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back to article DARPA seeks Special Forces submersible aeroplane

Say what you like about the US military's technology planners, they don't flinch from a challenge. The latest ploy out of the American warboffinry machine is nothing less than an aircraft which can fly underwater. The upcoming aerosubmarine plan was announced on Friday, under the rather uninspiring name "Submersible Aircraft". …

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Joe
Pirate

I may be wrong...

But I think during WWII the Russians had a prototype Flying-submarine but the war ended before it could be perfected. Anyone else aware of this?

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Pirate

Old story rehashed

AFAIK, there were quite a few of experiments on this in the 60s and 70s, including at least one prototype that showed take off from water. At the end everyone lost interest as it was an obvious solution looking for a problem.

Technologically, most elements of the solution have been in place for a long time.

The only problem is that if the "magic ship" is to fly at all it will most likely be too noisy under water to be of any use. Any hostile nation which has the capability to successfully detect ground effect aircraft should have no problem to pick up a sub that noisy and have some shooting practice with it.

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@Joe

Are you thinking of the "Caspian Sea Monster" which was an ekranoplan (wing in ground effect craft)?

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Fold the wings, Flood the cabin.

Fold the wings.

Flood the cabin.

Use breathing apparatus (pumped from snorkel).

Problem solved.

Oh. And there's 8 hard bastard in there, right ? Pedalo power for the last 8 miles.

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Pirate

Ground Effect Craft

Following on from The BigYin .... the ground effect craft sounds like the appropriate technology to exploit - increased payload weight and range per kg of fuel expended, plus (IIRC) the concept already allows for landing and taking off on water, so just add submersible capabilities and you're home and hosed.

The Russians have been into this for years. Maybe that's what Putin was referring to with his "new capability" being deployed that was, as he inferred, a West beater. Either that or his underwater, submarine fired torpedo-rocket called Shkvaal .... sorry, Vladimir, were we not supposed to know?

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Alien

Giz a Job, I can do that ....

Go on, tell me that they don't just make IT up ... just for a larf/sick joke?

Methinks they could do IT Better with AI Beta ImaginaNation and Save themselves and 500 Fortunes for Spending on Something Worthwhile ..... for a Change is Needed.

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Coat

USOS Seaview and FS-1

It was done back in the 60's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Sub#Refit_and_the_The_Flying_Sub

Mine's the neoprene drysuit...

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Gerry Anderson shows us the future

'UFO' had SkyDiver (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SkyDiver) - a giant nuclear powered superfast submarine which launched a fighter aircraft.

More importantly it also had Gabrielle Drake in a very tight silver outfit...

Mmmm... where am I again?

Oh yes, splendid idea from DARPA, I shall buy string vest futures immediately.

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Anonymous Coward

Duh!

Why don't Team America get a few copies of Thunderbirds 2 and 4 instead of trying to reinvent the wheel?

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Boffin

RE: Fold the wings, Flood the cabin.

Sounds like something I saw in a James Bond movie, although I can't remember which.

Thunderball?

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Been waiting years for this...

I first used the US "Thesaurus of Engineering and Scientific Terms" in 1986. It's a big tome full of hierarchically-structured terms to be used for controlled vocabulary indexing. (Listen, this was before full-text indexing came along, promising to replace proper indexers, but failing to deliver. I'm looking at you, Google).

Anyway, there was a huge tree of terms under Aircraft, including the narrower term Submersible Aircraft. We never had to use that one, but I lived in hope.

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Anonymous Coward

Flying cars were getting passé, anyway

and so, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you your new warcry when advanced technology fails to advance sufficiently: WHERE'S MY FUCKING FLYING SUBMARINE?

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@ Jesse

It had Roger Moore and was terrible, as I recall....

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Anonymous Coward

sure

Why should it be only the US Marines who get killed off by experimental aircraft?

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Ah ha - so Lewis Page...

...is the other guy who saw Sky Captain.

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Boffin

Re: USOS Seaview and FS-1

@ Chris:

"It was done back in the 60's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Sub#Refit_and_the_The_Flying_Sub"

It was done back in the '50s:

http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/~bat/GA/supercar-overview.html

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Speaking of Gerry Anderson

Supercar, anyone?

I want my flying, submersible car!

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Gerry Anderson, but not Thunderbirds.

I thought they were after stealth - a gigantic Thunderbird 2 dropping a pod containing Thunderbird 4 is hardly discreet.

Go back farther... What they need is... SUPERCAR!!

Everyone knows, it's the marvel of the age.

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Coat

@Damn Yank

"It had Roger Moore and was terrible, as I recall...."

GAAAAH! Heresy!!! Thunderball was a Sean Connery-era movie!

Anyway, that airplane didn't quite work like a sub, more like dropped to the bottom like a stone. Oh, and you'd better remove your seatbelt *before* sinking!

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Joe
Pirate

@bigyin

Nope Ekranoplan was a water-skimming 'plane'. The one I'nm thinking of was a 2 engined propellor plane that could land on water, submerge, then carry on as a mini-submarine. I can't get wiki at work but it's on there or google 'soviet flying submarine'

Ekranoplans are sweet though, I want one

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Coat

Missing feature

A planeboatsub? Why not add in a hovercraft function too? That way they've got some sort of land transport when they actually get to the shore.

Make this a supersonic-stealth-plane-hover-boat-full-ocean-depth-rated-sub and you've REALLY got a DARPA worthy project! Merely a floodable plane with an H2O2 powered propellor on the back isn't that hugely impressive or even impractical.

They've already got control systems from the aircraft, so they'll just need slightly beefier hydraulics.

The aircraft will have to be able to land on water- which is probably the tricky part. Though in a specially designed aircraft it should in no way be impossible.

Getting compressed gas for breathing underwater breathing use isn't a problem, and decompression from a stealthy depth of 10m (1atm of pressure) isn't going to give you the bends for a one-off. If it does, then the US military can afford heliox and the like so it's still not an issue. Except these tough as hell guys/gals will sound like the Chipmunks.

It's the one with the helmet under it.

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Boffin

RE: Joe - ekronoplans

Like hovercrafts, ekranoplans are great over smooth water like inland seas and lakes, but most designs don't have enough clearance to cope with a heavy ocean swell, and with a range requirement of 1000 miles + the flying sub would likely have to be capable of crossing some open water with a large swell. The Soviet plans for a fleet of A-90 ekranoplans were scrapped after a wave strike tore the whole tail-section off of one of their prototypes. The Soviets thought the shear mass and strength of the A-90 design (140 tons unloaded, and one of their smaller models!) would allow it to batter its way across a serious swell, but it just wasn't so in practice. A DARPA design to carry just eight troops would be much smaller and therefore even more vulnerable to wave strikes.

Another note against military ekranoplans is the dubious claim they could duck below modern radar. Whilst true for air control radar, which has a minimum height, naval radar has often been used to find shallow-running subs by locating their periscopes, which is why most subs today have radar-absorbing tiles on their 'scopes and rarely use them anywhere near an opposing ship. The tall tailfin of an ekranoplan would be easily detectable by a modern warship from miles away, giving the warship plenty of time to fire an anti-shipping missile. Many nations also have static naval radar stations along their coastlines to detect smugglers, etc, which is probably why the DARPA request is for a submerged approach from 8+ miles out. An ekranoplan with a wing long enough for normal high-altitude flight (like the American Pelican design) would have to fly higher over the waves to avoid wave strikes and thus be even easier to detect.

A better solution might be a mini-sub launched from a stealth seaplane, maybe using the existing mini-sub design that piggy-backs on US nuke subs. That would allow the seaplane to get in quick, drop the sub, and then clear out to a safe distance, all with less compromises to the plane's design. Maybe something along the lines of the old Bell Air Cushion Landing System as used on the XC-8A, retractable to reduce drag and radar signature, but giving the capability of landing on the sea to drop off and pick up the mini-sub. Air-dropping the sub is a no-go as the impact of hitting the water would probably total sub and crew! Anything over 30 metres and it's like hitting concrete.

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@Matt I like the seaplane idea.

Something like a Short Sunderland.

Now if you can make that mostly submersible, so it sets itself down on the sea (or maybe surface effect for a bit), then sinks down into the water to reduce it's signature. Then it releases it's mini-sub(s) and hangs around for them to return.

Then it pumps the water out, moves further off from the target and then takes off.

So I'm thinking of a couple of jet engines (I dunno, maybe turbo props) which are mounted above the wing, or maybe in the wing, with ducts that will open or close to protect them from the water, and a gearbox at the back to power a couple of propellers when needed for sunken manoeuvres.

Not too sure where any hover capability might come in, nor stealth to be honest since seaplanes aren't normally stealthy.

hmm food for thought.

ttfn

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Boffin

This guy actually made one:

Here is a book about a real, not supermarionated go at it:

http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Submarine-Story-Invention-RFS-1/dp/0788431366/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1223391732&sr=8-7

Product Description

Is it science fiction? No! This is the true story of the invention of the world's first submersible aircraft. Developed during the Cold War era, the military potential of such a craft was invaluable, and the inventor worked tirelessly to get his flying submarine off the drawing board and into the water. Donald V. Reid, the inventor, was a high-energy person of many interests and talents, as well as a technical genius. This story is told by his son, who helped his father assemble the craft in their Asbury Park, New Jersey back yard, and who was the pilot of the Reid Flying Submarine. Photos and drawings illustrate how the sub was made, and show it being tested in the water and in flight. Don Reid gained minor celebrity status for his novel idea and appeared on the popular television programs, I've Got A Secret, To Tell The Truth, and The Johnny Carson Show. He was an aviation pioneer who was never fully recognized for his innovative contributions. Read this engaging story of invention and experimentation, and find out what ultimately became of the extraordinary Reid Flying Submarine!

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Anonymous Coward

@Mike Richards

No, Gerry Anderson showed us the past...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_M2

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GI Joe took care of this long ago

Maybe DARPA could hire some Hasbro consultants and fast track this beast?

http://www.yojoe.com/vehicles/84/sharc/

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