A while back, I briefly mentioned the Cormorant, Darpa's idea for a sub-launched flying drone. Reader DS points us to the agency's quick write-up of the 19-foot "multi-purpose unmanned aerial vehicle," or MPUAV.The idea is that the drone could handle "all-weather reconnaissance, battle damage assessment, or specialized mission support (e.g., special forces re-supply)" for the sub.The Cormorants would be kept in the sub's ICBM launch tubes, and released into the water as needed. From there, they'd be launched into the air "using two Tomahawk missile-derived solid rocket boosters."
Upon mission completion, the turbofan engine-powered MPUAVs return to a designated retrieval point at sea, initiate engine shut down, and splash down to await recovery. During recovery, the submerged [sub] would deploy a remotely operated vehicle to secure an in-haul cable from the [sub] to the recovery tether deployed by the MPUAV. The [sub] would then haul the MPUAV to its designated launch tube [with a] saddle mechanism, where it would be docked and retracted into the missile tube.StrategyPage, for one, isn't so sure all that trouble is worth it.
Aircraft operating off submarines is nothing new... [During World War II], the Japanese built 44 subs that could carry a small float plane for reconnaissance. This idea was fine in theory, but much less successful in practice... Someone may read a history book before that, or remember that the United States has plenty of other satellite and long range UAVs that could provide air reconnaissance needs of U.S. subs.And Darpa admits there are a whole bunch of technical hurdles to leap before the Cormorant would begin to make sense.The launch and recovery procedure -- including that "saddle" thingy -- would have to go through "key risk reduction demonstrations." So so would the drone's high-pressure turbofan engine.