Why Does The U.S. Defence Department Need A Huge Underground Facility By Friday?

Darpa is often described as the “mad science” wing of the U.S. Defence Department. They’re the ones who have a history of working on cutting edge technology for the military like virtual fences, disaster relief robots, and the invention of the internet itself. They even tried to build Skynet in the 1980s.

But Darpa sent out a tweet today that’s making people a little nervous. The agency wants a large underground facility for “testing” of some sort. And they need it by Friday at 5pm ET local time.

Darpa explained in a follow-up tweet that the ideal location would be “several city blocks with complex layouts and multiple stories.”

Gizmodo reached out to Darpa and the agency confirmed that the turnaround time was short, but said that it was originally posted last week. That’s still incredibly short notice for a government agency that needs a large space for its experiments. Darpa wouldn’t explain why they needed an underground facility so quickly.

“Complex urban underground infrastructure can present significant challenges for situational awareness in time-sensitive scenarios, such as active combat operations or disaster response,” a Darpa spokesperson who asked to remain nameless told Gizmodo by email.

“DARPA is interested in exploring this domain for researchers to analyse and enhance approaches to improve situational awareness and response times in emergency scenarios,” the Darpa spokesperson continued. “Locations submitted could help the research community identify relevant sites for further field experimentation to accelerate their development of such technologies.”

That’s great and all. But we’re still confused. Darpa did not respond to an email with follow-up questions.

Darpa is currently hosting the Subterranean Challenge, which is a bit like their old Robotics Challenge from 2015 only for mapping and traversing underground environments. Darpa’s “Urban Circuit” challenge is happening in February of 2020, so we can guess that this underground location might be for that, but we don’t know for sure. And it would be strange to only organise something like that on a week’s notice.

Darpa simply isn’t telling us much. In fact, Darpa is making us a bit nervous by its responses on Twitter. When someone said that the urgent need for a tunnel, “sounds both exciting and ominous,” Darpa replied, “even to us.”

Yikes. What’s going on?

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