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

DWG

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That article is odd as for something that starts off saying they have a few new details it ends up reading like a press release with the level of detail.
They're called Aviation Leak and Space Mythology for a reason!
 

panzerfeist1

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I am not that enthusiastic about the RQ-180 since they say its purpose is for reconnaissance but I hope a 5 ton payload UAV version be it the X-47C is in development as the article states.
 

In_A_Dream

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I figured it was a support aircraft, similar to the F-117's brother and that the penetrating ISR UAV belonged to a different deep black program that hasn't been acknowledged yet.
 

Flyaway

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I figured it was a support aircraft, similar to the F-117's brother and that the penetrating ISR UAV belonged to a different deep black program that hasn't been acknowledged yet.
I thought one of it tasks might be as a support vehicle for the B-21 especially as they are both made by NG & I assume part of the so called global strike.
 

In_A_Dream

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I thought one of it tasks might be as a support vehicle for the B-21 especially as they are both made by NG & I assume part of the so called global strike.
Who knows, a bomber can't go into a heavy IADs alone.
 
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fightingirish

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Aviation Week's Check 6 podcast: A Stealth Surprise: RQ-180 Goes Operational
Nearly years after Aviation Week confirmed the existence of the stealthy RQ-180, new reporting suggests the Northrop Grumman high-altitude unmanned aircraft system has a new home base in California and has been ready to fly operational missions since at least 2017. Aviation Week editors Guy Norris, Steve Trimble, and Graham Warwick discuss the details of the latest story, along with some of the implications the reporting poses for the acquisition and operational communities.
 

Flyaway

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It wouldn’t surprise me if we get some kind of small scale official acknowledgement of this UAV around the time the B-21 is unveiled. Something like the RQ-170 press release.
 

Sundog

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I am not that enthusiastic about the RQ-180 since they say its purpose is for reconnaissance but I hope a 5 ton payload UAV version be it the X-47C is in development as the article states.
They're working on that vehicle now, it's called the B-21. It will eventually be optionally manned.
 

rooster

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Well, I would hope if we have a large stealthy (who says its unmanned?) rq180 that it would have some ability to also attack as well as perform surveillance. A few years ago some retired general was on the news channels saying that the US had the means of attacking stealthily NK missiles on their launch pads but he could not go into details. It sounded lime a tacit admission the US had some kind of stealthy attack platform or stealthy missile. 10 tons is a lot but its not inconceivable if we have a stealthy surveillance platform that it might have a weapons bay. Otherwise we wasted a lot of money on those ucav drones that publicly went no place. I would hope my tax dollars went someplace to replace the f117 mission with something else. The f35 is great, but its not in the same league as a dedicated VLO attack plane.

Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
 

panzerfeist1

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Well, I would hope if we have a large stealthy (who says its unmanned?) rq180 that it would have some ability to also attack as well as perform surveillance. A few years ago some retired general was on the news channels saying that the US had the means of attacking stealthily NK missiles on their launch pads but he could not go into details. It sounded lime a tacit admission the US had some kind of stealthy attack platform or stealthy missile. 10 tons is a lot but its not inconceivable if we have a stealthy surveillance platform that it might have a weapons bay. Otherwise we wasted a lot of money on those ucav drones that publicly went no place. I would hope my tax dollars went someplace to replace the f117 mission with something else. The f35 is great, but its not in the same league as a dedicated VLO attack plane.

Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
1. sources say that is primarily used for EW and Reconnaissance if I remember correctly,

2. Its estimated flight range suggests it will be the same as the global hawk.

To me hopefully the X-47C is truly in developement because I would like a nice stealth drone like that to fly along with the F-35 where the drone has a nice radar system and does most of the air to ground missiles while the F-35 tagging behind the drone can cover it with air to air missiles and of course for both to exchange information. If its the B-21 I feel like its going to be a longer wait than the X-47C.
 

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Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
Because if it was manned, it would probably not have an RQ designation.
 

rooster

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Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
Because if it was manned, it would probably not have an RQ designation.
That's what I mean. Remember the F-19? The entire F was designed to throw everyone off of it being an A-117. Who says the official designation is RQ-anything. The RQ180 is speculation unless anyone can point to anything official. It could RQ201 for anyone knows.
 

In_A_Dream

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What its implied role is may be a misinformation campaign.

I'd like to know how that high-speed/high-altitude reconnaissance drone is coming along.
 

Skyraider3D

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Overscan, I doubt it as they never even asked.

Flyaway, I don't wish to critique a fellow artist's work, but let me suffice by saying that I wouldn't ever dare deliver something of that quality while keeping a straight face, no matter how tight the deadline or how low the budget.
 

sferrin

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Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
Because if it was manned, it would probably not have an RQ designation.
That's what I mean. Remember the F-19? The entire F was designed to throw everyone off of it being an A-117. Who says the official designation is RQ-anything. The RQ180 is speculation unless anyone can point to anything official. It could RQ201 for anyone knows.
It's not an A-117, it's called the F-117.
 

sferrin

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What its implied role is may be a misinformation campaign.

I'd like to know how that high-speed/high-altitude reconnaissance drone is coming along.
The powerpoint is still on a server somewhere I'm sure.
 

rooster

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Why do people assume the rq180, if it is real, is unmanned? Might it not be optionally manned?
Because if it was manned, it would probably not have an RQ designation.
That's what I mean. Remember the F-19? The entire F was designed to throw everyone off of it being an A-117. Who says the official designation is RQ-anything. The RQ180 is speculation unless anyone can point to anything official. It could RQ201 for anyone knows.
It's not an A-117, it's called the F-117.
But you do know it never flew anything other than attack missions. I don't think it was ever employed as a fighter is the point.
 

TomS

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The F in F-117 was totally consistent with USAF practice. Fast-mover tactical jets were all fighters, even if they were intended as strike aircraft (see F-105 and F-111). The only breaks in that are the A-7, which inherited the A designation from the Navy, and the A-10, which was too slow (and ugly) to be a fighter. (And even so, A-10s were assigned to Fighter Squadrons, not Attack Squadrons.)

And Tom Clancy in Red Storm Rising aside, I think everyone understood that the "Stealth Fighter" was going to be primarily a light bomber, possibly with a reconnaissance role as well. (Jane's had this right in 1982, before any designation was known.)

The only deception in the designation was numbering the F-117 in the old Century series, where it hung out with the various USAF-operated MiGs and some other obscure projects like Tacit Blue.
 
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marauder2048

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What its implied role is may be a misinformation campaign.
Or just disinformation in its entirety. Here's the clue:

It should be noted the secret code name was shared with Northrop Grumman’s public search to find an engineering base for the B-21 program around that time.
A project code name for a unacknowledged special access program would never be shared with another project
(at the same company mine you) of lower classification for fear that misrouting to the latter would compromise the former.
 

Flyaway

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What its implied role is may be a misinformation campaign.
Or just disinformation in its entirety. Here's the clue:

It should be noted the secret code name was shared with Northrop Grumman’s public search to find an engineering base for the B-21 program around that time.
A project code name for a unacknowledged special access program would never be shared with another project
(at the same company mine you) of lower classification for fear that misrouting to the latter would compromise the former.
Or your just reading entirely too much into it and wildly over extrapolating a conclusion from what might be a minor error in the article.
 

Mr London 24/7

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

This report summarizes DoD industrial capabilities-related guidance, assessments, and actions initiated during FY2016 and as they existed at the close of that year. It is important to note that the status of some of the programs described herein has changed in the intervening time.

Includes Previous Major Programs not Currently in Production.
Only appears in 2016 ;)

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
 

Flyaway

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

This report summarizes DoD industrial capabilities-related guidance, assessments, and actions initiated during FY2016 and as they existed at the close of that year. It is important to note that the status of some of the programs described herein has changed in the intervening time.

Includes Previous Major Programs not Currently in Production.
Only appears in 2016 ;)

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
Likely an error?
 

TomS

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

This report summarizes DoD industrial capabilities-related guidance, assessments, and actions initiated during FY2016 and as they existed at the close of that year. It is important to note that the status of some of the programs described herein has changed in the intervening time.

Includes Previous Major Programs not Currently in Production.
Only appears in 2016 ;)

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
Likely an error?
Or production had already ended by then.
 

Mr London 24/7

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

This report summarizes DoD industrial capabilities-related guidance, assessments, and actions initiated during FY2016 and as they existed at the close of that year. It is important to note that the status of some of the programs described herein has changed in the intervening time.

Includes Previous Major Programs not Currently in Production.
Only appears in 2016 ;)

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
Likely an error?
Or production had already ended by then.
Most likely having ended some years before, yes.
 

Flyaway

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

This report summarizes DoD industrial capabilities-related guidance, assessments, and actions initiated during FY2016 and as they existed at the close of that year. It is important to note that the status of some of the programs described herein has changed in the intervening time.

Includes Previous Major Programs not Currently in Production.
Only appears in 2016 ;)

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
Likely an error?
Or production had already ended by then.
Most likely having ended some years before, yes.
Sorry I meant the error was the inclusion of the RQ-180 in the document?
 

marauder2048

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A year on and nobody but nobody has seen anything like the RQ-180 at Beale.

And apparently DLA didn't get the message since they are ordering less JPTS over
the next five years. Which makes absolutely no sense unless there isn't another type
using it which is the only reason to base the RQ-180 at Beale in the first place.
 

Flyaway

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A year on and nobody but nobody has seen anything like the RQ-180 at Beale.

And apparently DLA didn't get the message since they are ordering less JPTS over
the next five years. Which makes absolutely no sense unless there isn't another type
using it which is the only reason to base the RQ-180 at Beale in the first place.
I have this probably silly belief it will be unveiled with the B-21. As it sounds like one of its roles will be to support the B-21.
 

marauder2048

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A year on and nobody but nobody has seen anything like the RQ-180 at Beale.

And apparently DLA didn't get the message since they are ordering less JPTS over
the next five years. Which makes absolutely no sense unless there isn't another type
using it which is the only reason to base the RQ-180 at Beale in the first place.
I have this probably silly belief it will be unveiled with the B-21. As it sounds like one of its roles will be to support the B-21.
It would really undermine the Air Force's argument for more B-21s; the optionally manned part of the B-21
makes it a pretty good unmanned ISR aircraft.

An RQ-180 would be very expensive aircraft, less flexible and likely not substantially cheaper than
the steady state B-21 fixed-price.

HALE + stealth is a thermal management challenge second only to hypersonics. You'd need
exquisite (read: expensive) equipment there. And for mission durations many times that of a
bomber you'd need system reliability that would also be very expensive achieve. And it would
be a big aircraft.

And every study I've read from Lockheed's 2005 PSAR, through NAP on boost phase up to
Lestinger says that a HALE + stealth penetrator is not particularly survivable.
 
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quellish

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
It's possible that the report authors are just repeating what they read in Aviation Week and the information isn't really "official".

Last RQ-170 was produced in (IIRC) 2010. In the document I don't see it marked as not in production, I just see that the tables include systems not currently in production ("Includes Major Programs not Currently in Production")

I have not yet found any evidence that suggests an RQ-180 (as described by Aviation Week) exists. On the other hand there was a lot of evidence for the RQ-170 before it was photographed / revealed. *shrug*
 

marauder2048

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I'd also point out that AvWeek only seems to "break" stories on it when it looks like NG is going to get
kicked in the teeth with Global Hawk retirements.
 

Mr London 24/7

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
It's possible that the report authors are just repeating what they read in Aviation Week and the information isn't really "official".

Last RQ-170 was produced in (IIRC) 2010. In the document I don't see it marked as not in production, I just see that the tables include systems not currently in production ("Includes Major Programs not Currently in Production")

I have not yet found any evidence that suggests an RQ-180 (as described by Aviation Week) exists. On the other hand there was a lot of evidence for the RQ-170 before it was photographed / revealed. *shrug*
I would think that it would have to be better sourced than that. Seems official enough and more like an oversight between versions to me.

RQ-170 is marked as that in the doc reached by the second embedded link in the post.
 

Flyaway

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
It's possible that the report authors are just repeating what they read in Aviation Week and the information isn't really "official".

Last RQ-170 was produced in (IIRC) 2010. In the document I don't see it marked as not in production, I just see that the tables include systems not currently in production ("Includes Major Programs not Currently in Production")

I have not yet found any evidence that suggests an RQ-180 (as described by Aviation Week) exists. On the other hand there was a lot of evidence for the RQ-170 before it was photographed / revealed. *shrug*
That’s a pretty ludicrous supposition to make about an official document. You really are stretching credibility trying to prove the RQ-180 doesn’t exist. It’s also hardly the first time it’s existence has been alluded you in an official way if you look back in the this thread.
 

marauder2048

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The *tiniest* of official mentions....: The RQ-180 is listed under NG in a table (page 32) of 'Prime Contractors for Major Aircraft Acquisition Programs' in the OUSD's FY2016 Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

Interestingly the RQ-170 is marked as 'not in production' in 2017.
It's possible that the report authors are just repeating what they read in Aviation Week and the information isn't really "official".

Last RQ-170 was produced in (IIRC) 2010. In the document I don't see it marked as not in production, I just see that the tables include systems not currently in production ("Includes Major Programs not Currently in Production")

I have not yet found any evidence that suggests an RQ-180 (as described by Aviation Week) exists. On the other hand there was a lot of evidence for the RQ-170 before it was photographed / revealed. *shrug*
That’s a pretty ludicrous supposition to make about an official document. You really are stretching credibility trying to prove the RQ-180 doesn’t exist. It’s also hardly the first time it’s existence has been alluded you in an official way if you look back in the this thread.
Yeah. It's really comprehensive document that leaves out the C-130J as one of those major programs.
 

sublight is back

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So Quellish is skeptical because he thinks this guy made it up. Tirpak told me it was used in a sidebar conversation where Tirpack referred to it as RQ-180 and the Lt General responded to several inquiries while being careful to not call it the RQ-180. So RQ-180 may not be the real name, but who in the hell is going to call it "The platform generally referred to as RQ-180".
 

marauder2048

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So Quellish is skeptical because he thinks this guy made it up. Tirpak told me it was used in a sidebar conversation where Tirpack referred to it as RQ-180 and the Lt General responded to several inquiries while being careful to not call it the RQ-180. So RQ-180 may not be the real name, but who in the hell is going to call it "The platform generally referred to as RQ-180".
So lets get that transcript (a good journalist keeps "proper" notes right?) and see what the Lt. General was talking about.

"Black aircraft" are God's gift to defense journalists: the aircraft are all plausible and practically impossible to disprove
 
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