Long ago, in the midst of my misspent youth, I recall overhearing my parents, and the parents of my friends, debating heatedly whether "the kids" should be allowed to see the new movie Aliens, and whether it was age-appropriate for us. Today, after scanning an article in Forbes, I'm reminded of that debate -- and wonder if Defense Secretary Robert Gates should have ever let his generals watch The Transformers.

Prompted by news that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has outsynced Ford (NYSE: F) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in the race to roboticize the American automobile, it appears the Pentagon has decided to develop a supercar of its own. One that doesn't just drive itself, but flies.

This week, DARPA, the research and development arm of the Department of Defense, announced that it has tapped Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and Textron (NYSE: TXT) subsidiary AAI to try to build a "Transformer X." (Yes, they actually call it a transformer.) Building on a Humvee chassis, and robotic piloting already proven possible by Carnegie Mellon, DARPA wants Lockheed and AAI to try to stick wings on the thing, and get it to fly.

I kid you not
For now, DARPA's still in the tinkering-around phase of the project, doling out pocket money as its contractors try to prove the concept. Lockheed and AAI will each receive $3 million for their parts of the project. Carnegie's success with the Humvee back in 2005 won it a $1 million grant, and another million goes to United Technologies (NYSE: UTX). The remaining cash in the till ($1.5 million) gets split equally between Aurora Flight Services and Metis Design.

If successful, what we'll wind up with is a pilot project to build a winged robotic Humvee, one that can take off from four wheels on the ground, fly 250 miles, then land and tool around on the ground once more. And because it's robotic, there will be no need to cast Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox in this movie, leaving more room in the cab for troops and supplies.

A brave new world
All we need now is to get Boeing (NYSE: BA) involved with its laser-armed Humvee hybrid, and presto-change-o, folks -- we'll have an honest-to-goodness Transformer robot on our hands, one that can shoot laser beams from its eyeballs.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of Google. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation and Ford Motor is a Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft.

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