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  • Hydra

    No matter how capable, even the most advanced vessel can only be in one place at a time. U.S. Navy assets must cover vast regions of interest around the globe even as force reductions and fiscal constraints continue to shrink fleet sizes. To maintain advantage over adversaries, U.S. Naval forces need to project key capabilities in multiple locations at once, without the time and expense of building new vessels to deliver those capabilities. 

    No matter how capable, even the most advanced vessel can only be in one place at a time. U.S. Navy assets must cover vast regions of interest around the globe even as force reductions and fiscal constraints continue to shrink fleet sizes. To maintain advantage over adversaries, U.S. Naval forces need to project key capabilities in multiple locations at once, without the time and expense of building new vessels to deliver those capabilities.

    DARPA initiated the Hydra program to help address these challenges. Hydra aims to develop a distributed undersea network of unmanned payloads and platforms to complement manned vessels. The system would innovatively integrate existing and emerging technologies to deliver various capabilities above, on and below the ocean’s surface. By separating capabilities from the traditional platforms that deliver them, Hydra would serve as a force multiplier, enabling faster, scalable and more cost-effective deployment of assets wherever needed.

    Hydra intends to develop modular payloads that would provide key capabilities, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Mine Counter-Measures (MCM). Each payload module would plug into a standardized enclosure that would securely transport, house and launch various payloads, while sustaining payload functionality for weeks to months. The Hydra system would emphasize scalability, rapid reconfiguration and maximization of payload. Naval forces could deliver the Hydra system by ship, submarine or airplane to littoral ocean zones (shallow international waters near shorelines).

    The Hydra program envisions numerous benefits, including:

    • Enabling seamless conduct of missions that blend activity on, above and below the ocean surface
    • Significantly increased operational reach via remote control of capabilities from over the horizon
    • Enabling other new capabilities not currently performed from manned platforms, such as forward-deployed airborne ISR with expendable platforms, or recharging hubs for ISR-capable undersea vehicles
    • The ability to accommodate additional payloads in the future

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