 PM PST by Publius6961 (Multiculturalism is the white flag of a dying country)
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To: Lx

LOL

How much would that suck?


"Dude, you just got your ass kicked in battle. What happened?"

"It was the flying nun's hat..."


16 posted on 02/23/2006 12:39:45 PM PST by Petronski (I love Cyborg!)
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To: Yo-Yo; Lx; martin_fierro; dighton; Constitution Day


Stone-cold killing machine

17 posted on 02/23/2006 12:40:57 PM PST by Petronski (I love Cyborg!)
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To: Grampa Dave

Interesting but do you think it's list worthy?


18 posted on 02/23/2006 12:41:32 PM PST by ASA Vet (Those who know don't talk, those who talk don't know.)
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To: Red Badger
Will they be named after Ted kennedy?.........

What an insult to the UAV. Unlike Kennedy, the drone comes back - and it does something useful.

19 posted on 02/23/2006 12:41:50 PM PST by Tennessee_Bob ("Those who "abjure" violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.")
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To: Yo-Yo
This was already done in the early 60's.


20 posted on 02/23/2006 12:43:21 PM PST by C210N (Bush SPYED, Terrorists DIED!)
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To: aculeus

I want one.


21 posted on 02/23/2006 12:43:39 PM PST by CaptRon (Pedecaris alive or Raisuli dead)
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To: C210N

I *LOVED* that flying car when I was still a baby. Probably one of my earliest memories. My parents used to get me to eat my asparagus by saying "Open Roof Doors!"


22 posted on 02/23/2006 12:45:33 PM PST by Flavius Josephus (LSM: Controversy, Crap, & Confusion)
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To: aculeus


"STAND BY FOR ACTION!!"
"Anything can happen in the next half-hour!"





"(blub,blub,blub) I am the leader of the Aqua Al-Qaeda. We will destroy you!(blub,blub)"
23 posted on 02/23/2006 12:48:45 PM PST by macamadamia
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To: oldleft

Some are, but a rather disturbing number are kept in port...


24 posted on 02/23/2006 1:03:02 PM PST by Paul Ross (Hitting bullets with bullets successfully for 35 years!)
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To: aculeus

LOL, sure does..........


25 posted on 02/23/2006 1:07:37 PM PST by united1000
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To: aculeus

26 posted on 02/23/2006 1:10:18 PM PST by null and void (Imagine what they would be doing if it wasn't a religion of peace!!!)
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To: aculeus

.....orgami anyone???


27 posted on 02/23/2006 1:11:15 PM PST by auto power
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To: Hank Rearden

Well, I think I do.

Follow said aircraft to the rendezvous coordinates and then plaster the area with air launched torpedos. You'll probably bag a big Ohio-Class sub.

But that's only me.

This seems like a misdirect.


28 posted on 02/23/2006 1:11:17 PM PST by allen08gop ("Woman is the most powerful magnet in the universe... and all men are cheap metal!")
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To: aculeus

It needs the little red light going back and forth on the front.


29 posted on 02/23/2006 1:12:39 PM PST by Redcloak (<--- Not always a "people person")
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To: C210N

Am I the only one who remembers this little gem?

30 posted on 02/23/2006 1:13:37 PM PST by SlowBoat407 (The best stuff happens just before the thread snaps.)
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To: allen08gop

I suppose I should have added a sarcasm tag to my post. Seems unbelievably complicated to me to accomplish the task.


31 posted on 02/23/2006 1:13:38 PM PST by Hank Rearden (Never allow anyone who could only get a government "job" attempt to tell you how to run your life.)
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To: Hank Rearden

I hear it's going use Apple's OS.

Just kidding. Hi Hank.


32 posted on 02/23/2006 1:14:49 PM PST by SlowBoat407 (The best stuff happens just before the thread snaps.)
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To: SlowBoat407

Yes


33 posted on 02/23/2006 1:15:37 PM PST by ASA Vet (Those who know don't talk, those who talk don't know.)
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To: Flavius Josephus
Check out the Moeller web site. The Grandson continues the work which was first published in an early 60s Popular Mechanics.

Unmanned, unsmashed!!! I always like the flying submarine in that 60s movie and TV show, "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"!

34 posted on 02/23/2006 1:15:50 PM PST by Young Werther
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To: SlowBoat407

Interesting use of materials on the front: A car rearview mirror, a small aircraft vent, and a car air conditioner vent.


35 posted on 02/23/2006 1:17:00 PM PST by C210N (Bush SPYED, Terrorists DIED!)
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To: Blueflag
I saw the show on the Kursk (Oscar II class). Did Typhoons have a sauna and swimming pool too?
36 posted on 02/23/2006 1:18:12 PM PST by Calvin Locke
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To: C210N

You mean it wasn't.... (quivering) r-r-real?


37 posted on 02/23/2006 1:18:38 PM PST by SlowBoat407 (The best stuff happens just before the thread snaps.)
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To: aculeus

38 posted on 02/23/2006 1:19:03 PM PST by Mannaggia l'America
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To: allen08gop
Well, at least the thing won't get hit from behind by birds like the Skunk Works' latest project to fly--the P-791. It's about the size of three Fuji blimps side by side. It's heavier than air and needs to move forward to produce lift. The Skunk Works folks quietly took it around the pattern one morning a couple weeks ago. Someone saw it and grabbed a camera...

The story:

http://www.aviationnow.com/avnow/news/channel_awst_story.jsp?id=news/020606p2.xml

39 posted on 02/23/2006 1:28:35 PM PST by Knuckledragger
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To: aculeus

Neat picture.
But I doubt that little thing could cause all that damage ;)
PR guys at their best.


40 posted on 02/23/2006 1:29:36 PM PST by SJSAMPLE
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To: CWOJackson
It ain't quite that simple...

Got my X box/Playstation nephew into flying RC aircraft..(and repairing them)

To help him get into UAV MOS

He will happy to tell you how simple the transition is...

It takes some real skill to fly the heavier more powerful aircraft...and lots and lots of practice...and knowledge.

41 posted on 02/23/2006 2:15:52 PM PST by joesnuffy (A camel once bit our sister..but we knew just what to do...we gathered rocks and squashed her!)
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To: Hank Rearden

Wasn't one of these type planes on the Japanese drawing board in WWII?


42 posted on 02/23/2006 2:23:45 PM PST by Dog
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To: Dog
Wasn't one of these type planes on the Japanese drawing board in WWII?

I believe there were actually a few kamikaze aircraft launched from Japanese subs toward the end of the war - can't remember how successfully.

They had a sort of watertight shed on the foredeck of the sub; after surfacing they'd roll out the plane and launch it from deck rails - I think it had sort of a little cart under the plane that would drop off after launch.

All from memory (History Channel show?), so may be utterly wrong. I think it was one of those "Secret Aircraft of WWII" type shows.

43 posted on 02/23/2006 2:27:50 PM PST by Hank Rearden (Never allow anyone who could only get a government "job" attempt to tell you how to run your life.)
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To: Hank Rearden
All from memory (History Channel show?), so may be utterly wrong. I think it was one of those "Secret Aircraft of WWII" type shows.

I saw the same show....they planned on using it to attack the US west coast....I think.

44 posted on 02/23/2006 2:31:44 PM PST by Dog
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To: Knuckledragger

At night that thing would appear little different, if at all, than the "UFO" that Art Bell and many others have witnessed.


45 posted on 02/23/2006 2:35:51 PM PST by steve86 (@)
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To: Knuckledragger

Are you sure that isn't Hillary's ass up there?


46 posted on 02/23/2006 2:39:46 PM PST by D_Idaho
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To: aculeus

OK, which way is up on that thing?


47 posted on 02/23/2006 2:39:51 PM PST by dljordan
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To: oldleft
Four Ohio's are currently being refitted to carry Tomahawk cruise missiles in revolving silos in place of their Polaris ballistic missiles. They now have twenty-two tubes, each armed with seven Tomahawks for a total of 154 cruise missiles and can also carry 66 SEALS and their equipment.
48 posted on 02/23/2006 2:48:16 PM PST by SLB (Wyoming's Alan Simpson on the Washington press - "all you get is controversy, crap and confusion")
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To: 2LT Radix jr; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; 80 Square Miles; A Ruckus of Dogs; acad1228; AirForceMom; ..
That's just plain weird looking!!!!
49 posted on 02/23/2006 3:11:37 PM PST by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: CaptRon

i do too. and a stealth. we don't ask for much do we?


50 posted on 02/23/2006 3:15:40 PM PST by ferri (Be Politically Incorrect: Support the Constitution!)
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