WASHINGTON - The secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which develops high-tech weaponry for the US military, is attempting to create a purpose-built unmanned warship. Observers have noted it bears a curious resemblance to the wedge-shaped Imperial Star Destroyers from the "Star Wars" franchise.
DARPA's latest robotics project was first reported by Defense News in January, when solicitations went out. The project will "challenge the traditional naval architecture paradigm, designing a seaframe from the ground up with no provision, allowance, or expectation for humans at sea," DARPA said at the time.
The warship has been dubbed "NOMARS," variously reported as standing for "no manning required, ship," or "no mariners."
"By removing the human element from all ship design considerations, NOMARS will demonstrate significant advantages, to include size, cost (procurement, operations, and sustainment), at-sea reliability, survivability to sea-state, survivability to adversary actions (stealth considerations, resistance to tampering, etc.), and hydrodynamic efficiency (hull optimization without consideration for crew safety or comfort)," DARPA said.
Mike Leahy, who heads the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, spoke about the NOMARS effort at C4ISRNet's annual conference earlier this week, telling virtual attendees the project was proceeding separately from other US Navy efforts to develop unmanned ships because nobody is really sure if the idea will pan out or not.
"NOMARS is going and looking at 'Can I take people completely off ships?'" Leahy said, according to C4ISRNet. "That's a risky endeavor. We don't know if we're going to be able to do that. We don't know if that's going to pan out. You would not want to link an acquisition program directly to that."
However, when DARPA shared an artist's conception of the new warship, it turned many a sci-fi geek's head because, as the folks at Task & Purpose noted, its wedge shape and top protrusions look an awful lot like an Imperial Star Destroyer, one of the evil Galactic Empire's massive spaceships in the "Star Wars" franchise.
DARPA isn't called the Pentagon's "mad scientist division" for nothing.