DARPA looks to launch UAVs with ballistic missiles

Published 5 July 2007

UAVs are used more and more for both intelligence gathering and attack missions; the problem is to bring them on station, and DARPA wants to use ballistic missiles for that

Are you in the UAV business? Here is another intriguing idea from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): The agency is exploring the idea of launching an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a ballistic missile. The reason: It would make it possible to deliver the UAV anywhere in the world within sixty minutes.

The Rapid Eye program is an exploratory development program aiming to develop and demonstrate the ability to deliver a persistent ISR capability anywhere on the globe within one hour and remain on-station until relieved or the mission is completed, DARPA said in a notice issued earlier this week for an industry day to discuss the idea. “It is envisioned that this program will, at a minimum, develop and demonstrate all the technologies necessary for the rocket delivery of a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALEUAV.”

The program, if it goes forward, will foocus on a number of technical challenges:

* A rocket will deliver a HALE UAV on a ballistic track to the approximate area of interest

* Decelerate the launch package from reentry speeds to the UAV deployment speed

* Deploy the UAV and start its propulsion system

* Provide persistent ISR on-station at high altitudes for a minimum of seven hours.

The air vehicle ISR payload is nominally 500 lbs with a 5 kW power requirement. It is envisioned that the system will utilize a current inventory launch vehicle or one planned to be in the inventory by the end of 2009.