UK budget 2020 promises £800m 'British DARPA' to rival secret US agency famed for robot dogs and stealth bombers

BRITAIN is set to create an £800million rival to the USA's secretive DARPA agency – best known for creating lifelike robots and deadly stealth bombers.

Funding for the unnamed agency was revealed in today's 2020 budget, and has been a longstanding dream of top Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the DARPA-style agency would receive significant research and development funding in his budget.

DARPA stands for Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and is one of the USA's more exciting departments.

The agency helped lay the foundations for the iconic B2 stealth bomber – a two-man spycraft designed to penetrate anti-aircraft defences.

It also worked with robot firm Boston Dynamics to create Atlas, a human-like android built for search and rescue tasks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's adviser-in-chief Cummings has often praised DARPA in the past.

In a blog post, he once moaned that science and technology issues had been "almost totally ignored" in British politics for decades.

"The government spends about 250 billion pounds a year with extreme systematic incompetence," Cummings wrote.

He explained that creating a DARPA style agency would give the UK the edge after Brexit.

"If we 'just' applied what we know about high performance project management and procurement we could take savings from this budget and put it into ARPA-PARC style high-risk-high-payoff visions including creating whole new fields.

"This would create powerful self-reinforcing dynamics that would give Britain real assets of far, far greater value than the chimerical 'influence' in Brussels meeting rooms where ‘economic and monetary union’ is the real focus."

It's not clear what projects the UK's DARPA doppelganger will work on.

But science enthusiasts will likely be hoping for DARPA-style moonshots.

The US agency has dreams of rolling out robotic pack mules for military operations.

The so-called BigDog is a robotic mutt that could be controlled remotely, offered computer vision, and could run at 10km/h.

Better still, it was capable of carrying up to 150kg loads up mountains and across snow.

DARPA also helped the US Navy and Lockheed create an experimental stealth ship in 1984.

The Sea Shadow was designed to conduct clandestine marine operations without being detected by radar.

DARPA – the key facts

Here's what you need to know…

  • DARPA is a famous United States Department of Defense agency
  • It stands for Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • Its mission is to research and develop emerging technologies for use by the military
  • The agency was created in Ferbaruy 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • This was a response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957
  • DARPA helps to research, develop and fund projects at the bleeding edge of tech and science
  • Some of its famous projects have included the B2 stealth bomber, humanoid and canine robots, and spy ships
  • The agency's annual budget is $3.427billion (£2.65billion)

Today's budget went heavy on tech and science funding.

The chancellor earmarked £900million for nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles research.

And investment in R&D generally has increased to £22billion per year.

Boris' government will also splash £5billion broadband, and £800million on carbon capture.

But the £800million on the UK's DARPA rival pales in comparison to the USA's Darpa spending – some $3.427billion (£2.65billion) a year.

It's not clear when or where the new agency will be established.

In other news, a declassified US military report revealed a plot to create "machine humans" with super-vision and internet brains.

It recently emerged that the US Army is to test a 50-kilowatt laser weapon that incinerates drones, helicopters, planes and missiles.

The Royal Navy is testing a new weapon that uses a powerful laser to slice through enemies.

And last year Russia showed off its "ground force" of killer robots in an unsettling video.

What do you think of the plan to create a UK version of DARPA? Let us know in the comments!

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