US DARPA looks for ways to CAPTURE spy balloons
Laboriously designated Project CAPTURE (Capturing Aerial Payloads To Unleash Reliable Exploitation), the work is structured as a Small Business Innovation Research procurement and is progressing straight to Phase Two. According to DARPA it ‘should produce a fieldable prototype final design review that satisfies project objectives in no more than six months after contract award’.
‘A follow-on option phase should include a final demonstration no more than 9 to 12 months after contract award.’
The objective is to ‘develop and demonstrate a prototype system to capture and recover exploitable payloads from slow speed high-altitude aerial systems of interest within or approaching US sovereign airspace’.
Ignoring the difficulty of detecting any such balloon, the interception and capture of a payload from such a slow-moving system at an altitude of up to 60,000ft, described as threshold, to 75,000ft, described as the objective, is obviously challenging.
As highlighted in the solicitation: ‘The F-22 is one of few aircraft able to operate at an altitude above 50,000ft. Additionally, these aircraft travel at hundreds of miles per hour while attempting to identify and target slow-moving or stationary objects’.
Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Appropriations proposed an additional $293.5 million for new and upgraded radars plus communications equipment to protect the US homeland. The balloon episode has pushed lawmakers towards increasing the Pentagon’s budget to improve its detection capabilities.
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