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US DARPA looks for ways to CAPTURE spy balloons

14th August 2023 - 15:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


The US has shown it can bring down spy balloons but wants to grab the payloads intact. (Photo: USN)

DARPA has launched a rapid development programme to find solutions to intercept slow-moving, high-altitude aerial systems which enter US airspace, and seize their payloads, a response to Chinese surveillance balloons which crossed the continental US earlier this year.

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’.

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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.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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