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disappearing Darkstar aircraft

andyl

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Hi guys this is my first post!!

I'm amazed by what some of you guys can dig up and am wondering if you can help solve a mystery. The Federation of American Scientists keeps webpages on military equipment and inspired by you guys i went back to look for a graphic that showed a mystery aircraft. It was a operational graphic on this page http://fas.org/irp/program/collect/darkstar.htm about the Lockeed Darkstar UAV program. The graphic showed how the UAV would work in theatre and it showed the drone transmitting data to a stealthy attack aircraft. From what i can remember the aircraft looked a bit like the Northrop XST stealth demonstrator design -but it wasn't this. Anyway the graphic has now been changed and there is NO aircraft. Attached is the new graphic ( i've added a red cross in the sky to show where the aircraft was in the original) My interest has now been fired as Darkstar is a pretty dead program with no new action so why take the trouble to alter a dead end page like this?? Anyway does anyone recall the image or have a copy???
 

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Just call me Ray

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What kind of engine does it have? The FAS article only makes mention of Williams International being the manufacturer, which means that it could be anywhere from a few lbs (obviously doubtful) to a few thousand lbs of thrust.
 

AeroFranz

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Just call me Ray said:
What kind of engine does it have? The FAS article only makes mention of Williams International being the manufacturer, which means that it could be anywhere from a few lbs (obviously doubtful) to a few thousand lbs of thrust.

are you talking about Darkstar? It had an FJ44, 1,900lbs sealevel thrust, IIRC.
 

flateric

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andyl said:
From what i can remember the aircraft looked a bit like the Northrop XST stealth demonstrator design -but it wasn't this.

I know what you are talking about. Confirm. But it's as hard to find that ppt or pdf on my HDD as on the web so far...
 

flateric

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Well, this is original slide from Charles E. Heber, Jr. Director, DARPA HAE UAV Program Office presentation
file is as as from 1997

but I remember I saw UAV you was talking somewhere in other presentation...
question remains where exactly
 

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andyl

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thanks for confirming that i wasn't going mad flateric! i can't recall whether it was a uav or a manned aircraft in the drawing. As i remember i couldn't tell whether it showed an intake or a cockpit at the front but it definitely seemed to me to be a represention of something real rather than just an abstract doodle to represent the capabilty.
 

Matej

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I am a bit skeptic about "something real" but we will see. After seeing Stavatti S-26 Stalma in the brochure with the description that it is PAK FA, from that moment I think that everything is possible :D
 

sagallacci

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I just went there and the whole article, including the "dark star" machine, was there. I'll be there was a connection problem that didn't bring it all up before? The machine, or a mock up of it, is hanging at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
 

CFE

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In 2003, AWST was reporting unverified claims that a Darkstar follow-on was used in the opening phase of OIF. Since then, there's been no info to corroborate the claim.

As for the XST-looking aircraft in the drawing, it may be notional or a placeholder in the drawing, rather than representative of a real aircraft configuration. Just look at the notional AFRL "Long Range Strike Aircraft" with no vertical stabilizers and a highly-swept triangular shape.
 

blackstar

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CFE said:
In 2003, AWST was reporting unverified claims that a Darkstar follow-on was used in the opening phase of OIF. Since then, there's been no info to corroborate the claim.

AWST has made a number of these claims in the past about top secret aircraft that never ever show up. Remember that they claimed that a fleet of "TR-3 Mantas" were used in the opening phase of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Eighteen years later and nobody has seen any of these planes.

Sweetman has also reported that a stealthy drone was being used over Iran, I believe.
 

Clioman

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Sweetman is currently claiming assurances (from unidentified sources) of the existence of U.S. "classified fast-jet UCAVs" and being "told by a U.S. Air Force official...that UCAVs and directed energy weapons are in the same office at Air Combat Command and that 'there was a reason' for that juxtapostion." See "'Dark' Future," AW&ST, March 9, 2009, p. 27.
 

LowObservable

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Or as someone said to me once: "Have you ever wondered how the DarkStar got built so quickly"?

Doyyyyy.

That program started earlier than the official story would have it and I suspect that it finished later, if indeed it finished at all.
 

quellish

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LowObservable said:
Or as someone said to me once: "Have you ever wondered how the DarkStar got built so quickly"?

Doyyyyy.

That program started earlier than the official story would have it and I suspect that it finished later, if indeed it finished at all.

It was still different enough from it's predecessor that the software wasn't as reusable as originally though. That proved to be an issue.
 

flateric

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Clioman said:
Sweetman is currently claiming assurances (from unidentified sources) of the existence of U.S. "classified fast-jet UCAVs" and being "told by a U.S. Air Force official...that UCAVs and directed energy weapons are in the same office at Air Combat Command and that 'there was a reason' for that juxtapostion." See "'Dark' Future," AW&ST, March 9, 2009, p. 27.


This one?

 

andyl

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ok i've made a sketch as to how i remember it as then maybe someone will know what it was. In reference to matej and CFE's posts i got the feeling it was to represent something of some substance mainly because it was quite a refined shape/ design with particular features and that it was actually quite a lot harder to draw than the darkstar and other items so why waste the time and effort on it otherwise??? as i recall it was a flying wing design with twin inward canted rudders a la sr-71 and a sort of hump in the middle, some sawtooth going on at the back and maybe the leading edge was 'cranked' a bit. It was drawn in pespective and at the correct angle to fit the drawing. to get all these angles looking right is actually a real pain in the butt (as you can see in my attempt!!) - however i remember it looking small and neat and concise. I agree with CFE when he talks about one aircraft concept just being represented by a triangle - that makes sense - it's quick and simple, but to take time to draw something more complicated doesn't to me - after all time is money. I remember it seemed to be at about the same altitude as darkstar in the schematic with information going from darkstar to it but it was a fair while ago. Any ideas???
 

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CFE

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I have to say that I share in the skepticism towards the more sensational claims by Sweetman and by AWST. When I was younger I was drawn the the Sweetman books, which were packed with giant, colorful and glossy airplane photos. They made for perfect "airplane porn," so to speak. As I got older and learned the fundamentals of aero engineering, I took a much more nuanced view of how difficult and expensive it would be to pull off the fantastic feats that Sweetman & AWST proclaimed. I'm afriad that the Darkstar follow-on story, much like Blackstar and Aurora before it, probably bears little semblance to reality.
 

flateric

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Well, guys, I'm personally cxeptic about Aurora, but regarding other Sweetman's claims, the fact that USAF didn't declassify something 18 years after ABSOLUTELY does not proof that something don't exist. Remember declassification time gaps with BoP or BSAX, Polecat, etc. Classified programs did exist, do exist, many of them are UAV and shurely, many of them are ADPs.
 

LowObservable

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Well, this is the original quote:

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3A27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3A973622d0-0736-43a6-893f-813b9e048e30
 

quellish

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flateric said:
Well, guys, I'm personally cxeptic about Aurora, but regarding other Sweetman's claims, the fact that USAF didn't declassify something 18 years after ABSOLUTELY does not proof that something don't exist. Remember declassification time gaps with BoP or BSAX, Polecat, etc. Classified programs did exist, do exist, many of them are UAV and shurely, many of them are ADPs.

A number of these may also have been contractor funded like BoP, which puts the ball in their court. While DoD may have the final say on declassification, a contractor has no motivation to give up something it considers a trade secret until they have reason to believe it would be in their interest. BoP was not brought out of the black until the techniques it pioneered became industry best practices. Polecat was made public to show that Lockmart was not out of the UAV game yet.
 

flateric

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CFE said:
In 2003, AWST was reporting unverified claims that a Darkstar follow-on was used in the opening phase of OIF. Since then, there's been no info to corroborate the claim.

A Classified Lockheed Martin Unmanned Reconnaissance Aircraft Was Used in Iraq

Jul 6, 2003
By David A. Fulghum

STEALTH UAV GOES TO WAR

Not a lot has been written about new products from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works during the last couple of years, but aerospace officials say the advanced projects company has produced prototypes of a classified, unmanned aerial vehicle--built strictly as an intelligence-gathering aircraft--that "has been used" operationally over Iraq.

The aircraft is described by a U.S. Air Force official as a derivative of the "DarkStar" (Tier 3-minus) program that was canceled after the demonstration aircraft was test flown and then declared operationally unsuitable. The new Lockheed Martin UAV is "highly reliable," in part because of a much improved flight control system, the Air Force official said. "It's the same concept as DarkStar, it's stealthy, and it uses the same apertures and data links," he said. "The numbers are limited. There are a couple of airframes, a ground station and spare parts."

The classified UAV's operation caused consternation among USAF U-2 pilots who noticed high-flying aircraft operating within several miles of their routes over Iraq, a distance they considered too close for comfort. The mysterious aircrafts' flights were not coordinated with those of the other manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, they said.

"It has the hull form of the DarkStar, only it's bigger," agreed a U.S. Navy official. "It's still far from a production aircraft, but the Air Force wanted to go ahead and get it out there. They have to determine if the intelligence they can gather from it is worth paying several times more than the cost of the [non-stealthy] Global Hawk."

Lockheed Martin conceded the non-stealthy UAV role to Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, but company officials then committed themselves to a full court press to ensure they had a significant share of the Pentagon's stealthy UAV market.

FOR THE LAST DECADE, the Air Force and studies by Rand and other research organizations have expressed unwavering support of the need for a penetrating low-observable UAV, so the existence of the program comes as no surprise to other aerospace officials. The only surprise is that an early version of the aircraft has seen operational use so quickly.

A second Air Force official who once had oversight of UAV and unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) programs also described the Lockheed Martin UAV as a "DarkStar-like thing." The problems that loomed large in the project were flight controls, command and control and stealthy apertures--in particular low probability of intercept (LPI) communications antennas, he said. The aircraft is given new tasks, and intelligence is downloaded through satellite links. Therefore, the antennas have to be on top of the aircraft to shield them from electronic surveillance. Infrared signature reduction was also in the design.

The Lockheed Martin aircraft that has been used operationally is a non-production version of the design with more limited performance, particularly in altitude, an aerospace official said. The second Air Force official agreed that "getting the [new designs] out there and using them is the right thing to do," to help introduce the capability.

Boeing also has a classified UAV that serves as a testbed for designing and testing new stealth capabilities, the second Air Force official said. The conventional takeoff and landing UAV is a modular design that allows company researchers to fly it in various shapes and configurations. For example, different wings, tails and noses have been tested on the aircraft. In fact, he contends that Boeing has had a more aggressive program of investments in advanced stealth technology over the last several years than Lockheed Martin.

Those familiar with the Lockheed Martin program often describe it by what it is not. It is smaller and carries a "less robust" payload than the U-2. Its size is said to be a deliberate calculation by Lockheed Martin and the Air Force to avoid threatening the manned U2 program. Other Air Force officials said there is no conflict because the U2 is getting old, becoming expensive to operate and the program has had a problem with retaining enough pilots trained to keep up with operational demands. "Unless they build new U-2s, the aircraft aren't sustainable over the long haul," the second Air Force official said.

The UAV also lacks the endurance of the Predator or Global Hawk UAVs. Nonetheless, the aircraft's ability to "dwell" over a target area for several hours is highly valued. Its surveillance package options include an LPI synthetic aperture radar salvaged from the Navy's A-12 program as well as infrared and electro-optical sensors (AW&ST June 4, 2001, p. 30). The Air Force has had a long-standing requirement for a very-low-observable, high-altitude UAV that can fly 1,000 naut. mi. to a target, penetrate modern air defenses such as the SA-10, SA-12 and SA-20 anti-aircraft missile systems, loiter for at least 8 hr. and return to base.

Those familiar with operational concepts for aircraft that need to be kept out of sight suggested that Al Udeid AB, Qatar, with its lengthened runways and new drive-through hardened hangars--which were off-limits to reporters during this year's conflict with Iraq--would have offered an ideal base for the UAVs. Its proximity to Iraq would have permitted maximum surveillance time over the well-defended areas around Baghdad in the pre-war period. Visual sightings would have been avoided by restricting operations to the hours between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m.

The Defense Dept. plans to spend $23.3 billion in Fiscal 2004 ($11.3 billion on weapons procurement and $11.8 billion for research and development), according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Classified acquisition funding has increased by about 75% since Fiscal 1995, the report said. It also noted that the Air Force's budget request contains 75% of the Defense Dept.'s classified acquisition funding and that classified programs account for 37% ($10.9 billion) of the service's procurement request and 32% ($6.6 billion) of its research and development requests. The budget is inflated each year by Air Force spending on behalf of the CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and National Reconnaissance Office.

NSA, for example, has responsibility for intercepting and decoding foreign messages. But the proliferation of cell phone technology has overwhelmed the ability of the nation's signals intelligence-gathering satellites to collect and analyze much of this data. The answer may be communications intelligence payloads fitted to UAVs. The unmanned aircraft offer a more flexible schedule than satellites, can observe operations far longer and are cheaper, said UAV advocates.

The U.S. flew Ryan-built "Combat Dawn" UAVs into North Korea, China and North Vietnam in the 1970s. Later, at least three "black" UAV programs--Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System ($500 million each), "Quartz" ($200 million) and Tier-3 ($150 million)--were planned and then canceled for high costs.

In addition to the intelligence-gathering UAV that Lockheed Martin developed using its own money, the Skunk Works also has been developing a classified UCAV demonstration program at least since 2000 with the idea of competing against Boeing's X-45 and Northrop Grumman's X-47 UCAV demonstrators (AW&ST Sept. 25, 2000, p. 28). Now Northrop Grumman, as the prime contractor, and Lockheed Martin have announced last week that they will collaborate on UCAV projects under the newly established Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-led joint program office.

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_generic.jsp?channel=awst&id=news/07073news.xml
 

AeroFranz

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wow, the scary part is when they say this thing flies higher than a U-2, so at least > 65,000'.

The Lockheed Martin aircraft that has been used operationally is a non-production version of the design with more limited performance, particularly in altitude, an aerospace official said.

That must be some serious engine that they have in there. The AE3007H of Global hawk runs out of breath at 71,000', and smaller engines are going to surge even more easily. Unless they are using a turbojet with higher compression ratio...
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Was there a graphic in one of the Air Force 2025 studies similar to what the OP described?
 

quellish

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Sadly, I suspect the graphic you are thinking of may not have actually been on this page. I do recall something like what you are talking about, but looking over most of the life of that page:
http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://fas.org/irp/program/collect/darkstar.htm
I so far do no see what you seek
(yes, looking for this has been on my to-do list for THIS LONG)
 

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Interestingly (?) there is a line drawing of the Darkstar on the official USAF website, along with lots of other in-service aircraft.

http://www.af.mil/art/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=71&page=19
 

quellish

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Vpanoptes said:
Interestingly (?) there is a line drawing of the Darkstar on the official USAF website, along with lots of other in-service aircraft.

http://www.af.mil/art/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=71&page=19

The F-4G and F-117 are also in there :p
 

The Artist

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Vpanoptes said:
Interestingly (?) there is a line drawing of the Darkstar on the official USAF website, along with lots of other in-service aircraft.

http://www.af.mil/art/mediagallery.asp?galleryID=71&page=19

I'd say that the inclusion of a Darkstar drawing there means nothing more than the fact that they have an image of the thing that is available for public viewing and for use in Air Force publications and media. These pages look to be the Air Force's clearing house for clip-art. At first I thought this collection was part of the Air Force Art Program (and it may still be associated with it) but I didn't see any works by Ferris, McCall, Gallaway, Asher or others who's work I know to be in the collection.
 

Mr London 24/7

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XP67_Moonbat said:
Was there a graphic in one of the Air Force 2025 studies similar to what the OP described?

Yes, the 'Strikestar'...:

http://csat.au.af.mil/2025/volume3/vol3ch13.pdf
 

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Abraham Gubler

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Many of those images are associated with fact sheets about aircraft on display at the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio. The only hint of conspiracy is the desire to promote the museum...
 

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