DARPA's 'flying aircraft carrier' Gremlins struggles

Light drones represent a decisive tactical stake in the battles of tomorrow, and the number of programs aiming to design these small flying machines intended for reconnaissance or attack, is increasing in all armies. But these light drones suffer from a significant weakness, their relatively low autonomy, limiting their use today to the lines of engagement. The GREMLINS program of the Pentagon's innovation agency, the DARPA, aims precisely to resolve this squaring of the circle, by allowing small flying drones to be dropped but also recovered in flight by an aircraft, in this case a C-130 Hercules serving as Gigogne plane.

To be considered a success, the Gremlins program must demonstrate that it is possible, in 30 minutes of time, to drop and then recover 4 X-61A drones in flight, otherwise known as Gremlins Air Vehicle or GAV. This drone designed by the company Dynetics is 4,2 meters long with a wingspan of 3,47 m and a diameter of 57 cm, and has a mass of 65 kg. It is powered by the small F107 turbojet engine from the Williams company, which notably equips the Tomahawk cruise missile. It can thus reach a speed of Mach 0,6 and has a range of 2 hours and a range of 350 km. But its biggest advantage is the attachment device that should allow the C-130 to recover it in flight, and thus bring it back to land safely, where it must use a parachute in normal times.

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The X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle or GAV drone is jointly designed by the companies Dynetics and Kratos

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