Huge American aircraft carriers could be attractive targets for future wars. With today’s tools, they’re easy to detect, and it’s enough for a single enemy missile to get through their defenses. In comparison, they are terribly expensive, and both China and Russia already have maneuvering ballistic missiles that are nicknamed “carrier killers”. So I needed a new plan, an appropriate answer.
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe assets are called Helicarriers, and The Economist reports that DARPA, the Pentagon’s research division, takes it quite seriously to create a similar program. Current plans include a flying mothership that can land cheap, manufactured drones called Gremlin, which can patrol their surroundings while patrolling and engage in combat themselves.
When a Gremlin drone is needed, the modified cargo aircraft carrier can simply drop them out of the sky. Their wings will then open, their engines will turn on, and human operating personnel can control an entire fleet of them at once. When they return, the drones try to attach to a small gondola that hangs from the carrier. This is one of the weak elements of the concept, so far no one has been able to perform the test, although in some experiments, “successful capture only took centimeters”.
Flying aircraft carriers seem unnecessarily complicated, risky, and carbon positive compared to seeming to stay floating on the surface of the water. However, the military is also concerned that long-range missiles, which could go farther than any aircraft on carriers, could destroy the current balance of power.
“If we were to withdraw them from circulation and flying platforms with relatively inexpensive drones became the main weapons of the local strike forces, from which the Gremlin could wreak havoc before being neutralized before they could be neutralized, the bizarre idea could already become a worthwhile solution” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager. The idea itself isn’t new anyway, nor does it come from Hollywood, although perhaps the most spectacular examples we’ve actually seen in movies have been the concept. By July 1917, the English had already experimented with an aircraft suspended under an airship called the HM 23, hoping to defend the airship. First an unmanned and then a pilot-led Sopwith Camel fighter was successfully launched from under the airship. As early as 1924, a British imperial airship system was designed with units capable of carrying five fighter jets, but this project was eventually completed.
Later, in countless other forms and ways, they tried to revive the same idea, but the Gremlins had never come so close to practical implementation. Gremlin drones weigh 680 kg and have a wingspan of nearly 3.5 meters. Once dropped, he released his wings and lit his turbo-propeller engine, he could fly up to 500 km. In the future, Gremlin’s main responsibilities may include eavesdropping on communications, jamming signals, and locating things to destroy, making airspace safer for crewed aircraft. Such drones can also be armed with tiny missiles or explosives in the event of a kamikaze attack. They can share the data collected and collaborate with each other, returning reconnaissance and targeted information back to warships and aircraft capable of firing larger missiles than could be taken by Gremlins.
“Gremlin swarms would undoubtedly suffer losses. But attracting enemy fire would actually be one of their tasks, ”said Andrew Krepinevich, head of Solarium, a naval and air warfare consultant at the Department of Defense. This would allow the Gremlin to smoke out enemy missile units that had turned on their aiming radar, marking them for later destruction. The idea, which seems foolish at first, seems to take on a whole different color if we take a closer look.