Thunderbirds Are Go!
October 20, 2008 2:34 PM   Subscribe

DARPA, the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has issued a call for proposals for submersible aircraft concepts. Although the idea has some pedigree, and there was actually a flying, diving prototype called the Reid Flying Submarine RFS-1 back in the sixties, one must wonder whether it is really of any use.

A marginally more interesting idea is that of submarine aircraft carriers, which saw the French Surcouf, the Japanese I-400, and the British HMS M2, and also has been recently revived.
posted by Skeptic (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If we really knew the answers, it wouldn't be fodder for DARPA. DARPA is about fringe ideas. Sometimes those ideas turn out to be stupid; sometimes they turn out to be brilliant. But they're supposed to be the kinds of things where you can't really tell for sure except by trying them to see.

That is the nature of "Advanced Research".
posted by Class Goat at 2:39 PM on October 20, 2008

I'm sending the gannet FPP to DARPA to suggest they build a big one.
posted by grounded at 2:41 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Swift Enterprises has had some success with their Diving Seacopter, my sources say.

nuclear-powered, of course.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:44 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your post is incomplete without a link to this flying submarine.
posted by The Tensor at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Come on, SHADO have had these since 1980!!
posted by Naberius at 3:12 PM on October 20, 2008

When they're not showing quack investigations into Bigfoot or fucking werewolves, the History Channel will occasionally air shows about "USOs". Unidentified Submerged Objects.
posted by stavrogin at 3:14 PM on October 20, 2008

"one must wonder whether it is really of any use"

Considering that it's impossible to hide an aircraft carrier, and there are several missiles that have 1000+km ranges and the power to take them out, submersible airplanes or carriers are the future.
posted by Sukiari at 3:52 PM on October 20, 2008

submersible airplanes or carriers are the future

A short-lived future, once the Cruise Missile-Torpedo locks on target.
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2008

They've had this technology in their back pocket for some time. Word on the street is that this experimental modified B-25 was seen shooting up out of the water near Shippingport, PA.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2008

By the way, this idea is far from implausible if you posit remote piloted aircraft as well. Remotely controlled aircraft don't have to have the same kind of form actor as human-piloted aircraft, and it might well be possible to support them from a submersible carrier. And there is active effort right now to develop such birds.

And as mentioned above, the submersible would have a distinct survivability advantage. (Cynical Knight's comments above notwithstanding, the big advantage of submersible systems is difficulty of detection. They're hard to "lock on" to.)

At least in the short term, UAVs are not a substitute for piloted combat aircraft, but DARPA is doing research aimed at 20 years out. By that time, combat-ready unmanned fighters may well be possible.
posted by Class Goat at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2008

Oh, bother. I had a brain lock just now; I was thinking of a submarine aircraft carrier, which is not what the OP is about. Rats.
posted by Class Goat at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2008

This isn't real?
posted by buzzman at 4:54 PM on October 20, 2008

I believe they had this in the 80s.

yo joe.
posted by nushustu at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2008

Yeah, but this one doesn't need the 500 foot tall little boys for propulsion and control...
posted by Naberius at 5:24 PM on October 20, 2008

I remember when DARPA was still doing cool modern stuff. My grandfather was scuttling submersible aircraft carriers in the '40s.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:48 PM on October 20, 2008

Well, the military industrial complex has to justify it's expenditures somehow. I mean, my god. How can we defeat al-qaeda without supersonic airplanes that are also submarines!?
posted by delmoi at 11:29 PM on October 20, 2008

I've been watching this website for years now, wondering when the animated TV show/movie/game or whatever will get made. The game reminds me of Microprose's SubWar 2050 which was great in it's time. Coupling the hide and seek tactics of normal submarine warfare with high speed manouevre and attack. I've just looked at some old screenshots and am now shocked at the difference between that and Endless Ocean. I'd love to see an updated version taking advantage of graphic and presentation improvements.
posted by longbaugh at 4:25 AM on October 21, 2008

How can this topic be complete without a reference to Mickey's "submarplane" in the classic 1930's comic "Mickey Mouse and the Pirate Submarine"?
posted by purple_frogs at 11:35 AM on October 21, 2008

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