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DARPA History

History of DARPA and its accomplishments

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Congress has played a vital role in DARPA's success over many years. DARPA could not fulfill its mission of developing breakthrough technologies for national security without consistent bipartisan support from Congress. DARPA's congressional authorizers and appropriators sit on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the Appropriations Committees. Transcripts of testimony provided to these and other committees and subcommittees appear below.
DARPA ran its pathbreaking Grand Challenge with the goal of spurring on American ingenuity to accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that could be applied to military requirements. No team entry successfully completed the designated DARPA Grand Challenge route from Barstow, CA, to Primm, NV, on March 13, 2004. The event offered a $1 million prize to the winner from among 15 finalists that emerged from a qualifying round at the California Speedway, but the prize went unclaimed as no vehicles were able to complete the difficult desert route.
DARPA paved the way for extended-range unmanned vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operations by sponsoring development of another Hummingbird: the A-160, a long-endurance, high-speed unmanned helicopter that flew for 18.7 hours and in 2008 set a world record for endurance in its weight class. The A-160 was part of research pursued by DARPA and the Services to produce a range of autonomous platforms that could team with people to create a more capable, agile, and cost-effective force.
On January 25, 2018, DARPA took its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program to one of the best finish lines the Agency knows of—an official transfer of a technology to a follow-on steward of development or to an end user in the field. In this case, following a period of open-water tests of the program’s demonstration vessel—dubbed “Sea Hunter”—to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the latter organization officially took over responsibility of developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).

In 1983, DARPA began working with the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) to develop a follow-on supersonic generation to the AV-8 Harrier, a pioneer aircraft for short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. The international program that emerged from this intention, the Advanced Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (ASTOVL), expired in 1991, but various component efforts toward the same end continued. For its part, DARPA worked with the U.S. Navy to establish a development program for an STOVL Strike Fighter with capabilities specified by the Navy in 1988. The program evolved toward an aircraft that could build on much of the design base for the Air Force F-16.

In 1992, DARPA and the Navy initiated a revised ASTOVL program with an objective of demonstrating an affordable STOVL strike fighter for the U.S. Marine Corps with a conventional takeoff and landing version for possible U.S. Air Force service. In 1993 and 1994, this morphed into the DARPA-managed Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) and into subsequent evolutionary incarnations managed by other Department of Defense entities.

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