mad science of the new defense budget

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PostFri May 22, 2009 4:23 pm » by Dirtyrabbit

The mad science of the new defense budget: telepathy, transformers, UFOs and more

Earlier this month, the US Department of Defense released the $3.2 billion budget for their so-called “mad science” division – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA. The agency, whose official imperative is “to create technological surprise for our enemies,” have outdone themselves this time around. Representing just a sliver of DoD’s total $78.9 billion in spending programs for the year, DARPA scientists will be spending fiscal year 2010 researching battlefield telepathy, nanotech weaponry, self-transforming air/land vehicles and “bio-inspired” robotic exoskeletons, while regular old Pentagon desk jockeys are stuck doing the boring stuff - like procuring 196 Tomahawk missiles.

Some of these ideas may seem far-fetched, but DARPA has been wildly successful in the past. After all, they did create a little thing called the internet.

Below you’ll find highlights excerpted directly from the agency’s 2010 operating budget. In all, the whole thing seems way more like the work of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD than Dick Cheney, Waterboarder. What’s more, these are just the unclassified programs.

Digital telepathy

Silent Talk will allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals. The brain generates word-specific signals prior to sending electrical impulses to the vocal cords. These signals of “intended speech” will be analyzed and translated into distinct words, allowing covert person-to-person communication. This program has three major goals: a) to attempt to identify electroencephalography patterns unique to individual words, b) ensure that those patterns are generalizable across users in order to prevent extensive device training, and c) construct a fieldable pre-prototype that would decode the signal and transmit over a limited range.

Microscopic missiles

The goal of [the Nano-Flapping Air Vehicles] program is to develop a flapping and rotary air vehicle technology that results in a bio-inspired flapping and rotary air vehicle with less than a two inch wingspan and gross take-off weight of approximately ten grams or less. Operations in urban terrain require sensors that can navigate in difficult terrain and be inserted without being detected. Small air vehicles capable of navigating interior domains without GPS would enable autonomous prosecution of a number of high risk missions that are currently performed by warfighters. Key enabling technologies include: flapping and rotary wing aerodynamics, kinematics and flight dynamics, lightweight aeroelastically tailored wing structures, miniature navigation systems, micro-propulsion systems, small payloads, and the ability to perch like a bird. This effort will also examine novel materials that can be used to develop integrated wing structures, which change composition to achieve multiple expressions. The program would result in the use of vehicles, which could be camouflaged, or blend into the surrounding landscape, enabling in-theater disposal and prevention of mission detection/compromise.

More than meets the eye

The Transformer (TX) Vehicle program will examine the feasibility and approaches for developing TX vehicles that can fly for two hours carrying a 1 to 4-person payload on one tank of fuel, can safely travel on roads, and can be operated by a typical soldier. The goal is to define the major components and overall design of a TX vehicle that would be suitable for military scouting, personnel transport, and logistics missions. Technical areas that will be explored include: hybrid electric drive ducted fan propulsion system, ring motors, energy storage methods such as batteries and ultra capacitors, morphing vehicle bodies, and advanced flight controls and flight management systems. The TX vehicle is intended to make roads irrelevant for military small unit maneuvers. These units can use TX air vehicles to fly over obstacles or impassible terrain, avoid ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Personal TX vehicles could be dispatched for downed airman recovery or for evacuating injured personnel from difficult to access locations, or to resupply isolated small units. Four-man versions would be suitable for enhanced company operations concepts which would allow the soldier/team to see the situation and pick the best place to “drop in” for urban operations.

Iron men of tomorrow

The BioRobotics and BioMechanics thrust explores approaches to capture biological systems’ ability to move and sense, and emulate them in man-made robotic or sensor systems. The effort includes providing robotics with the mobility required to provide support to soldiers in all terrains, including climbing. This thrust also includes efforts to develop bioinspired swimming aids that will increase the speed and reduce the metabolic costs for combat divers, and make current devices (fins) obsolete for most tactical scenarios.

Blood type AAA

The overall Blood Pharming program objective is to develop an automated culture and packaging system that yields transfusable levels of universal donor red blood cells (RBCs) from progenitor cell sources. The goal of the Phase II effort is to produce 100 units of universal donor (Type O negative) RBCs per week for eight weeks in an automated closed culture system using a renewing progenitor population. Central to Phase II work will be the demonstration of a two hundred million-fold expansion of progenitor cell populations to mature RBCs. To realize these goals, Phase II will capitalize advances in cell differentiation, expansion, and bioreactor technology developed in Phase I of the program. Successful completion of the Blood Pharming effort will provide a safe donorless blood supply that is the functional equivalent of fresh donor cells, satisfying a large battlefield demand and reducing the logistical burden of donated blood in theater.

Frickin’ laser beams

The goal of the Ultrabeam program is to demonstrate the world’s first gamma-ray laser using laboratory equipment. The demonstration of an X-ray laser with photon energies of 4-5 thousand electron volts (KeV) (Xenon laser at 2-3 Angstrom wavelengths) in the first phase of the Ultrabeam program opens the possibility of creating gamma-ray lasers with photon energies equivalent to 100 KeV – 1 million electron volts (MeV). Compact gamma ray lasers can enable the development of new and more effective radiation therapies and radiation diagnostic tools for medical and materials/device inspection applications. This unique X-ray laser technology could also eventually enable the development of compact, laboratory- scale high-brightness coherent sources for 3-Dimensional molecular scale imaging of living cells and debris-free advanced lithography.


The goal of the Oblique Flying Wing (OFW) program was to expand the design space for future aircraft concepts, particularly for those missions that demand both supersonic speed and long endurance. The potential for a unique combination of excellent high speed and low speed performance would enable rapid deployment and long loiter time, for example, in surveillance or combat air patrol (CAP) roles. The OFW program considered technologies such as advanced controls to develop and fly a small-scale supersonic technology demonstrator X-Plane, and identified key design requirements for an objective system.

A five year mission

The objective of the Vulture program is to develop an aircraft capable of remaining on-station uninterrupted for over five years to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and communication missions over an area of interest. The technology challenges include development of energy management and reliability technologies capable of allowing the aircraft to operate continuously for five years. Vulture, in effect, will be a re-taskable, persistent pseudo-satellite capability, in an aircraft package. The Vulture program will conduct a subscale three-month flight demonstration to prove out critical technologies. Subsequently, the program will conclude with a year-long flight demonstration with a fully functional payload. The anticipated transition partner is the Air Force.

The ISIS stratospheric airship: look familiar?

Eyes in the sky

The Integrated Sensor is Structure (ISIS) program…is developing a sensor of unprecedented proportions that is fully integrated into a stratospheric airship that will address the nation’s need for persistent wide-area surveillance, tracking, and engagement for hundreds of time-critical air and ground targets in urban and rural environments. ISIS is achieving radical sensor improvements by melding the next-generation technologies for enormous lightweight antenna apertures and high-energy density components into a highly integrated lightweight multi-purpose airship structure - completely erasing the distinction between payload and platform. The ISIS concept includes ninety-nine percent on-station 24/7/365 availability for simultaneous Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) (600 kilometers) and Ground-Based Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) (300 kilometers) operation; ten years of autonomous, unmanned flight; hundreds of wideband in-theater covert communications links; responsive reconstitution of failed space assets; plus CONUS-based sensor analysis and operation. The ISIS technology is planned for transition to the Air Force. ... s-and-more

DARPA's new budget is online! Here's the link: ... -04-09.pdf
Last edited by Dirtyrabbit on Fri May 22, 2009 6:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostFri May 22, 2009 5:10 pm » by Lowsix

Rabbit, very interesting,
can you repost that without the links so the whole text will show up?

warløckmitbladderinfection wrote:blasphemous new gehenna inhabitant makes god sad...

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PostFri May 22, 2009 5:58 pm » by Ph0enix

NICE POST RABBIT! Based on how the government seems to work, I believe this is the public introduction to what the government already has or perhaps even had 10 years ago. When did they come clean about the Stealth Bomber and the B2? According to them they had both of those back in the 70's

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PostFri May 22, 2009 6:14 pm » by Darkplanet

DoD’s total $78.9 billion in spending programs for the year about messed up priorities. Americas "Black Budget" is way out of control, especially now (always has been really). The minute the economy went in the dump they should have overhauled that whole side of the budget and thrown the military into a maintenance mode for the next 4 years. Yes, support the infrastructure but cut, hack and slash all but the most vital programs.

I often wonder how a few Billion reinvested in small businesses across America would impact the current situation. My gut tells me you'd get tons more innovation from millions of middle Americans than you would throwing Billions at a few thousand DARPA nerds.

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PostFri May 22, 2009 6:22 pm » by Dirtyrabbit

Last edited by Dirtyrabbit on Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostFri May 22, 2009 7:42 pm » by Lowsix

o sweet yes perfect thanks..
great find.
warløckmitbladderinfection wrote:blasphemous new gehenna inhabitant makes god sad...

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