In towns and cities across the country that are located anywhere near a military facility, there are occasions when citizens of those communities spot some strange objects floating around in the skies.
Don’t worry, this isn’t an article about alien UFOs from another planet, but it is an article about flying objects.
I happen to live in a part of the country where there is a rarely-mentioned Navy base where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have been reported to fly. The purpose of those UAV’s is speculated to be for the use of monitoring the field exercises of the military trainees conducting training exercises on the thousands of acres of harsh terrain around the facility.
However, what makes this story particularly intriguing is the fact that there are also reports of odd orbs and other crafts mesmerizing and terrorizing residents within the bordering communities.
I plan to explore the communities around that particular base this summer, interview residents, and get a better handle on what really goes on at that base that could be affecting residents.
But setting that project aside, there is the matter of similar communities around the country, with citizens that attempt to go about their daily business while occasionally being shocked with the sight of strange objects floating in the skies above.
In this article, I’m going to launch my personal investigation of those sightings by examining the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Roadmap published by the Office of the Secretary of Defense in April of 2001.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Roadmap
Once again, we have John Greenewald, Jr. of Black Vault to thank for submitting the FOIA request that turned up this document.
The document offers a general roadmap – not directives – of the direction that UAV’s are likely going to take from 2001 through 2025. The introduction of the report states that the predictions were based on “trends and future needs.”
The goal of the report was to “provide visibility and support for technology areas and evolving UAV missions.” In other words, the report offers a bit of insight as to the state of UAV technologies in 2001, and the direction that the U.S. military was likely to head well into 2025.
In my opinion, that insight is extremely valuable to understand what sort of activity might be going on in the airspace above those facilities that are testing the latest and greatest UAV technologies in the world.
Some of the notable technologies mentioned in this report that are fairly eye-opening considering many witness accounts of crafts spotted in the skies include:
–> Silent flight using fuel cell technologies
–> Craft capable of reaching over 400 knots (approximately 460 mph)
–> Flight endurance of up to 24 hours
–> The ability to self repair or compensate flight according to any damage recieved
–> The ability to covertly transmit information
The report indicates that the reason the military is so interested in UAVs – more commonly known today as “drones” is that they offer the ability to go in places that are too “dull, dirty and dangerous”.
Odd Drones and Experimental Prototypes
Some of the oddest-looking drones listed in the report – many of which were not yet being flown yet at the time of the report – were shaped in a manner that was sure to draw the curiosity and speculation of people on the ground.
For example, some of the Marine Corp Dragon Warrior drones used for hovering, urban operations and chemical weapon sensing operations had some of the oddest shapes, such as the one shown in the photo to the right – a 6 foot, 260 lb drone that could reach a height of 10,000 ft.
Some of the drones used by the military as “Sensorcraft” for a whole variety of sensing operations had typical shapes you would expect from a craft that could hover – the sort of wide circular body with a thinner cylindrical center body housing the propulsion system.
However, there were lots of other crafts that – at the time – looked nothing like what most people would expect of a UAV. The most unusual shaped crafts come from DARPA – prototypes planned to be used for “surveillance, strike and SEAD missions.”
A good example of this is the Pegasus UCAV weighing in at 5,500 lbs, 28 feet long with a wingspan of about 25 feet.
It is a craft that would surely look unusual if it were ever spotted overhead – a black triangle 28 feet long and 25 feet wide. The report indicated neither the Air Force or Navy would be “expected to lead to a fielded UCAV design before 2010.”
Other fascinating DARPA prototypes mentioned in the report were “micro air vehicles” (MAV) – these are crafts that measure no more than 6 inches on any side. Micro Air Vehicles promised to serve soldiers well “in urban warfare.”
In August of last year, we published an article related to the development of bird and insect-like micro-vehicles under development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Interestingly enough, page 10 of the DoD report mentions a fascinating trend in the field of micro-air vehicles:
“As of FY01, all MAV funding was put toward defining the Organic Air Vehicle (OAV) within the DARPA/Army Future Combat Systems program.”
In other words – U.S. enemies in the battlefield may need to carefully consider whether those flies or mosquitoes buzzing about are really just simple insects…
Top UAV Mission Areas
The areas where UAVs were used throughout the late 90s by the Department of Defense included a long list of some interesting applications. The top priorities on that list included IMINT (Imagery Intelligence), Communications, Force Protection, SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), Weapons of Mass Destruction and Theater Air Missile Defense.
A few interesting missions noted also included mine counter measures (MCM) and counter narcotics (CN).
The more interesting part of the report starts on page A-9, where significant components of the roadmap are laid out. These included:
–> Airborne GPS Pseudo-Satellites: A “pseudolite” – pseudo-satellites – with high power GPS transmitters that offer more precise location data and the ability to “burn through the jamming”.
–> Airborne Video Surveillance (AVS): Craft with video sensors that can stream video imagery from the battlefield in “real-time rates” of 1 to 5 seconds per frame. These are intended to be used to detect activity in any area.
–> Directed Energy: Ultra-light, high power craft with, what the report describes as, “legal and non-lethal directed energy weapons.” The energy is described as high-power density microwaves. The application of such focused microwave beams are like something right out of a science fiction novel.
–> Flight Inserted Expendable For Reconnaissance (FINDER): This craft has onboard sensors meant to sample a “plume” of chemical weapons to detect what chemicals the weapons consists of. The intent of the craft is to accompany a Predator, which would relay the command and control messages to the craft.
–> Foliage Penetration (FOPEN) Radar: This family of UAV would carry a “Synthetic Aperture Radar” with the capability to detect “stationary targets under foliage and camouflage”. The craft and its ground station make it virtually impossible for anything to hide under cover in the battlefield.
–> Solar Powered Aircraft: The concept of a solar-powered UAV was listed in the report as a project under the NASA Office of Aerospace Technology. The goal is to provide a craft that could operation for up to 6 months at a high altitude for missions like “earth monitoring” and law enforcement activities. The principle contractor listed in the report for this craft was AeroVironment, Inc.
This list represents only a few examples of the direction for UAV development listed in the 2001 DoD report. Of particular interest, but mentioned only briefly (twice) in the entire report, is the psychological operation (PSYOP) missions conducted by UAVs.
What is impressive about the report is the variety of technologies and applications that are mentioned as having a strong potential for military application.
Obviously, within the following decade, many of those technologies were realized, and very likely many new ones have been proposed.