Saturday, February 18, 2006

Submarine Launched Vehicle to be Recoverable

Dubbed the Navy's Swimming Spy Plane in the latest issue of Popular Science (artist's rendering), the Cormorant is a DARPA concept by Lockheed's skunkworks. Floated to the surface from a converted, Ohio-class SSBN at 150-ft depth, the 4-ton, autonomous plane would rocket skyward until its jet engine spools up to running speed.

The sub would be elsewhere during flight and recovery, which is envisioned by USV (robot minisub). This version (1 of 3) more here has wings designed to fold in flight, it could rapidly convert from slow-speed spy plane to quick-strike bomber. The Pentagon's Fiscal 2007 budget proposes spending $1.7 billion next year on unmanned aircraft.

Lockheed, working with General Dynamics Corp., plans underwater trials to evaluate the launch, retrieval and splashdown systems. The Cormorant would provide Navy submarines a cost-effective reconnaissance capability.

Who wants to bet that version #4 will be manned? Will the submarine service have airshows with Black Devils flying in acrobatic formations? Hint: submarines AND cormorants (also called shags) are generally black, not only in color, but in operation. Popular Science gives the Cormorant about a 30% chance of making it to factory (vs. skunkworks) production.


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