Usually, when United States secret weapon programs are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has recently been developing a small drone able to greatly enhance offensive capabilities of the existing F-16 and F/A-18 fleets.
The project is called Flying Missile Rail and could help United States pilots stave off the threat of long-range air-to-air missiles preferred by their Russian and Chinese counterparts.
The development of this US secret weapon is still in early stage, but the project’s potential is huge. In the age of cripplingly expensive new aircraft development, a project that can vastly improve the existing ones is a God’s send. That is not to mention time savings, which are extremely significant.
“A new advanced monolithic aircraft typically requires 10 to 25 years to design, develop and build,” said Jimmy Jones, FMR project manager. “New technology concepts are subject to requirements and other processes which can render them programmatically unrealizable before the technology becomes obsolete. An innovative approach is needed to ‘build on demand’ and to incrementally enhance existing capability.”
FMR could greatly increase the range of AIM-120, which currently tops out at 100 miles, about a half of what the latest generation of the Chinese AA missiles can reach. One of the main advantages is that FMR will be backward compatible and won’t require extensive modifications of either aircraft or the rockets.
Another US secret weapon program that could be compatible if FRM brings expected results is the U.S. Air Force’s Loyal Wingman program, designed to transform the existing fleets of fighter planes into semi-autonomous drones, which is an extension of the QF-16 project, aimed at using old F-16s to create highly capable drones. Loyal Wingman shares its technology with Fifth-Generation Aerial Target project, tasked with creating new and stealthy air target drone, which can also be used as an offensive weapon.
Certain that drones are the future, U.S. Air Force is also working on a project called “Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft,” or LCAA. It envisions swarms of highly capable, yet cheap and expendable drones that can hit targets previously deemed too well defended. LCAA could also benefit from a fully developed Flying Missile Rail.
The centerpiece of this new drone-based system would be what Pentagon calls an arsenal plane, a heavy bomber kept well behind the front line consisting of drones and carrying lethal payload ready to be delivered after the drones have successfully scouted and cleared the area. Integration of all these secret weapons could make the U.S. military a formidable opponent in any future conflict. The best part is that such system would be significantly cheaper than the current one.