The Coolest Military Gear From Skunk Works, Phantom Works And DARPA

attached imagePhantom Works made a wing that is also an aircraft.

Photo: NASA/Tom Landis

Some of the most fantastic military innovations come from places that most people have never heard of.DARPA, along with Boeing’s underground Phantom Works unit and Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, all make it their business to cook up designs from the Pentagon’s wildest dreams.

The line between fact, fiction, and science & fantasy all bleed into one at the military’s most secret labs.

The Transformer TX looks like something from a movie

Leave it to DARPA to come up with a flying car.

Skunk Works is one of the contractors chosen to work on DARPA's Transformer TX, a dual mode vehicle combining a drivable ground vehicle with a vertical take-off and landing air vehicle.

The Hybrid Air Vehicle P-791 will see everything

Hovering at 20,000 feet, you may find Skunk Works' eye in the sky.

With the surveillance capability of generating a picture of what's happening on the ground, troops can also ride inside the pillow-shaped airship with a load of equipment.

The massive vehicle uses an air cushion landing system. It can launch and land easily in open fields, parking lots, or even on water.

The Blended Wing Body looks like a sea creature

As an incredible hybrid, the Blended Wing Body was developed when NASA asked Phantom Works if they could make a totally different kind of aircraft.

The remotely piloted BWB is a cross between a subsonic aeroplane, a flying wing, and the shape of a manta ray. It also doesn't have a tail.

The unique design gets lower drag and greater lift, burning 20% less fuel than a conventional subsonic transport aircraft.

It's also 50 decibels quieter than conventional transport, so the BWB has potential to operate more freely as a multi-role, long-range, high-capacity military transport aircraft.

The immense Solar Eagle can stay aloft for years

DARPA awarded a $89 million contract to Boeing's Phantom Works to develop the Solar Eagle. It's designed to remain the air for at least five years using solar energy and a 400-foot wing span (equivalent to a 40-story building) to maintain aerodynamic performance in stratospheric altitudes.

The unmanned drone will perform communications, intelligence, surveillance and recon missions.

It will debut in a 30-day demonstration flight to the upper atmosphere in 2014 as part of a DARPA project.

The Scan Eagle and the Skyhook allow drones to land anywhere

Another Boeing invention, the Scan Eagle system has more than 456,000 combat hours since 2002 as a reconnaissance drone that was used extensively in Iraq by Marines

Its counterpart, the Skyhook, eliminates the need for a runway by catching the drone when it returns after a sortie.

The Waverider flies at more than 4,000 mph

According to the Air Force, the Boeing X-51A Waverider is an engine that rides its own shockwave at six times the speed of sound.

It's fitted to the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and is used to test the limits of hypersonic flight.

The Phantom Ray is invisible to radar

The Phantom Ray by Boeing is the future of unmanned terror in the sky, according to Gizmodo because it's undetectable to radar and capable of attack missions.

As a test bed, it will help defence researchers figure out new airborne electronic warfare techniques, as well as the possibility of unmanned aerial refueling.

The Bird of Prey is straight from Star Trek

The secret Boeing Bird of Prey project ran from 1992 to 1999. It was finally revealed in 2002 because its advanced design techniques were becoming industry standard.

The single-seat aircraft was made to explore stealth technology and designs to make aircrafts less detectable. The 'gapless' surface blend into the wings to reduce radar visibility.

Bird of Prey was named after a Star Trek spaceship.

BONUS: The Iron Curtain Active Protection System will save countless lives

DARPA's Iron Curtain knocks incoming projectiles out of mid-air as they approach their target.

Mounted on a vehicle's roof, the Curtain detonates incoming projectiles at the last possible moment by shooting straight down at them.

Behind the Iron Curtain is an ultra-fast computer that uses complex algorithms to track the object's flight path and fires off a countermeasure precisely at the right time.

The system knocks down RPGs at 295 meters per second and 'superbombs' that shoot armour-penetrating streams of melted metal at 4 KILOMETERS per second -- 10 times faster than rocket-propelled grenades.

BONUS II: The Iron Curtain In Action

Innovation is the name of the game

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