No, we are not talking about an airplane that accidentally lands on a lake and sinks, but rather an aircraft that can fly 1,000 miles with a small contingent of military personnel, land on the sea, submerse, loiter for three days in seas of up to 13 feet, then fly just above the sea for 100 miles to an extraction point.
Talk about your science fiction! None the less, the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which brought us the stealth technology for the B-2 bomber has been asked to conduct a feasibility study and experiments to prove the concept. This would be a submersible aircraft, not a submarine that could fly.
What was that saying this year during the Presidential race? If pigs could fly? Well, the Pentagon thinks that a buoyant aircraft could fly this kind of mission into hostile territory, submerge just below the surface, deliver a strike team and return them safely. Given technology today the biggest problem seems to be propulsion and strength of the aircraft.
In a request for proposals (RFP) the defense department said it was looking for radical new technologies to provide game-changing DOD capabilities for inserting small teams clandestinely at coastal locations. Game changing indeed!
I guess UAVs are not quite ready to take over all of the military flying, but what would we use the surplus aircraft for after the military is done with them? Perhaps fly off shore to the Great Barrier reef for a short excursion to explore beautiful sea life before lunch, or to a secret hide-a-way. What will they think up next?
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.