Flying aircraft carriers with SWARMS of ‘Gremlin' drones | World Defense

Flying aircraft carriers with SWARMS of ‘Gremlin' drones


Staff member
Nov 17, 2017
24,463 1,293 0
Flying aircraft carriers with SWARMS of ‘Gremlin' drones
US MILITARY chiefs are developing huge flying aircraft carriers capable of launching swarms of drones from mid-air.

By Leigh Boobyer
PUBLISHED: Wed, Jan 03, 2018

The huge aircraft will quickly release armies of drones to assault enemy targets before returning to dock with their flying mothership.

A US defence department research agency has fixed a price with two weapons companies to develop the drones, named ‘gremlins’, and expects to conduct a demonstration of the system next year.

The gremlins could be sent high beyond the reach of enemy weapon systems and would cost less than the missiles an adversary would need to shoot them down. The aircraft could also be used up to 20 times.

Gremlins drones would be ejected from the back of a C130 and are able to return to the aircraft after their mission. They are also equipped with bombs, radar and cameras, each with a limit of 60lb and 300-mile range.

The drone programme, launched in 2015 by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), was envisioned to release flocks of small and relatively inexpensive drones deployed from lightly modified fighter jets, bombers and transport planes.

These drones could operate as a team or individually, carrying out intelligence or attacking missile and radar positions.

Drone technology already allows for unmanned aircraft to be launched in mid-air, and small drones are thought to have been launched in this way from an F-16 - but retrieving them again, in mid-air, poses far greater challenges.

The programme manager, Scott Wierzbanowski, said last year the first phase examined how a returning drone might land with “minimal modification to the host aircraft”.

In phase two of the programme, Darpa charged a company called Dynetics, in Alabama, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the San Diego-based developer of the Predator drone, were charged with developing models for the gremlins with a 300-mile range and 60lb payload.

Phase three involves an inflight demonstration of the system.

Jared Adams, of Darpa, said yesterday contracts for the third phase will be awarded this year, according to The Times.

The agency intend for the drones to land, or be “captured”, at the back of a C-130, a challenging manoeuvre because of turbulence at the rear of the plane.

The journal of the United States Naval Institute reported that each gremlin would cost about $700,000, adding that the drones should have an ability to self-destruct if they could not make it back to their mothership.