DARPA has placed four companies on contract for the first phase of the Gremlins program, which will explore inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in volley quantities to saturate enemy defenses. The Gremlins program will employ a modified C-130 aircraft to launch the UAVs, which will then communicate their behavior for electronic attack and reconnaissance missions from standoff ranges. Upon the completion of their mission they will then aerially recover surviving drones for refueling and reuse. The four companies will design UAVs that are inexpensive when compared to other autonomous weapon systems, so that occasional losses would not compromise the overall mission. The program aims to develop affordable UAVs that could be reused as many as 20 times for dangerous missions in contested air space such as pre-attack reconnaissance and surveillance, as well as electronic attack to destroy or disable enemy communications, missile defenses, and battlefield networks. These UAVs would be capable of employing diverse payloads in volley quantities, and would have the advantages of small vehicle size, reusability, and limited vehicle design life.


Barone Consulting is very proud and excited to be part of this groundbreaking effort, which promises to make a fundamental shift in the notion of aerial attack. SETA consultants from Barone Consulting will be advising the government program leadership on the proposed technical approaches of the four companies. Barone brings experience in unmanned aerial vehicles, airborne network management, autonomous agents and multi-agent systems. We will be advising program management on these areas as well and providing programmatic support for execution of the Phase 1 contracts.

The program is named in homage to the 1948 XF-85 Goblin aircraft, which was developed as a fighter capable of deploying from and recovering to a strategic bomber to provide escort counter air capabilities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_XF-85_Goblin). Ultimately the Goblin program was abandoned due to XF-85’s shortcomings against other fighter aircraft and the high degree of difficulty in reconnecting the fighter with its carrier/bomber aircraft. The Gremlins program recognizes the inherent difficulty with aerial recovery of an autonomous aircraft, but will capitalize on technological advances of the last 50 years. With that said, recovering an UAV from a C-130 in flight is still understood to be “DARPA Hard”.


DARPA is pursuing the Gremlins program in three phases: system and technology design; preliminary design; and prototype flight demonstration.

This first phase of the program is expected to spend about $15.8 million among the four separate contractors. Ultimately DARPA wants a Gremlins flight demonstration by early 2020 to show the feasibility and potential of air-launched, recoverable unmanned aircraft.


Barone Consulting is actively recruiting and encourages strong candidates with Top Secret security clearances, systems integration, flight test, and aeronautical engineering to contact us regarding DARPA opportunities.

Information about Barone Consulting can be found at www.baronedc.com

The original DARPA press release can be found at http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-08-28.


About Barone Consulting

Founded in 2009, Barone Consulting provides system engineering and technical assistance services to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. To find out more, please visit www.baronedc.com