New DARPA Programs Simultaneously Test Limits of Technology, Credulity

New starts show that no one can out-pace, out-innovate or out-acronym DARPA

Less than one week after releasing Breakthrough Technologies for National Security (http://go.usa.gov/3rut4), DARPAs latest summary of the Agencys mission, accomplishments and funding priorities for extending its legacy of technological disruption, the Agency today announced four major new programs—evidence of DARPAs commitment to pursuing high-risk/high-reward research and making the impossible possible. The programs are:


Adaptable Lightweight Airborne Delivery of Diverse In-Flight Capabilities (ALADDIN): Reliable airborne transportation is crucial for many missions but the size of current platforms limits the ability to integrate that capability at the squad level. ALADDIN aims to develop miniaturized propulsion and lift technologies to enable man-portable air vehicles in soft configurations that would fold or roll up, bear vortex-minimizing fringe on their trailing edges and feature optional nanotech stealth coatings to ensure stain resistance.

Scientifically Enhanced Evaluation for Superior High-Accuracy Determination of Weather (SEE SHADOW): Knowledge of current and future weather is essential for mission planning. The ability to more accurately predict weather longer in advance would help increase mission success and lower operations costs. Building off the success of DARPAs Extracting Intelligence from External Indications of Organisms (EIEIO) program, SEE SHADOW would apply breakthrough big-data analytics to open-source data about animal behavior and photonics to provide accurate weather forecasts six weeks in advance. The program is planned to start in February 2016 at a partially underground location in Pennsylvania.

Joint Advanced Water Warfare System (JAWWS): Adversaries increasing use of advanced sensors that can detect traditional vessels and weapons technologies at long range poses a growing challenge to U.S. superiority in maritime operations. Smaller, self-sufficient, hard-to-detect platforms could thwart such sensors and provide long-term capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strike. JAWWS seeks to develop breakthrough technologies to safely and humanely employ extremely large sharks or cheesy shark facsimiles as long-duration, remotely controlled weapons platforms that would leverage the proven fear-inducing power of rhythmic, low-frequency sonic pulses.

Leveraging Extremely Precise Resources for the Cost-Effective, High-Speed Application of Unobtainium (LEPRECHAUN): DARPAs investments in advanced materials incorporating previously unavailable or hard-to-find elements have enabled numerous breakthrough capabilities. Titanium and carbon fiber have revolutionized military and civilian aircraft design, for example, while integrated circuits using gallium nitride have enabled miniaturization of radio, microprocessor and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies underlying the mobile communications and microelectronics revolutions. LEPRECHAUN seeks to build off DARPAs success in these areas—as well as at refining and applying the precious elements of surprise (Ah and Ha)—to enable low-cost mass production and use of unobtainium (Uo), an exceedingly rare element prized for its ability to catalyze a wide range of otherwise implausible capabilities.

The new programs follow the model of DARPAs successful High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative last December. Follow-up studies confirmed that by offering access to technology from numerous DARPA programs, HO HO HO helped Santa and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their holiday duties.

"When it comes to the challenge of ensuring national security advantage, DARPA aims to remain unrivaled, despite how fast the world is changing," said Jared Adams, the Agencys chief of media relations—noting, as evidence of how unpredictable the world is today, that even he is not in Kansas anymore. "The four programs were announcing today should tell our adversaries in no uncertain terms that no one can out-pace, out-innovate or out-acronym DARPA—not now, not ever."

DARPA intends to release Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) outlining the Agencys technical objectives for each of the four new programs. As ever, DARPA encourages participation by non‐traditional performers—and in this case expects nothing less.

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