Before a bomb gets dropped in Afghanistan, dozens of people weigh in: air controllers bark coordinates over a radio; officers double-check the target’s location against digital maps; pilots survey the scene with cameras from on high; far-flung intelligence analysts scour the plane’s footage and discuss it in a secure chat room; military lawyers make sure the strike complies with the rules of war; commanders weigh the potential combat benefits of a bomb against the risks of civilian deaths.
Darpa would like to cut out all those middle men. Instead, the Pentagon’s R&D arm wants to build an air strike network with exactly two nodes: the air controller on the ground, and the robotic, heavily-armed airplane in the sky. Darpa calls the project Persistent Close Air Support, or PCAS. Think of it as death-from-above—on demand.
The goal, Darpa says in an announcement to prospective researchers, is to give the Joint Terminal Attack Controller—that’s the guy who usually coordinates air strikes in an infantry unit—"the ability to visualize, select and employ weapons at the time of their choosing."
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