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Nikos Chatzis

“…During an October 29 trial at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, a Lockheed C-130A Hercules aircraft launched and recovered an X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) in flight for the first time. The feat is an important milestone for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Gremlins program, which is exploring the concept of using large aircraft as launch platforms for recoverable swarming unmanned air vehicles.

The test involved the C-130 launching two X-61As, of which one was recovered using the “bullet” stabilized capture device towed behind the Hercules. A second GAV was destroyed during the tests. However, the recovered air vehicle was refurbished and flown again in less than 24 working hours.

“This recovery was the culmination of years of hard work and demonstrates the feasibility of safe, reliable airborne recovery,” said Lt. Col. Paul Calhoun, Gremlins program manager with DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “Such a capability will likely prove to be critical for future distributed air operations. Airborne recovery is complex. We will take some time to enjoy the success of this deployment, then get back to work further analyzing the data and determining next steps for the Gremlins technology…”