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

fightingirish

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Other articles @ AW&ST with pictures.
Link 1: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_12_06_2013_p0-643786.xml#
Link 2: http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post:764f0843-3aa6-4b63-a879-13326ce408a2

IMHO, some elements (like the engine exhaust as an example) are from or are inspired by the X-47B.


Edit 2:
OK, the concept drawings are from AW&ST and not official from Northrop Grumman.
 

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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.
 

flateric

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you should read USAF spokesman citation regarding 'this program' once more then
 

sferrin

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Triton said:
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.
Did you read the article? Nobody said it was the "Beast of Kandahar".
 

flateric

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I think that AWST artist somewhat overdue with inlet/nacelle size - even given theory that mystery UAS has high-bypass powerplant. I'd go for two smaller inlets instead with S-ducts a-la Polecat, giving more volume for forward equipment bay
well, just a thought...
 

flateric

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sferrin said:
Did you read the article? Nobody said it was the "Beast of Kandahar".
Donald wants photographic proof of existing of 'RQ-180', like it was with RQ-170.
Well, how many time took from pilot's reports of seeing hell-knows-what over Iraq to first Sentinel photos?
 

Stargazer2006

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flateric said:
I think that AWST artist somewhat overdue with inlet/nacelle size
The (brilliant) artwork was done for AW&ST by Ronnie Olsthoorn.
 

quellish

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flateric said:
I think that AWST artist somewhat overdue with inlet/nacelle size - even given theory that mystery UAS has high-bypass powerplant. I'd go for two smaller inlets instead with S-ducts a-la Polecat, giving more volume for forward equipment bay
well, just a thought...
Well yeah, and the aircraft depicted is an LM design that is much smaller than described in the article.
And the USAF "classified program" that got J-UCAS funds was NGB.
And the large hangar at Groom Lake is largely office space.
And the "U-2 and other classified platforms" describes classified platforms already operational, like the RQ-170 and others.

This article is mostly the same conjecture that has been reported before by AWST regarding a large classified NG program. This time it has different graphics.
http://www.aviationweek.com/Blogs.aspx?plckBlogId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog:27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post:04cb672c-f231-439d-812a-33d9c0ce5ea5

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_08_14_2013_p0-606876.xml

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_05_27_2013_p03-578248.xml

...etc.


It's interesting to me that so many articles have been published referencing this large, classified Northrop UAV that is supposedly flying, but very *little* new has been reported on the very real RQ-170 since USAF acknowledged the program. This is surprising considering how easy it is to spot them flying at Tonopah, Creech, and other places. You don't have to be a GLG-20 to get more information and pictures of the RQ-170.
 

Triton

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flateric said:
sferrin said:
Did you read the article? Nobody said it was the "Beast of Kandahar".
Donald wants photographic proof of existing of 'RQ-180', like it was with RQ-170.
Well, how many time took from pilot's reports of seeing hell-knows-what over Iraq to first Sentinel photos?
Does anyone remember the Blackstar revealed in the March 6, 2006 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology? I was just advocating that this topic should go from "Aerospace" to "Theoretical and Speculative Projects". ::)
 

Mr London 24/7

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Certainly on balance of quoted articles (plus responses here already) have to agree: can't neccessarily wait for photographs, but theres certainly a case to consider this be moved whilst we wait for better information.
 

LowObservable

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I don't think anyone at AW&ST has forgotten about Blackstar.


If you were ever to penetrate AW&ST's closely guarded Intel bunker, you'd probably hear some robust discussion revolving around the need for multiple, independent, validated sources before a story like this appeared.


I could tell you more, but then I'd have to drink a beer and sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".
 

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Agreed. IMHO unless the motivation is disinformation by the Customer by using the established groups of the media as the mouthpiece, Bill Sweetman and Av Week would unlikely go "great guns" by posting three different submissions in one evening, supporting this subject.

FWIW while critical thinking is appropriate, there's certainly smoke dating as far back as a decade substantiating Av Week's claim.
 

Byeman

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LowObservable said:
I don't think anyone at AW&ST has forgotten about Blackstar.


If you were ever to penetrate AW&ST's closely guarded Intel bunker, you'd probably hear some robust discussion revolving around the need for multiple, independent, validated sources before a story like this appeared.


I could tell you more, but then I'd have to drink a beer and sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".
I haven't seen anything that said things have improved and quite the opposite with the layoff of many of the former stafff
 

Mr London 24/7

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TAGBOARD said:
Agreed. IMHO unless the motivation is disinformation by the Customer by using the established groups of the media as the mouthpiece, Bill Sweetman and Av Week would unlikely go "great guns" by posting three different submissions in one evening, supporting this subject.

FWIW while critical thinking is appropriate, there's certainly smoke dating as far back as a decade substantiating Av Week's claim.

Past or current existence of some classified platform(s) isn't in doubt (nor is Mr Sweetman): Specific Designation, depicted platform, and some of the back-story is.

Perhaps the 'SR-72' was Lockheed pitching some ability for LRS-B (or another requirement - and bringing surprise yet welcome mass traffic to Avweek pages to boot) and the 'RQ-180' is Northrop's response. Maybe even necessary if a lot of you're relevant work is tied up in SAP's...

But the fact that the thread is moved (currently) illustrates an important reason why this site is different from others...
 

flateric

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flateric said:
I think that AWST artist somewhat overdue with inlet/nacelle size - even given theory that mystery UAS has high-bypass powerplant. I'd go for two smaller inlets instead with S-ducts a-la Polecat, giving more volume for forward equipment bay
well, just a thought...
take my words back. but isn't NG [SensorCraft] concept evolved further then that cranked kite planform in the middle (image is from 2002)?
 

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Triton

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LowObservable said:
I don't think anyone at AW&ST has forgotten about Blackstar.


If you were ever to penetrate AW&ST's closely guarded Intel bunker, you'd probably hear some robust discussion revolving around the need for multiple, independent, validated sources before a story like this appeared.


I could tell you more, but then I'd have to drink a beer and sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling".
Sorry, mentioning Blackstar was hitting below the belt. I hope that you will accept my apology.
 

flateric

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I still can't understand what Sweetman has to do with Blackstar article though
 

AeroFranz

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flateric said:
But isn't NG [SensorCraft] concept evolved further then that cranked kite planform in the middle (image is from 2002)?

It's possible that the weapons bay(s) dictated the length of the fuselage, and if you want at all costs a pure flying wing planform, that means that the root chord is also set. The leading edge sweep is fixed because of RCS considerations. Couple this with planform alignment and it becomes very hard not to end up with too much wing area and low aspect ratio (bad for lift-to-drag ratio).
If you decide to adopt some sort of nose protruding from the ideal pure wing planform, then you lose some RCS but you decouple fuselage length from wing area and aspect ratio. It also buys a degree of freedom for nailing a good cg versus aerodynamic center position.


Larger platforms with proportionally smaller weapons bay, like the B-2, might have an easier time integrating their weapons bays without incurring the aforementioned penalty.

Just my .02.
 

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AeroFranz said:
It's possible that the weapons bay(s) dictated the length of the fuselage, and if you want at all costs a pure flying wing planform, that means that the root chord is also set. The leading edge sweep is fixed because of RCS considerations. Couple this with planform alignment and it becomes very hard not to end up with too much wing area and low aspect ratio (bad for lift-to-drag ratio). If you decide to adopt some sort of nose protruding from the ideal pure wing planform, then you lose some RCS but you decouple fuselage length from wing area and aspect ratio. It also buys a degree of freedom for nailing a good cg versus aerodynamic center position. Larger platforms with proportionally smaller weapons bay, like the B-2, might have an easier time integrating their weapons bays without incurring the aforementioned penalty.
Very good note. The wing area tends to make wing loadings too light and aspect ratio too stubby for the given AUW - especially if you're packaging AIM-120s or a RATTLRS or three. The aerodynamicists say it's always a matter of time before trade studies start to sprout a tail, due to easier trimming at near-max glide ratio across the flight envelope and low speed stability and control authority. I vote for image two on the next Lockheed disclosure - something that looks like a Lockheed SENIOR PEG or a Northrop (T)HAP family descendant.
 

Mark S.

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AW&ST was recently sold by McGraw-Hill to another publisher. In recent years the magazine has become somewhat lame. One gent in the business has said all they have done is publish press releases with little in-depth reporting. Think this article along with the SR-72 one is an attempt by the new publisher to stop the decline of readership and attract new customers. To my way of thinking the magazine is a shadow of its former self from the 1980's.
 

flateric

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it can be said about any aerospace publication and it's seems not to be their fault
it's aerospace industry becomes more boring, plus internet that kills any wow-effect due to its speed
 

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The economics of publishing are not what they were. On the other hand, Mark S.'s gent is being a little extreme. If he was really correct, a few people here would have to find other things to whinge about.
 

Stargazer2006

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What flateric says is true: times have changed. In the 1970s and 1980s, the only sources of information available to the general public were the leaflets given out on airshows and the articles from the press. Anything that came across publicly did so because either the DoD or the companies meant for it to. A publication like AW&ST was highly regarded, not only because it had privileged access to information that was verified and cross-referenced by people who knew their stuff. If something had not previously been revealed in AW&ST there was little change to find it anywhere else... and once it had, there was little reason to disbelieve or question its validity or authenticity.

The first change to this pattern came about with the Gulf War in 1990-91, when AW&ST (like most US media) became something of a tool for propaganda (though the reporting standard was still high).

At first I thought the RQ-180 resulted from some official information but it seems it's just another installment in a long series of the publication's would-be revelations that don't have any other basis than some journalist trying to tie up some loose ends or making some sense of rumors. All those who have known AW&ST for decades remember the would-be revelations of flying triangles, donuts-on-a-rope hypersonic test vehicles, Valkyrie/Blackbird-type aircraft sightings, Blackstar and the likes (none of them later confirmed to any degree either officially or by further investigation) wore off gradually the aura of infallible credibility of the publication, along with the multiplication of alternate publications and the emergence of online resources (none necessarily better informed or more reliable than AW&ST, but the damage was done).

If some of us sound a bit harsh and unfair to that publication, it is because we regarded it so highly and it has disappointed us repeatedly.

This being said, to me AW&ST is probably no less a reliable source (but no more either) than any other news-focused aviation publication such as, say, Flight International.
 

sferrin

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I'm still bummed that the "Flaming Pumpkin Seeds" article turned out to be a whole lot a nothin'. :(
 

Mark S.

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Having worked for one of the big 3 automakers in the 70's and 80's as well as consulting in that field to this day I found that the auto trade publications get what is being done in the industry right about 40% of the time. To be fair to AW&ST they are probably no more or less effective. So what that means is some of what they have reported is true. The devil is finding out which 40% is.

If one would talk to the managers of the paper companies that supply the magazine publishers with glossy white paper stock you would find that sales have suffered large declines. It's not just aerospace journalism that the internet has really impacted but all of print media.

There is a gent (Peebles?) who wrote a book titled Dark Eagles (Angels?) in which he sought to debunk a lot of the speculation found in AW&ST and other publications. Remember him talking about a whale shaped aircraft that he felt had to be conjucture. A few years later Tacit Blue was revealed with the vary shape as described in his text.

My view is that there is a rich history of black aircraft projects out there. Just wish I was younger to see the day when it will be declassified. You can't keep design teams together and advance the state-of-the-art without building and flying vehicles.
 

SOC

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Mark S. said:
If one would talk to the managers of the paper companies that supply the magazine publishers with glossy white paper stock you would find that sales have suffered large declines. It's not just aerospace journalism that the internet has really impacted but all of print media.
From what I gathered last week at a meeting with the bosses sales (at least ours) aren't declining but shifting more and more to electronic formats. The way it was explained to me was that we have no problems printing a zillion copies or a magazine, the really expensive part comes when you have to affix postage, put the things in the mail and get them all over the globe within a week (as it's a weekly publication, or at least the flagship one is).

These days a lot of the really good stuff is purely digital. The last publication I edited was all-digital, and the new one that I'm working out the content for is the same way. Doesn't mean there's less information out there, just that nowadays you only get a fraction of what's available by visiting the news stand. If you can adapt and embrace the digital age there's no reason why you can't do fine.
 

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LowObservable said:
The economics of publishing are not what they were. On the other hand, Mark S.'s gent is being a little extreme. If he was really correct, a few people here would have to find other things to whinge about.
As a 25 year subscriber yes AvWeek has changed since the 80' but so has the entire defense industry. The Cold War will go down as the hey day for aerospace and defense reporting IMHO but based on the shear number of things happening in just the former Soviet Union and USA.
 

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Its on CNN now so it must be real ;)


http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/12/u-s-seeks-spy-edge-with-stealth-drone/
 

Stargazer2006

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ohpossum said:
Its on CNN now so it must be real ;)
Unfortunately that's probably what 99% of CNN watchers believe...

The way things actually work nowadays is probably more like one of the following:
  • Some CNN journalist came across the AW&ST and thought it was cool to do a report on it... based on the AW&ST article...
  • Some CNN editor-in-chief was pissed that AW&ST got the news before them... and asked him to search the internet for data...
  • The DoD or the Pentagon wanted that rumor to spread around and they provided bogus "data"... for propaganda purposes...
 

LowObservable

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SG - In this case the CNN reporter has been around the Pentagon since the tall guy with prematurely orange hair was POTUS. And you don't get to keep that well paid job by saying "my sources say" when they didn't.
 

quellish

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LowObservable said:
SG - In this case the CNN reporter has been around the Pentagon since the tall guy with prematurely orange hair was POTUS. And you don't get to keep that well paid job by saying "my sources say" when they didn't.
Considering that when the Air Force terminated it's involvement in J-UCAS it didn't get to keep the money (which, at that point, it didn't even have), I would be very interested in where the money for this major development effort came from.

I would also be very interested in where the NG resources to support this came from. NG does not have an unlimited talent pool, and those persons have been largely working on known projects like X-47B. Obviously the real breakthrough here is some kind of advanced cloning technology to allow engineers to work 12 hours a day on an unclassified program, and then another 12 on a SAP.
 

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At NG, it's called EWW. Extended Work Week.
 

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The most interesting aspect of the RQ-180 story for me is how much the aircraft they describe resembles the original requirements for Tier-III / Quartz from around 1990. If the RQ-180 story is true, this may be a very real example of technology finally catching up to mission requirements, even if it's 20+ years later than desired.
 
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