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The Pentagon budget request for fiscal year 2024 comes in at a staggering $824 billion, the highest any country has ever spent on its military.  A lot of this is going to classified Research, Development, Test & Evaluation programs, which are largely classified or only present brief, vague descriptions. While flicking through one of the lengthy supporting documents I noticed how some of these classified money pits take their names from movies.

The tradition of using code names from popular culture is a long and proud one in the US, which has leaked over to the UK intelligence ‘community’ in more recent years.  The US military ended up naming the members of Space Force the Guardians, and stole their logo from Star Trek.  Thus, the Pentagon budget including such names is not a new thing, but the examples are quite amusing.

In the 1200+ page ‘Justification book’ from the Office of the Secretary of Defence mentions Avatar, described as:

The Avatar project develops enhanced manned-unmanned capabilities. Due to the nature of this project, specific applications and detailed plans are available at a higher classification level.

Then there’s Gollum, where we’re told it is entering the prototype phase in 2024, but:

Due to the classified nature of this project, specific applications and details are available at a higher classification level.

Hurt Locker provides us a bit more detail:

The Hurt Locker project demonstrates feasibility and utility of alternative system deployment. This program will retire risks associated with cross platform integration of existing weapons control systems. Due to the nature of this project, specific applications and detailed plans are available at a higher classification.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s LOGAN, which simply states:

Project information at higher classification.

Point Break:

Due to the classified nature of this project, specific applications and details are available at a higher classification level.

RAGNAR, which may or may not be Thor-related:

This project develops and demonstrates multi-function radiofrequency systems. RAGNAR will leverage ‘best of breed’ commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components, along with advancements in AI, and integrate the selected elements into a modular platform. Development efforts will collaborate with non-traditional performers to drive innovation and deliver a low-cost, modular capability to the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy. RAGNAR leverages a partnership with the U.S. Army and uses innovative contracting mechanisms to access multiple small business while reducing development risk. Details about the functionality and application of RAGNAR are classified.

And finally, Shawshank:

The Shawshank program provides Special Operations Forces new and enhanced capabilities. Specific applications and detailed plans are available at a higher classification level.

What’s especially curious to me is that Avatar, Thor, Point Break and Hurt Locker have some kind of DOD connection.  Avatar was supported by the Marine Corps (possibly the sequel too), Thor hired a former Navy SEAL to help them, Point Break the original had FBI input, while the remake benefited from the Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies, while the Hurt Locker qualified for military support before the DOD pulled out due to arguments over the script. The other films?  I have no idea what they have to do with these programs.  Especially since they won’t even really tell us what they are.

h/t Bill Arkin for alerting me to some of these code names.