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"RQ-180": Aviation Week & Space Technology's alleged new UAS

Mat Parry

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What lurks in that new big hanger at groom? Be a while till we find out I reckon.... Unless it crashes
 

Triton

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Given the lack of information, it is difficult to say if such a platform is manned or unmanned, however an unmanned aircraft would have far greater endurance. It could potentially be part of the USAF's long range strike family of systems--which includes a new bomber, cruise missile, electronic attack capabilities and hardware, Aboulafia says.
Aurora? ;)
 

quellish

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Triton said:
Given the lack of information, it is difficult to say if such a platform is manned or unmanned, however an unmanned aircraft would have far greater endurance. It could potentially be part of the USAF's long range strike family of systems--which includes a new bomber, cruise missile, electronic attack capabilities and hardware, Aboulafia says.
Aurora? ;)
It's unclear what is meant here by "Global hawk missions". The U-2 still does a lot of things better than Global Hawk does. Global Hawk does some things that the U-2 does not. This is more a factor of the payload than anything else.
As far as anyone knows, the RQ-170 would only perform a small subset of those missions - it may be able to persist at medium altitude in denied airspace, but everything public indicates the payloads would be more limited than what GlobalHawk may be able to carry.
 

quellish

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Bill Walker said:
I find it amusing that yet another U-2 replacement has been replaced by the U-2.
It's probably the Air Force Special Platform.
 

Mat Parry

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For this thing to operate out of groom, presumably it would need in-flight refuelling capabilities to get to (and loiter in) the relevant areas of interest. UAV in-flight refuelling has been done (by NASA I think?) But this would appear to be in it's infancy, and a crash waiting to happen... So for an operational vehicle with a global reach, optionally manned is a possibility? If it doesn't have a global reach it would have to be forward deployed, for fun let's assume it's operational now, with all the fun and games that have been going on in the world lately any guesses as to likely forward deployment sites?
 

Bill Walker

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Mat Parry said:
... any guesses as to likely forward deployment sites?
One of the advantages of UAVs in their relatively small size. For forward deployment, look for anyplace that can receive a C-5 or C-17, and then unload it in a secure area. That is a very long list.
 

Reaper

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My understanding is, that they are refering to a combination of U-2 and RQ-170 / other smaller stealth drones.
 

Mat Parry

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http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2013/04/usaf-can-perform-parts-of-glob.html

of note (to me at least) in that article were the 2 sentences below

"Analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says that among the classified platforms in question could potentially be a long-range stealth reconnaissance aircraft that has long been rumored to be flying in the Nevada desert.

it would make sense for such a platform to have low observable characteristics and have high altitude capability"

A long-range, high altitude aircraft manned or otherwise is not going to be small and easily deployed inside transport aircraft.

With regards to my comment on forward deployments I shall be a little more explicit... Has there been any unusual sightings at airbases that support U-2's in say...
Korea?
 

VTOLicious

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Mat Parry said:
"Analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group says that among the classified platforms in question could potentially be a long-range stealth reconnaissance aircraft that has long been rumored to be flying in the Nevada desert.
...speaking of Richard Aboulafia. Some of his articles can be found on his website: http://www.richardaboulafia.com/

EDIT:

"We did not do that without carefully considering how we'd cover that mission with the U-2 and other classified platforms," says Lt Gen Charles Davis...
What if the classified platform is "simply" a customized military derivative of a existing (civil) aircraft?...well, capable of long endurance/high altitude...hmm, what about this one:

The GROB 520 EGRETT http://www.grob-aircraft.de/index.php/basic-information-22.html

The perfect platform for high altitude reconnaissance and surveillance Developed and Certified in 1991, the GROB G 520 is one of the world’s largest fully composite manned and unmanned aircraft, providing an ideal system platform for OPV/UAVapplications (Optional Piloted Vehicle).
The flexible payload-bay concept of the G 520 can accommodate multiple mission systems for both civilian and military applications and operations with a minimum of integration and modification lead time.
Based on its proven airframe and systems reliability the G 520 mitigates development risks for future UAV and or system developments. The G 520 is the cost efficient performance platform for the UAV and OPV requirements of the 21st century, both in the HALE and MALE performance/application sector.
Full reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

The G 520 EGRETT features:
  • Long endurance, high altitude performance
  • Short runway capabilities
  • Reconfigurable payload installation
  • Full approval for all-weather IFR/Icing operations acc. to LBA/FAA Part 23 regulations
12 payload compartments for up to 1000 kg of mission equipment makes the G 520 an ideal multi-role platform for a wide range of missions. Depending on payload the G 520 has a range up to 5000 km (2700 NM) or up to 11 Hrs (UAV 32 Hrs) on stage time in all weather conditions.

Regards, Michael
 

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Stargazer2006

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One online source I read a while ago claimed that the Grob G500 Egrett (the previous version) was none other the "famous" TR-3A. Although there is no serious proof to back this up, I found the suggestion interesting and plausible.
 
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Ian33

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How could they make the grob and firebird stealthy? On a side note, on another forum a refueller boom operator spoke of aerial refuelling tests with the rq170 so maybe they don't need the extreme endurance of the global hawk if they just can top up the fuel from a tanker equipped drone?
 

Thiel

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Ian33 said:
How could they make the grob and firebird stealthy?
Well, we don't know if the aircraft in question is stealthy.
 

Reaper

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Concerning Firebird customers: "Although Firebird’s presence at the exercise [Empire Challenge] was sponsored by the U.S. Army, other potentially more immediate customers at the event included U.S. Special Operations Command (Socom)"
 

Mat Parry

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If the block 40 gets cancelled you would assume the US pivot towards Asia Pacific loses some important capabilities.... Unless something better lurks in the black?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/spy-planes-north-korea_n_1309877.html

"Aviation analyst Loren Thompson, of the Arlington, Virginia-based Lexington Institute, said retaining the U-2 indicates the Air Force is more concerned with North Korea — and cost-saving — than monitoring areas farther away.
With no pilots to swap out, the Global Hawk can fly at altitudes of 60,000 feet (18,300 meters) for much longer-range missions than the U-2 — more than 32 hours at a time. That is important as China's military growth is changing the balance of power across the region.
"U-2 is very well suited to U.S. needs on the Korean peninsula, and the consequences of losing Global Hawk there will be minimal," he said. "The loss is more serious across the broad expanses of the Western Pacific, where the tyranny of distance makes long range and endurance especially valuable."
 

Sea Skimmer

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Who said Block 40 is best in the first place? The Block 40 radar capability is only part of what the US military ever really wanted. The antenna is just too small to be very satisfactory. The original plan was for the E-10 to carry that radar but E-10 was too expensive to make a lot of sense. Now the plan is Block 40 plus upgrades to a few but not all JSTARS. Kill Block 40 and you still have JSTARS, and still have the easy option of placing the radar on the P-8 Orion, or a new 767 built alongside the new tankers in the future. Given the completely massive data upload requirements of a system like MP-RTIP, and the cancellation of the Transformational Satellite, which would have had laser uplink/downlink capability for the first time, keeping such capable radars on manned platforms is pretty attractive.
 

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quellish

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Ian33 said:
How could they make the grob and firebird stealthy?
I see at least two edges on those aircraft are aligned. So they are already stealthy. Add some RAM paint, and there you go.
At least that's what I read on the internet.


Keep in mind that classified platforms are not necessarily stealthy, secret, or sexy. The Air Force Special Platform was very classified, and fueled many rumors and articles speculating about a new stealthy aircraft.
Turned out it was the U-2. And this was just a few years ago.

That said, I keep hearing that the 30th RS flies more than one classified platform. If you spend enough time around Tonopah you will supposedly see something smaller than an RQ-170 that isn't a Reaper.
 

Mat Parry

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A pure reconnaissance version will be capable of carrying a wide-area surveillance system internally for special mission applications.

A customer has demanded that General Atomics install "Global Hawk-like" payloads on the Avenger, says Don Bolling, a Lockheed Martin senior business development manager.

The company had previously agreed to install Lockheed's electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) on the Avenger, but that effort is on hold due to the undisclosed customer's interest in the high-altitude mission

Hi guys, do you think its possible the classified aircraft could be the Avenger?
 

CaseyKnight

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This remotely controlled or fully autonomous?
 

Mat Parry

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In the comments section, Peter Merlin agrees with you!

Assuming that is the real Mr Merlin... Then that's good enough for me! X-47b it is
 

SOC

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Mat Parry said:
In the comments section, Peter Merlin agrees with you!

Assuming that is the real Mr Merlin... Then that's good enough for me! X-47b it is
Yup. I don't see why they'd think a USAF UAV would be represented by an X-47B clearly identifiable by the carrier-suited landing gear. Or are they next going to claim that the USAF has secret catapults to shoot these off of trucks?
 

Abraham Gubler

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Magoodotcom said:
Looks more like X-47A tooling to me than X-47B.
X-47B is top right corner. Two sets (top and bottom?) of X-47A gigs in the midle of the insert to left a bit.

Remember when we visited this place and the door to the B-2 servicing hangar was broken so we couldn’t do the part of the tour where the bus stops the door opens and you look in and see it. So we got to hop out of the bus and walk in under the wing and have a look around… Good times at Palmdale!
 

quellish

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Strangely, this aircraft looks a lot like an X-47B, is in the place where engine tests are done, and the photo was taken during a period when the X-47B program was doing engine work at Palmdale.


Obviously, this is a new secret program.

Much of Plant 42 and the Lockheed facility is visible from public roads. There is even a rather nice bike trail.
 

fightingirish

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Stargazer2006

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Interesting. The "RQ-180" designation echoes that of the Lockheed "RQ-170" and, to a lesser extent, the Lockheed "P-175". Is this a special DoD system for UAVs? Why not use the regular Q- series then?
 

InvisibleDefender

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I'm not sure that the RQ-180 designation is 'official'. The only response here from the USAF is "we don't talk about that program."
 

pedrospe

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Very nice,thanks a lot for sharing.




regards




pedro
 

Triton

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I believe that this topic should be moved to the "Theoretical and Speculative Projects" board. With all due respect to authors Amy Butler and William Sweetman and Aviation Week magazine, the articles are highly speculative. The Northrop Grumman RQ-180 is not the "Beast of Kandahar" in which we had photographic evidence of the drone and then later confirmation.
 
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