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Submersible airplane, another DARPA 'must have'

DARPA is soliciting concept proposals for a submersible aircraft.

Mark Rutherford
The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.
Mark Rutherford

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Strategic Technology Office is looking for a submersible aircraft design and invites you to come up with a concept.

Performance requirements call for an aircraft that can cover 1,850km by air or 185km by sea, or 22km underwater in eight hours or less. And this is not some miniature pool hopper; DARPA wants it to be able to carry a crew of eight and a 2,000lb payload.

Terra Tigershark

Speculation on design suggests an old-school snorkel to provide air supply for the power plant while your flying fish is in submerged mode, but don't rule out nuclear power or dilithium crystal for that matter.

Be advised, difficulties with developing such a platform will arise from the diametrically opposed requirements that exist for an airplane and a submarine, DARPA helpfully points out. Your concept should not only identify the technological limitations that need to be overcome to produce a swimming plane, you also need to provide proof that it's doable.

"In addition to the conceptual design studies, performers need to outline experiments or computational models that will be used to demonstrate that the major technological limitations can be overcome," DARPA warns, while admitting that "prior attempts to demonstrate a vehicle with the maneuverability of both a submersible and an aircraft" have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful.

One plan is to use the submersible aircraft to infil small SF teams off the coastline and then hang around for pick-up, a service already provided fairly effectively by surplus submarines.