Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Air Systems

Manned and unmanned aerial systems, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and supporting technologies

Showing 15 results for Air + History RSS
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.

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.

| Air | History |
Under a joint program (Teal Rain) with the U.S. Navy, DARPA funded the development of the first endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Amber, which in 1988 flew for more than 38 straight hours and reached an altitude of 25,000 feet. The Amber demonstration featured innovations in many technologies (digital flight controls, composite materials, microprocessors, and satellite navigation) and led to the Gnat 750 and the Tier 2 Predator. DARPA also supported development of the Global Hawk, a related high-altitude UAV system. These platforms have been transformative with respect to warfighting and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities.
In 1978, DARPA integrated a number of technologies—including lasers, electro-optical sensors, microelectronics, data processors, and radars—important for precision guided munitions (PGMs) under its Assault Breaker program. Over a four-year period, Assault Breaker laid the technological foundation for several smart-weapon systems that were ultimately fielded with high success. Among these systems are the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), which integrated PGMs with advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems developed with DARPA support; the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles; a U.S. Air Force air-to-ground missile with terminally guided submunitions; the long-range, quick-response, surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile System (ATMS), which featured all-weather, day/night capability effective against mobile and other targets; and the Brilliant Anti-armor Tank (BAT) submunition, which used acoustic sensors on its wings to detect and target tanks.
In an in-air demonstration in 2007, DARPA teamed up with NASA to show that high-performance aircraft can easily perform automated refueling from conventional tankers. The 2007 demonstration was not entirely automated, however: a pilot was on board to set conditions and monitor safety during autonomous refueling operations.