Lockheed Martin TR-X (RQ-X/UQ-2)

bobbymike

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http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-skunk-works-designing-next-gen-u-2-spy-plane-415842/

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is designing a next-generation high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) surveillance airplane, known internally as RQ-X or UQ-2, as an optionally-manned successor to the U-2 and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

U-2 programme officials told reporters at the Skunk Works headquarters in Palmdale, California, that its engineers have been mulling designs for stealthy HALE platform that would combine the best of the U-2 and its unmanned rival, the Global Hawk.

The advanced research and development arm of Lockheed is essentially pursuing an improved version of the U-2, which is powered by the same General Electric F118 engine and optimised to fly at 70,000ft or higher. It would carry many of the same sensors, since those are already calibrated for use at that altitude. The biggest difference will be the aircraft’s low-observable characteristics
 

Flyaway

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Isn't this what NG's RQ-180 is alleged to do in a completely unmanned way?
 

flateric

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http://m.aviationweek.com/defense/skunk-works-studies-stealthy-u-2-replacement
 

sferrin

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Flyaway said:
Isn't this what NG's RQ-180 is alleged to do in a completely unmanned way?

Unmanned isn't the be all and end all.
 

totoro

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actually, when talking about u2 profile missions - very high altitude, steady cruise over predetermined area - i don't really see the benefit of having a pilot present. at the same time, i very much see the benefit of a ton lighter airframe without cockpit/pilot, less draggy profile, potentially smaller RCS due to intake positioned where cockpit was.

If u2 is to change the area of interest mid flight, it needs satellite comm active. So same limits apply as with unmanned. if whole recce run is predetermined before flight (most likely version) then an autopilot can do the same job.

if enemy shows up/breaks through -u2 is as good as dead anyway. in the same situation, lower rcs achieved by unamanned design may offer a bit more chance of survival.

unmanned is far from being close to replace combat ops. but when it comes to dedicated high altitude recce - i do believe its time has come.
 

sferrin

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totoro said:
actually, when talking about u2 profile missions - very high altitude, steady cruise over predetermined area - i don't really see the benefit of having a pilot present. at the same time, i very much see the benefit of a ton lighter airframe without cockpit/pilot, less draggy profile, potentially smaller RCS due to intake positioned where cockpit was.

The USAF seems to disagree with you. Given they've been operating both manned and unmanned aircraft longer than you have, I'd tend to think they have a better grasp of the advantages/disadvantages. A manned aircraft is much more versatile and able to cope with nasty surprises than an unmanned aircraft, particularly if your communications links go down.
 

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media reporting aside, we'll see what the actual future will bring. ;)
 

Dynoman

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Remember in December of 2011 when the Iranian's claimed to jam both ground-command and space-based GPS signals to an RQ-170, then redirected the drone by using an Avtobaza radar jamming system supplied by the Russians. Manned systems are vulnerable granted, but when considering a heavily laden EW environment where the tactical recce target is extremely valuable, the flexibility and reduced vulnerability to EW of a manned system can not be dismissed.

As an aside, the manned versions can also be possible export versions for allies, a broader market for Lockheed than just the USAF.
 

Stargazer2006

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totoro said:
actually, when talking about u2 profile missions - very high altitude, steady cruise over predetermined area - i don't really see the benefit of having a pilot present. at the same time, i very much see the benefit of a ton lighter airframe without cockpit/pilot, less draggy profile, potentially smaller RCS due to intake positioned where cockpit was.

Actually, I don't even see the benefit of having stealthy characteristics when flying at very high altitudes, given the fact that stealth has always been described as useless at such distances. Of course there is the takeoff and landing phases, but if the plane leaves from and lands in America or an American-friendly zone, it will be off limits when it flies high over sensitive territory. Or is "stealth" not really stealth here, as in nothing to do with shape or coatings but rather a highly sophisticated array of jamming devices?
 

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Well, SR-71 had stealthy elements so i guess they don't find it completely useless at high altitudes.
 

Stargazer2006

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flanker said:
Well, SR-71 had stealthy elements so i guess they don't find it completely useless at high altitudes.

Someone please tell me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember that the concept of "stealth aircraft" as we know it wasn't out until 1973, and that whatever stealth characteristics some aircraft might have had prior to that were purely incidental... The Blackbird's "stealthy elements" were just the result of trying to obtain the most aerodynamic and therefore fastest aircraft possible, which in some cases made for desirable radar elusive characteristics I suppose, but not the pursued goal, especially not for an airplane designed in 1960.
 

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The US Air Force has no formal requirement for a U-2 successor, nor has it released a time frame for when it might start pursing a next-generation HALE platform.

But U-2 programme director Melani Austin says Skunk Works see a future need and would be remiss to not have something in development.

Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-skunk-works-designing-next-gen-u-2-spy-plane-415842/

Darn! :'(
 

sferrin

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Skyblazer said:
flanker said:
Well, SR-71 had stealthy elements so i guess they don't find it completely useless at high altitudes.

Someone please tell me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember that the concept of "stealth aircraft" as we know it wasn't out until 1973, and that whatever stealth characteristics some aircraft might have had prior to that were purely incidental... The Blackbird's "stealthy elements" were just the result of trying to obtain the most aerodynamic and therefore fastest aircraft possible, which in some cases made for desirable radar elusive characteristics I suppose, but not the pursued goal, especially not for an airplane designed in 1960.

You should go read up on the Blackbird and Kingfish. RCS reduction was HIGH on the list of desired characteristics. There are pictures of both on this site, on poles for RCS testing, showing their serrated wing edges (specifically for RCS reduction). It's why they both had inclined vertical tails. And that sharp edge all the way around the perimeter of the Blackbird wasn't just for speed either. Look at every modern stealth aircraft and you'll also see that edge. The D-21 drone was right there with them.
 

flanker

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Skyblazer said:
flanker said:
Well, SR-71 had stealthy elements so i guess they don't find it completely useless at high altitudes.

Someone please tell me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember that the concept of "stealth aircraft" as we know it wasn't out until 1973, and that whatever stealth characteristics some aircraft might have had prior to that were purely incidental... The Blackbird's "stealthy elements" were just the result of trying to obtain the most aerodynamic and therefore fastest aircraft possible, which in some cases made for desirable radar elusive characteristics I suppose, but not the pursued goal, especially not for an airplane designed in 1960.

No, you are quite mistaken. RCS measurement with and without exhaust cones (ie ab exhaust was also effecting RCS) was not incidental and neither were specific RCS features. Boeing's Quiet Bird was from 1962 and that was not an accident either.

They didn't have solid theoretical foundation that Petr Ufimtsev provided, but that doesnt mean they were completely clueless.
 

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flanker

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Another relevant picture with the exhaust cones.
 

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Ian33

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A flattened diamond shaped body, F117 style tails, top mounted intake, and long wings.

Manned.
 

bobbymike

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Could it be said that the start of consideration of RCS was with the observation of the smaller cross section of the YB-49 when it first flew in the late '40s, or would that be too premature?
 

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German u-boats had radar-absorbant material applied to snorkel masts during WW2, so the overall idea of RCS reduction goes back at least that far.
 

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I'm not disputing anything of what has been written here, of course! And I never said RCS reduction had never been a concern before the 1970s! And I do know Kingfish, Quiet Bird and the rest...

What I was talking about was the notion of "stealth" for an aircraft, a concept that was only formalized in 1973 officially, and not even classified until 1977-78, when the first results of RCS signature on stealth designs showed it to be beyond all expectations. Previously RCS reduction was one of many desirable features for a design, but not a primary concern.

Incidentally, another topic today reminds us that when the ATF contestants presented their projects in the early 1980s, it is said that they had not thought of "stealth" as a feature of any of their designs. To me this clearly indicates that the concept was far from being a given, even at the time.
 

sublight is back

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Skyblazer said:
... and not even classified until 1977-78, when the first results of RCS signature on stealth designs showed it to be beyond all expectations.
It was the first publicly acknowledged foray into stealth because we couldn't deploy them in an operationally useful way without bringing down the level of classification surrounding them. As Flanker said above, Quiet Bird predates Have Blue by many years, and very little is available on that effort. It makes one wonder how many stealth efforts by the Army/CIA/Navy are still classified.
 

red admiral

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bobbymike said:
Could it be said that the start of consideration of RCS was with the observation of the smaller cross section of the YB-49 when it first flew in the late '40s, or would that be too premature?

The UK did some theoretical work on the basis for RAM in mid WW2. Not sure whether they built and test at that point.

Next bit along is the stealth Canberra testbed with RAM and IR signature reduction methods that underwent model tests and wasincorporated onto an actual aircraft.
 

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sublight is back said:
What Lockheed ought to do is position this platform as a Stratospheric Welsbach seeder, seeing as how we just had the hottest month in recorded history....

Using aerospace and chemical engineering to solve a physical problem? Pfff. That's crazysauce. Everybody knows that if there is a physics-based issue, you deal with it (not "solve" it; that's cisnormative patriarchal western imperialism talk right there, buddy) with *social* engineering.
 

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Orionblamblam said:
sublight is back said:
What Lockheed ought to do is position this platform as a Stratospheric Welsbach seeder, seeing as how we just had the hottest month in recorded history....

Using aerospace and chemical engineering to solve a physical problem? Pfff. That's crazysauce. Everybody knows that if there is a physics-based issue, you deal with it (not "solve" it; that's cisnormative patriarchal western imperialism talk right there, buddy) with *social* engineering.

"Deal with it" sounds extremely violent. You should have issued a TRIGGER WARNING notifying the faint of heart of your neoconservative, bigoted, redneck, knuckle-dragging, personal world view. Or somethin' ;)
 

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sferrin said:
"Deal with it" sounds extremely violent. You should have issued a TRIGGER WARNING notifying the faint of heart of your neoconservative, bigoted, redneck, knuckle-dragging, personal world view. Or somethin' ;)

3fd6cf7b2ebfb799a9cef035db8d74cc_500.gif
 

quellish

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Skyblazer said:
What I was talking about was the notion of "stealth" for an aircraft, a concept that was only formalized in 1973 officially, and not even classified until 1977-78, when the first results of RCS signature on stealth designs showed it to be beyond all expectations. Previously RCS reduction was one of many desirable features for a design, but not a primary concern.


1975 was when RCS reduction went from art to science - analytical tools advanced to the point that an object could be designed and built with a far greater RCS reduction than previously possible. RCS could be predicted with a high degree of fidelity (with some caveats) without building and testing models. This allowed designers to iterate much more quickly and resulted in RF signatures that were much more tailored than previous designs . Several earlier designs certainly did have a low RF signature as a primary goal but the newer tools redefined what "low" could be.
 

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quellish said:
1975 was when RCS reduction went from art to science - analytical tools advanced to the point that an object could be designed and built with a far greater RCS reduction than previously possible. RCS could be predicted with a high degree of fidelity (with some caveats) without building and testing models. This allowed designers to iterate much more quickly and resulted in RF signatures that were much more tailored than previous designs . Several earlier designs certainly did have a low RF signature as a primary goal but the newer tools redefined what "low" could be.

Thanks a lot, quellish.
 

Flyaway

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I wonder how far their development has got with this project, just on paper I suppose?
 

Sundog

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Skyblazer said:
I'm not disputing anything of what has been written here, of course! And I never said RCS reduction had never been a concern before the 1970s! And I do know Kingfish, Quiet Bird and the rest...

What I was talking about was the notion of "stealth" for an aircraft, a concept that was only formalized in 1973 officially, and not even classified until 1977-78, when the first results of RCS signature on stealth designs showed it to be beyond all expectations. Previously RCS reduction was one of many desirable features for a design, but not a primary concern.

Incidentally, another topic today reminds us that when the ATF contestants presented their projects in the early 1980s, it is said that they had not thought of "stealth" as a feature of any of their designs. To me this clearly indicates that the concept was far from being a given, even at the time.




As noted upthread, I can't recommend From Rainbow to Gusto enough. It's about the development of early modern stealth in the 50's coupled with the development of the Blackbird.
 

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Sundog said:
As noted upthread, I can't recommend From Rainbow to Gusto enough. It's about the development of early modern stealth in the 50's coupled with the development of the Blackbird.

I couldn't agree more. Well worth your time.
 

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The way I read the RQ180 bit is that it is not a solution for all future ISR missions and is more tuned to provide the very high end mission therefore not being affordable enough to replace either the U-2 or the Global Hawk. It could also mean that the program did not result in a workable vehicle and is likely to have been cancelled or had its production reduced considerably.
 

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What sort of thing would make it too expensive to pursue?

I hadn't the impression that this was anything more than VLO and subsonic, but clearly there is more to it than that.
 

bring_it_on

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mrmalaya said:
What sort of thing would make it too expensive to pursue?

I hadn't the impression that this was anything more than VLO and subsonic, but clearly there is more to it than that.

Amount of stealth, autonomy and perhaps even the payload. Lockheed is talking about reusing the same engine and even the same software and hardware modules. That would be my guess. Also there could be issues with controlling cost and design when the goal was to produce a Extremely Low RCS, embedded sensors and high altitude performance as has been suggested for that vehicle. The first impression one gets when one reads the little that has been written about it is that it is likely to be expensive and definitely not something that can come in and replace the entire ISR mission from the very high end it is designed for to the bread and butter stuff that the U-2's and the Global Hawks provide the commanders.

It’s designed to be a cheaper platform, so you’re not going to get into the exquisite stuff unless that’s something that you need to do. If it’s something that’s going to be a workhorse with the latest in technology and platform design, you’re more talking tactical reconnaissance rather than strategic reconnaissance. Winstead imagines a fleet of about 25 to 30 aircraft depending on the endurance requirement, which is how force planners calculate how many aircraft are needed to maintain a single 24h orbit over a target.

There are 17 operational U-2s and 21 Global Hawks meeting the US government’s global high-altitude ISR needs. It takes five manned U-2s or three Global Hawks to maintain one 24h orbit.

Winstead says the Global Hawk probably has more endurance than it needs, since it can stay aloft for 34h but normally flies 19h-missions.

“If you want a 20h to 22h aircraft we’re able to keep the size down,” he says. “That’s where we think is going to be the sweet spot in tactical reconnaissance, and so that’s going to drive our numbers.”

Lockheed’s says its next-generation U-2 proposal is aimed squarely at the air force, and is not currently being considered for the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US government agency.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-skunk-works-next-generation-u-2-morphs-int-416709/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diiyr0i-Jak
 

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Flight Global article on the TR-X.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/lockheed-skunk-works-next-generation-u-2-morphs-int-416709/
 

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flateric

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Air Force Magazine

Lockheed Promotes TR-X U-2 Replacement


—JOHN A. TIRPAK9/15/2015
​Lockheed Martin is preparing an unsolicited offer to the Air Force for a “TR-X” replacement for the U-2, and could have something flying by 2025 if given the go-ahead. Scott Winstead, company U-2 strategic business manager, said at a press briefing during ASC​15 that the aircraft would be a cost-effective way to continue the “complementary” role of the U-2 with the RQ-4 Global Hawk because it could re-use the U-2S General Electric F414 engines, which have a lot of life left in them, as well as many of the U-2’s unique sensors and reconnaissance systems. What would be new, he said, is an airframe that would be stealthy enough to survive in heavily defended airspace. As it stands, the U-2S has enough structural life to serve until 2045, he said, but conditions will change long before then, requiring more survivability. The notional TR-X could also perform electronic warfare, communications node, and even laser attack missions. Winstead said a fleet of 25-30 airplanes would be sufficient to take over the duties now performed by 18 U-2s and 25 Global Hawks. The design would change, however, if the Air Force wants an aircraft able to fly at 90,000 feet. That, Winstead said, “would require new engines.” The notional design would have a longer airframe and somewhat larger wings and elevators than the U-2; it could be optionally manned, but more likely unmanned if USAF wants endurance of longer than 20-22 hours. The U-2S limit today—driven by the endurance of the pilot—is about 14 hours. Asked about prospects for a sale—given that the U-2 has been terminated and resurrected several times—Winstead said “the design will have to sell itself.” The notional name, TR-X, harkens back to when the U-2 was called the TR-1, and had a distinctly tactical mission. Lockheed sees a similar role for the jet in the future, Winstead noted.
 
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