Secret New UAS Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances (RQ-180)

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EXCLUSIVE: Secret New UAS Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances [ATTACH=CONFIG]223466[/ATTACH] December 06, 2013 A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015. Funded through the Air Force’s classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998. Neither the Air Force nor Northrop Grumman would speak about the classified airplane. When queried about the project, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said, “The Air Force does not discuss this program.” The RQ-180 carries radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and passive electronic surveillance measures, according to one defense official. It could also be capable of electronic attack missions. This aircraft’s design is key for the shift of Air Force ISR assets away from “permissive” environments—such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where Northrop Grumman’s non-stealthy Global Hawk and General Atomics’ Reaper operate—and toward operations in “contested” or “denied” airspace. The new UAS underpins the Air Force’s determination to retire a version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk after 2014, despite congressional resistance. The RQ-180 eclipses the smaller, less stealthy and shorter-range RQ-170 Sentinel. Rest of the lengthy article http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_12_06_2013_p0-643783.xml More links on the history ect of the RQ-180 project http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.a...79a7Post:764f0843-3aa6-4b63-a879-13326ce408a2 http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_12_06_2013_p0-643786.xml http://www.aviationweek.com/Portals/aweek/media/stealthuas/stealth.html
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Profile picture for user Freehand

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Crickets... I just can't get excited about drones even though they might be running the place one day.

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The integration between manned and unmanned is the exciting part. Employed properly drones can handle many mundane and dangerous tasks and let the manned systems do the heavy lifting
Profile picture for user obligatory

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Exactly what any AF need the most, with an eye on striking beyond air cover

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One of the biggest things people don't realize with the current drone era is the amount of capability they provide at relatively low cost.
Profile picture for user obligatory

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You can't build an a/c that is both agile and VLO, you got to prioritize, a surveillance a/c like this need not agility
Profile picture for user seahawk

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You can't build an a/c that is both agile and VLO, you got to prioritize, a surveillance a/c like this need not agility
Today, you can. (given time and budget)
Profile picture for user mrmalaya

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"The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998" How does an aircraft that looks firmly subsonic in design replace the SR71? It might replace the Sentinel, and allows the use of UAS intelligence gathering in areas that won't work for Predator or Global Hawk, but it will still take a while to get there. Aviation Week can't have it all ways. The USAF can't variously be operating Mach 6 air breathers to replace the SR-71 mission and also long endurance stealth UAVs to replace the SR-71. I'm no subscriber to the publication but they have been big on manned airbreathing replacements to the SR-71 since the early 1990s. Now I'm not saying this new UAV doesn't exist or isn't needed (its been long rumoured), just question the wording of the article.

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You can't build an a/c that is both agile and VLO, you got to prioritize,
How do you explain the F-22?
Freehand Crickets... I just can't get excited about drones even though they might be running the place one day.
Yup.

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Care to explain what you mean? "New stealth"?
I think he is talking as speed as new stealth as stated by LM and reported by Sweetman.
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I am still puzzled. The AvWeek SR-72 article was by Guy Norris, not Sweetman. If there was a separate Sweetman report, I have not seen it. Norris' account does contain the quote: “According to Al Romig, Skunk Works engineering and advanced systems vice president, “speed is the new stealth.”” But what does this mean? What is does not mean is that this is a new technology for remaining low-observable. I think Romig is using the word ‘stealth’ as short-hand for “method of penetrating contested or denied airspace”. For confirmation, look at the quote from Brad Leland, Skunk Works’ programme manager for hypersonics, in the Flight International report of the SR-72: “”Adversaries are working on ways of countering stealth,” Leland says. “This is the counter to counter stealth. This is the way because when you come in both high and fast it’s all but impossible for our adversaries to intercept a vehicle or a missile like this. The time it takes to detect – and then try to intercept – we’ve gone by.”” So hypersonics will not make low-observable technology obsolete – it is simply another way of getting the job done. A programme that uses one approach does not invalidate a programme that uses another.
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I agree. Some people clearly think that Bill Sweetman pens every article for Aviation Week, and that LM meant that going quickly makes you invisible to radar! For what it's worth, my quibble was about the reference to this system replacing the Blackbird.

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I think lookieloo was referring to this piece: Opinion: High Speed Could Be The Next Stealth which in fact was written By Bill Sweetman. But Bill S. didn’t seem to have the same opionion about "speed as next stealth" which in fact was an opionion by LM. The incipit of that article:
Lockheed Martin has labeled the hypersonic technology to be used in the proposed SR-72 Mach 6 aircraft as the “new stealth.” It is really the old stealth, and it points to a classic example of how almost every military and political leader in Western defense fell in line behind a technical miscalculation.
Moreover when on Tyler’s aviationintel blog were leaked some of the first images of what we now know most probably was the RQ-180 from Northrop Grumman Plant 42, Palmdale, Tyler quoted previous works from Sweetman which seems to be aware of existence of the RQ-180 since a long time ago.
“In December 2012 Aviation Week journalist Sweetman concluded that Northrop Grumman had been working on a large, armed UAV for the Pentagon and CIA — one with greater speed, payload, range and stealth than the current drones. Development began in 2008, Sweetman surmised, based on his analysis of company documents and interviews with industry insiders. “It is, by now, probably being test-flown at Groom Lake,” Sweetman wrote of the new drone. The purported location, at least, made total sense. The Air Force’s secret facility in Groom Lake, Nevada, is part of the so-called “Area 51” complex and previously was the test site for the U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance planes and the F-117 stealth fighter
So Sweetman did not "shot his wad too-soon again" as lookieloo suggests. Anyway, the text on aviationintel is of interest on what really matters -the RQ-180 - since most of the aviation enthusiasts don't care too much about being pro or against BS. And let's give credit to Tyler for being one of the first to put in the right scheme some of the scattered pieces of the puzzle. A picture of the alleged "thing" from the page I just linked above: http://aviationintel.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/UnknownDrone1.jpg

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Here is the opinion piece by Bill Sweetman: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_11_25_2013_p22-638264.xml
Guys, "Speed is the new stealth" does not refer as speed being a substitute for stealth. The 60's have shown that this can't be true (in a sustainable manner). It means simply that SPEED is the new way of ACHIEVING stealth. After decades of heavy emphasis on shaping, material and EM, speed is the new component of stealth. But why SPEED? And why Mach 6(and not 5, 10 or 15)? Speed = alt. Fly fast and high you go. The question I hve alrdy posted is: in what kind of fluids you think those babies (SR72) are flying ?
Profile picture for user Tu22m

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It means simply that SPEED is the new way of ACHIEVING stealth. After decades of heavy emphasis on shaping, material and EM, speed is the new component of stealth. But why SPEED? And why Mach 6(and not 5, 10 or 15)? Speed = alt. Fly fast and high you go.
Speed may be a part in increasing survivability, or shortening enemy reaction time. Perhaps the expression is closer to the "its the new black" when talking about fashion? The Rq180 seems to be built around actual stealth, and as long as the SA is good enough it can avoid most threats.
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Signature reduction is limited in what can be possibly achieved, while ground based detectors are way less limited when it comes to power output, processing power or sensor fusion. So at some point a reduced signature alone won´t be enough to penetrate the most modern defence networks. Add speed to the mix and you reduce the time available for gathering and processing data of said networks complicating the problem for them even more. So speed will buy you more years in which your aircraft remains "untouchable" and forces the opponent to up-grade its network again, which might not be possible due to costs.

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Supercruising stealth, improves survivability while difficulties reaction, although not as impressive as the hypersonic scramjet every fanboy wishes.
Profile picture for user Reddor

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It looks like a very big target hopefully it won't flop and give bad press like its cousin that went down in Iran. Stealth is a cool but in a high level jamming environment with clutter and noise I still believe a manned aircraft is a more reliable asset.
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It looks like a very big target hopefully it won't flop and give bad press like its cousin that went down in Iran. Stealth is a cool but in a high level jamming environment with clutter and noise I still believe a manned aircraft is a more reliable asset.
I couldn't agree with you more, give me a F-22A and F-35A/B/C over the RQ-180 any day of the week.
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How do you explain the F-22?
A pic says more than a hundred words they say [ATTACH=CONFIG]223506[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]223507[/ATTACH] @seahawk: the day will come when thrust take over control, but not yet
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