Northrop Grumman "RQ-180"

The hangar at the coordinates given is next to a new, large ramp / apron that appears to be full of fighter sun shelters.

I did a quick search online for construction contracts and solicitations for Al Dhafra. There are quite a few as the base has been constantly changing and expanding over the years. The hangar and ramp in question was constructed between 2020 and 2023, which did narrow things down.

The hangar is called the "Large Aircraft Maintenance Hangar", awarded as contract W912ER19C0015 in response to solicitation W912ER-19-R-0001 by US Army Corps of Engineers Middle East. There are building plans, site plans, etc. available online through SAM, HigherGov, GovTribe, etc. that lay out the plan for the site. This is a hangar to support the many fighter aircraft that will be using the new ramp. It is not very secluded as there are many, many fighters being parked right in front of it.
Thank you Quellish!

I disagree with your assessment of the platform in front of the hangar. The white things aren’t buildings but it’s painted on the tarmac. You can clearly see that cars and trucks next to it cast a shadow while the white markings don’t. Also you can see some black marks going over and on both sides of the white paintings, indicating that it’s a more or less flat surface.

I would say this is a (maybe slightly elevated) calibration target, and definitely not shelters for fighters - unless they are to be built in the near future. There are plenty of examples of shelters at other places on the base and they look very different.

Of course that doesn’t prove it’s a RQ-180 hangar. But it’s a possibility.
 
It seems like an unnecessarily close and public site for an aircraft that probably has a double digit hour endurance. It is not that comparatively remote, IMO. Guam and Diego could cover everything from Syria to Kamchatka if the endurance is anything like MQ-4, which seems likely.
 
Thank you Quellish!

I disagree with your assessment of the platform in front of the hangar. The white things aren’t buildings but it’s painted on the tarmac. You can clearly see that cars and trucks next to it cast a shadow while the white markings don’t. Also you can see some black marks going over and on both sides of the white paintings, indicating that it’s a more or less flat surface.

I can't be certain if the white things are shelters, pained on the ground, or are concrete being added. The Google Earth imagery is not good enough to rule out shelters.
Looking at more recent commercial satellite imagery it does appear that whatever it is is growing.

Of course that doesn’t prove it’s a RQ-180 hangar. But it’s a possibility.

The large paved area is marked as a ramp/apron for fighters in various documents. You can see it being graded on YouTube:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftqP80vILnI


The hangar is intended to maintain the transports and fighters that will be parked there. The F?Y17 DoD and Air Force construction (C-1) budget documents go into more detail on the hangar and the justification for it.

Notably, on the architectural plans there are no secure spaces nor any humidity control requirements - both would be expected with a secret, stealth aircraft.
 

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I can't be certain if the white things are shelters, pained on the ground, or are concrete being added. The Google Earth imagery is not good enough to rule out shelters.
Looking at more recent commercial satellite imagery it does appear that whatever it is is growing.



The large paved area is marked as a ramp/apron for fighters in various documents. You can see it being graded on YouTube:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftqP80vILnI


The hangar is intended to maintain the transports and fighters that will be parked there. The F?Y17 DoD and Air Force construction (C-1) budget documents go into more detail on the hangar and the justification for it.

Notably, on the architectural plans there are no secure spaces nor any humidity control requirements - both would be expected with a secret, stealth aircraft.
Thank you Quellish, you’ve obviously gone much deeper into this than me so I’m happy to accept your explanation.

But perhaps you could do an educated guess where Shikaka’s lair in the Middle East might be?
 
Thank you Quellish, you’ve obviously gone much deeper into this than me so I’m happy to accept your explanation.

The above was the result of only a few minutes of searching.
I mentioned newer satellite images. To satisfy my curiosity yesterday I purchased two satellite images of that area from SkyFi (https://www.skyfi.com). Each image is from the Jilin-1 satellite constellation and has a ground resolution of 0.75m. The total cost of the images was $40 and they were taken in June and August of this year. Both images were orthorectified by SkyFi. I scaled the images down 50% to fit in the forum's file size limits. SkyFi's license allows for sharing the images on social media and the web, unlike most other satellite image providers.

DharfaSkyFiComparison.jpg

You can see that the white "things" on the parking apron / ramp are growing, slowly. I would guess these are concrete and this is how the parking area is being "paved" or finished.

But perhaps you could do an educated guess where Shikaka’s lair in the Middle East might be?

Assuming that the "RQ-180" actually does exist, I would say the location would be "WORLDWIDE CLASSIFIED".

Facilities for classified programs come out of the budget of those programs. The construction contracts, budget line items, etc. will point back to the parent program. For example, a few years ago I located two construction projects - a hangar and a storage facility - that were funded from a long running, very classified program. Both projects were not in classified locations but were supporting the classified program. In other cases there have been instances of construction at "CLASSIFIED CONUS" that corresponded to activity at Groom Lake.

"WORLDWIDE CLASSIFIED" would denote a classified location outside the US.
 
Thank you Quellish, you’ve obviously gone much deeper into this than me so I’m happy to accept your explanation.

But perhaps you could do an educated guess where Shikaka’s lair in the Middle East might be?
If the beast has a 20 hour endurance, why does it need a lair in the Middle East at all? Especially if there's hangars at Diego Garcia and Guam already...
 
You can see that the white "things" on the parking apron / ramp are growing, slowly. I would guess these are concrete and this is how the parking area is being "paved" or finished.

That is in fact a parking apron being surfaced, I see this sort of activity in imagery all the time.
 
That is in fact a parking apron being surfaced, I see this sort of activity in imagery all the time.

I'm not familiar with how it's done. To an untrained eye, these look almost like precast pavers being laid rather than concrete being poured in place. Is that correct or am I way off base?
 
A while back, someone pointed out a secure hangar at Beale Air force Base but it's likely more of a schoolhouse than a base of operations. Also, observers have noticed some new hangars at RAF Fairford in England where operations are expected to take place predominantly during nighttime hours. U-2 flights from Fairford have no such restrictions.

Funny you should mention this, there are rumbles around the spotting enthusiast community about the new hangars and what may go into them.

First i got to see was end of February 2022 when I went to see the Minot B-52H deployment, but ended up seeing the pair of resident U-2S Dragon Lady with C-SPAN take off, and the construction so here are my photos below.

fairford_new_builds_1.jpg fairford_new_builds_2.jpg fairford_new_builds_3.jpg fairford_new_builds_4.jpg fairford_new_builds_5.jpg

Sadly I missed the first two Buffs departing at 5 am for 12 hour mission....

So fast forward to Royal international Air Tattoo five months later in July last year and my photo of newly finished

fairford_new_builds_6.jpg

Then to 2 months ago at Royal International Air Tattoo 2023, my photos of our Blackjack Typhoon Display and Spanish Armada EAV-8B Matador II taxiing past new hangar

fairford_new_builds_7.jpg fairford_new_builds_8.jpg fairford_new_builds_9.jpg

Various theories were / are

1) I thought perhaps expansion of Fairford partially due to Ukraine et al (but budget for construction came out of previous years fiscal) - for either more B-52H, B-2, .. but hangars too small


2) People thought these were more for likes of KC-135R / KC-46A return to the days when Fairford (and its predecessor Greenham Common) were the European Tanker Task Force (ETTF) temp home 60s-80s.


3) Or that both the USAF ACC and RAF RC-135 Rivet Joints were going to move to Fairford from both Mildenhall and RAF Waddington, partially co-locating / sharing assets as still hear Waddington runway isnt 100 peercent suitable, even after then years when construction was finished.

4) More recent one @Whisperstream says, again not sure if it is a wind up by enthusiasts as they tend to spread fake news and what not to wind up everyone else, is something classified and that these new hangars are built specifically for a platform. Its implied that whatever is going to be based there it soon, before xmas.

5) back to my point 4, could it be something unmnned?? I am thinking Global Hawk ...


Any ideas please?

cheers
 
Well I guess at the next RIAT you'll see if they keep the hangar doors shut tight or not to indicate whether there is anything juicy in there.
 
Global hawk would not be classified.


I know but the deployment of one might be played down, then again I can’t see unmanned assets (partially due to our CAA and NATS) having day day out operation. I know the NATO AGS Global Hawk is regularly operating over med from Sigonella no issues with Italian Mil or civil / USN ATC or Eurocontrol for that matter.

So judging from my photos what a/c likely to be housed in there.

cheers
 
Global hawk would not be classified.

hang on, is the Global Hawk not being retired in next few years / decade?


cheers
 
hang on, is the Global Hawk not being retired in next few years / decade?


cheers
I think they are retiring everything but Block 40s. A number of the early versions have already been converted to hypersonic range instrumentation aircraft. The open source theory is that early retirement is due to RQ-180 effectively replacing it. The USN has also curtailed its purchase of the Triton version from five orbits down to three. The issue seems to be survivability.
 
I think they are retiring everything but Block 40s. A number of the early versions have already been converted to hypersonic range instrumentation aircraft. The open source theory is that early retirement is due to RQ-180 effectively replacing it. The USN has also curtailed its purchase of the Triton version from five orbits down to three. The issue seems to be survivability.

What about the NATO AGS platforms

 
I find the storage tank at these suspected "RQ-180" sites perplexing. I wouldn't think any kind of special fuel would be needed, and while the North Field site on Guam is remote the location at Beele I wouldn't think would require separate storage for convenience sake.
 

The airfield at Guam is "Northwest Field". It was recently renovated and has been used since then to support training for "austere" operations. Aircraft ranging from transports and tankers to F-35s have used it, you can see some of that here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANfbH86-Rg8


The building at Beale is "Dock 7", building 1243. At one point it was supposed to house the MC-12s, they have since been retired. Dock 7 underwent a renovation in the last several years. That renovation was under a 9th Contracting Squadron effort, "Air Froce General Construction MACC 2017-2022" that was for a larger facilities and infrastructure renovation project across many parts of Beale. The Dock 7 Renovation (FA468619FA080) was one of a number of contracts that were awarded to North Star Construction & Engineering (FA468617D0001).


The only thing interesting I have found so far about the Dock 7 changes is that in 2019 an addition was made to the contract to add humidity control. While that is important for curing coatings on stealth aircraft, it may also be completely unrelated to that.

In the satellite images I have seen of Dock 7 there has been no activity.
 
I find the storage tank at these suspected "RQ-180" sites perplexing. I wouldn't think any kind of special fuel would be needed, and while the North Field site on Guam is remote the location at Beele I wouldn't think would require separate storage for convenience sake.
It’s a not a fuel tank, as fuel tanks would be located much further from any building. It’s a water tank, presumably for fire extinguishing.
 
A fire extinguishing tank makes more sense, although to me it begs the question - why is it necessary? Although that could be as pedestrian as not trusting the landing software to handle taxi maneuvers 100% and just investing in some precaution.
 
Two reasons I can think of, and there are probably more:

- the asset inside is to expensive to risk getting lost in a fire, whether it’s an F35 or something more exotic.
- to minimise exposure for whatever is in there engine runs are done inside the hangar, thus requiring extra safety and fire precautions.

Or it might just be something like recent regulations that new aircraft hangars need an extensive fire suppression system.

All in all, the fact that there’s a water tank doesn’t tell us very much in itself and we therefor cannot draw any conclusions.
 
It would be interesting to know if in other suspected hangars, we have the same tank and if, in hangars known to not host something like an RQ bird, we have none.

The tank might be for fire safety (sprinkler) but also might host DI watter or other pH/PPPM controlled fluid used for maintenance of extensive surface (RAM? ).
 
The tank might be for fire safety (sprinkler) but also might host DI watter or other pH/PPPM controlled fluid used for the transpiration cooled nose tip, water wick thermal protection system and compressor face cooling for the TBCC engines
there you go, fixed that for ya ;)
 
Well I guess at the next RIAT you'll see if they keep the hangar doors shut tight or not to indicate whether there is anything juicy in there.

Looking more and more like unmanned now, according to Dreamlandresort.com with a discussion thread on Fairford

'

ACP-2021-078


It will bring you up the begging letter (airspace change proposal) and goes into details.

Simply put: USAF needs to obtain a whole slew of permissions to fly unmanned aircraft from Fairford, and also desires that weapons storage is closer (on base).


and the reply was

ACP-2021-078: Enabling Remotely Piloted Aircraft System Operations from RAF Fairford - HALE

ACP-2022-083: Enabling Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations from RAF Fairford – MALE
This application is paused.

ACP-2022-008: Enabling Temporary RPAS Operations at RAF Fairford


cheers
 
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https://x.com/thenewarea51/status/1732394263684522135?s=20

Peter Merlin's book provides more detail no previous reporting by Aviation Week on RQ-180 test articles. I was surprised by how many aircraft there were and how early they flew.

I would guess, like with the B-21, a number of those test articles will be modified into operational aircraft. Which raises the issue of basing, which has been brought up in previous posts.

The suspected operational squadron is supposedly based at Beale, but does that mean the aircraft have to be based there also. It would seem that if there is a desire to keep the aircraft in the black world then it would not be an good location. Even if its operation is limited to night it would not be long before someone photographed it.

So that leaves a remote location. It would be harder to maintain, but easier to hide. If production started in 2017 and a majority of the test articles are still flying as either test aircraft or operational ones, then there has to be a base with enough shelters to hide that many aircraft. You would think its wingspan is at least 100 ft. I don't see hangers at Tonopah that could house a squadron of R-180s. Area 51 has large enough hangers - some that might be able to house several, but not a squadron. You would also think that there would be some uniformity in hanger construction like those built for the F-117.

Does anyone have a guess of where these aircraft are hiding?
 
Assuming that is true (kinda hard to believe that information is being published without someone doing time in Leavenworth) the aircraft are likely split up all over the world in detachments.
 
https://x.com/thenewarea51/status/1732394263684522135?s=20

Peter Merlin's book provides more detail no previous reporting by Aviation Week on RQ-180 test articles. I was surprised by how many aircraft there were and how early they flew.

I would guess, like with the B-21, a number of those test articles will be modified into operational aircraft. Which raises the issue of basing, which has been brought up in previous posts.

The suspected operational squadron is supposedly based at Beale, but does that mean the aircraft have to be based there also. It would seem that if there is a desire to keep the aircraft in the black world then it would not be an good location. Even if its operation is limited to night it would not be long before someone photographed it.

So that leaves a remote location. It would be harder to maintain, but easier to hide. If production started in 2017 and a majority of the test articles are still flying as either test aircraft or operational ones, then there has to be a base with enough shelters to hide that many aircraft. You would think its wingspan is at least 100 ft. I don't see hangers at Tonopah that could house a squadron of R-180s. Area 51 has large enough hangers - some that might be able to house several, but not a squadron. You would also think that there would be some uniformity in hanger construction like those built for the F-117.

Does anyone have a guess of where these aircraft are hiding?
If they're actually operational, I would think their main base would be Tonopah. They may be operated out of Beale while in flight with a ground detachment there, Tonopah, for maintenance and ground ops.
 
Apparently there has been an application by the US government to the UK government to operate HALE drones from the a base over here. I saw it reported a month or two back, and I immediately wondered if that might include the so called RQ-180. According to this it would probably be RAF Fairford. In fact it specifically mentions in the article that it is in connection with this drone. It looks like any drones operating from this country maybe required to be using detect and avoid equipment, I’d be very surprised if a drone as advanced as the “RQ-180” doesn’t already have that fitted.

could be looking to use the Cotswolds base to deploy a top secret next-generation “stealth drone”, known as the RQ-180 or “White Bat”, which is designed to penetrate hostile air space undetected.


It seems hanger construction here has already started.

There has been speculation that recent construction work for hangar-like buildings at RAF Fairford could be to accommodate drones, including the stealthy RQ-180, which is thought to be in frontline service after being developed by defence giant Northrop Grumman but whose existence is not officially recognised by the Pentagon.

 
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Sandboxx has recently put out an interesting video concerning the RQ-180:


In December of 2013, Aviation Week first broke the news to the world that the United States was secretly developing a large, stealthy reconnaissance aircraft meant to fill the role left empty by the SR-71’s retirement. This highly classified new aircraft was dubbed the RQ-180.
But beyond that... details are pretty limited. Let's see what we can find out.
 
Nothing realy new we still don't know what it look like or if it exist realy....
Are we still debating if exists after all this time, there’s enough evidence to say it does by now, though it’s probably not called the RQ-180.
 
I think they were gearing up for flight testing around the 2007-2008 timeframe for the "180". I think NGC had B-21 cinched-up well before the LSRB competition with LM/Boeing, RQ-180/B-21 design lineage. NG's modern flying wing planform and shaping started with ATB, ATA, initial UCAV concepts now followed by B-21. Now for the followers, LM Polecat, Taranis, Neuron, Russian and Chinese UCAVs.

As an example, X-47A was to prove that they could control the diamond/kite shape effectively. Look at X-47A, it's Northrop's XST diamond/kite shape with a different upper configuration but same planform. Also, the bump in front of the X-47A inlet was also for a cockpit potentially (obviously for a scaled-up version). X-47B shape has probably made it into some other classified projects.
 

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