US ‘Gremlin’ drones designed to cause missile defense mayhem (VIDEO)

Nicknamed the ‘Gremlins’ program, an audacious US government-backed plan to use swarms of drones to disrupt enemy missile defense systems is under development.

Four firms, including fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed Martin, have been brought on board by Pentagon security agency DARPA to turn the idea of low-cost reusable decoys, capable of jamming enemy radar, into a reality.

The unmanned aircraft are part of a strategy named after mischievous mythical devils that were said to bring down aircraft. The idea of gremlins destroying the inner workings of enemy planes became a symbol of good luck for the Royal Air Force during World War II.

DARPA are hoping to take that disruptive spirit and apply it to a series of probes designed to minimize the risk to US fighter pilots, while maximizing enemy costs during combat missions.

The drones will create a safe pathway for fighter jets and bombers by disabling the radar of anti-aircraft missiles. Gremlins will also spy on enemy ground targets and relay their location back to US warplanes preparing airstrikes.

Companies Composite Engineering Inc., Dynetics, General Atomics Aeronautical System,s and Lockheed Martin Corporation have been named as the four teams tasked with building the required technology.

“We’ve assembled a motivated group of researchers and developers that we believe could make significant progress toward Gremlins’ vision of delivering distribute airborne capabilities in a robust, responsive and affordable manner,” DARPA program manager Dan Pratt said in a statement.

“These teams are exploring different, innovative approaches toward achieving this goal and are rolling up their sleeves for the hard work ahead.”

According to development plans, the drones would be launched by a mothership capable of retrieving the Gremlins mid-air for reuse later.

The drones are expected to be low-cost machines that can swoop near targets, encouraging foes to use up their more expensive weaponry while attempting to destroy them.