DARPA Plans Unmanned Versions of the A-10, F-4 and F16 and a hypersonic plane

1. DARPA’s is seeking purpose-built unmanned systems for close air support, as well as unmanned versions of manned fighters, including the “QF-4, QF-16 and UA-10”. The QF-4 and QF-16 designates target drone versions of the original F-4 and F16 fighters, while the UA-10 is presumably a reference to an unmanned version of the A-10.

The project is targeting demonstrations in 2012 or 2013 of the unmanned component for a next-generation close air support system.

DARPA has set different performance requirements for unmanned versions. An unmanned variant of the A-10 would have to demonstrate comparable endurance to the manned version, while a purpose-built UAS would have to equal the persistence of the MQ-1 or MQ-9.

The payload of weapons and sensors sought by DARPA is comparable with the MQ-9, with only 907-2,270kg (2,000-5,000lb) requested. The aircraft, however, should have more agility than the Reaper

2. DARPA is planning an April test flight for a prototype of a hypersonic weapon

The flight test is part of the Falcon program, a Darpa-Air Force project to develop the tech that could lead to a reusable hypersonic vehicle that could take off and land like a plane. It would carry 12,000 pounds of payload over 9,000 nautical miles in less than two hours.

3. DARPA is launching the next phase of its Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which was started in 2000 with the goal of creating a fully-functioning, neurally-controlled human limb within five years.

They’re currently doing human trials of the DEKA Arm, a prosthetic that allows users to complete day-to-day tasks with unprecedented ease. That arm uses a joystick-style interface, with a user tapping commands with their toes to trigger movements with the arm. At Johns Hopkins, DARPA-funded researchers are still working on an arm that uses a 100-sensor neural interface to create a brain-body meld much like what’s inherent in natural limbs.

But although DARPA had hoped to have a fully-functional, neuro-prosthetic model ready by 2010, the agency’s researchers have yet to master the integration of human neural pathways with artificial platforms.

DARPA’s launching a new program, Histology for Interface Stability Over Time, in hopes of creating not only a neurally-controlled limb, but one that has a 70-year lifespan and flawless integration with the human body.