To enable the USA to project power on a global basis, without having to first obtain overflight rights from various foreign countries, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are exploring a number of advanced concepts, including the hypersonic FALCON, enabling high-value targets anywhere in the world to be attacked within two hours. However, before a target can be attacked it must first be clearly identified and this has lead to research into the possibility of delivering a completely new concept of obtaining ISR data at short notice to support the Global Strike concept.
Another new-start technology demonstration programme recently launched by DARPA is the Rapid Eye system, which if successful, would be capable of providing high-resolution surveillance and reconnaissance imagery of potential targets anywhere on the planet within one hour. The Rapid Eye system proposes using a folding or inflatable-wing high altitude long-endurance UAV that is deployed by an intercontinental ballistic missile or a commercial launch system. The UAV would be contained within a re-entry vehicle to protect it during the rapid deceleration phase of entering the atmosphere, then it would have to slow further and allow time for the UAV to re-configure itself before separation, allowing the UAV to take up station at 50,000 – 60,000ft where it would remain for up to seven to fifteen hours. The concept calls for the UAV to be capable of carrying a 500lb payload and be capable of providing 5-kilowatts of power to power on-board sensors that could include a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) and high bandwidth communications and electro-optical sensors.