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

quellish

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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".
Quellish is skeptical for a long, long list of reasons. The evidence given in the press has not been compelling. For example, the IIRC the 2013 Aviation Week article mentioned:

- Funding coming from the J-UCAS accounts. Nope, didn't happen.
- New hangar at Groom Lake. The "hangar" in question is a scoot and hide shelter. And it has been used as a scoot and hide shelter since it was built. It's a big shelter for sure, but that's what it is. It was not built for a specific program. Construction was easy enough to monitor, funding was as well, and it's been observed since then.
- Engine test cells at NG Palmdale. Yes, there are engine test cells there (very close to public roads). They were built for existing programs like GlobalHawk. You can see and hear them used for that easily.

A number of times I have looked for any sign of a penetrating ISR UAV that is not the RQ-170. Funding, construction, staffing, engines and landing gear, etc. I haven't found anything, not even a black hole things could disappear into. Just known programs (though not all publicly or well known programs).

USAF already does have a penetrating ISR platform, the RQ-170. The payloads it can carry may be limited, but there isn't a clear reason to spend a lot of money developing an "RQ-180" when the RQ-170 exists. A VLO HALE platform has been on DoD's wish list since the 80s but that doesn't mean it's happening now.
 

marauder2048

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And while you can hide your HALE VLO drone, you can't easily hide the high heat sink
fuel infrastructure required to support it.

The Air Force officially abandoning JP-8 + 100 (the claim from the AF fuels branch made to me was that the F-22/F-35 don't need it)
just leaves JPTS which has two producers world wide and only one in CONUS.
DLA is *very* open with solicitations and the fuel storage infrastructure for JPTS is unique and very easy to track.

That includes the AF railroad at Beale that receives the shipments from the storage tanks in Texas.
thermal-management.png
 
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dark sidius

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And the hangar at Groom is a scoot and hide for what ?? surely not a F-35, not a B-2, not a tanker so for what ?? Some obervers say about Northrop is the resident what kind have Northrop to need a big scoot and hide ? surely not a Global Hawk.
 

aim9xray

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The Air Force officially abandoning JP-8 + 100 (the claim from the AF fuels branch made to me was that the F-22/F-35 don't need it) just leaves JPTS which has two producers world wide and only one in CONUS. DLA is *very* open with solicitations and the fuel storage infrastructure for JPTS is unique and very easy to track.
Can additives be mixed into the fuel stream at the user site to create JP-8+100LT much as you would add Prist or biocides to civil Jet A?
 

Mark S.

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I highly doubt that the DOD would intentionally lie to Congress which would be the case if the RQ-180 wasn't real. That document would have had distribution to the government and industry executives involved in DOD procurement. There should be a cover letter for it. Anyone see it and under who's signature it went out under? Woe be the persons who's errors would put their boss in front of a Congressional Committee explaining what was incorrect about the report and why.

We would mix fuel additives with plain old gasoline all the time in the auto industry. Piece of cake. Now you know why cars start so readily in dealer lots in the winter.

Airports with airline service and even small air bases receive their fuel from the trans-continental pipelines. It's been that way since the 1960's. Do you think you could keep up with the demand from a bomb wing flying B-52's and KC-135's any other way? Don't forget Beale had a SAC wing in the 60's and 70's.

Curious that neither the Air Force or Congress is complaining about the demise of the RQ-4? Guess the need for reconnaissance has decreased with the pivot to matching near peer competitors in lieu of insurgencies?
 

marauder2048

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The Air Force officially abandoning JP-8 + 100 (the claim from the AF fuels branch made to me was that the F-22/F-35 don't need it) just leaves JPTS which has two producers world wide and only one in CONUS. DLA is *very* open with solicitations and the fuel storage infrastructure for JPTS is unique and very easy to track.
Can additives be mixed into the fuel stream at the user site to create JP-8+100LT much as you would add Prist or biocides to civil Jet A?
Sure. That was the JP-8 + 100 concept. But all of the injector systems have been removed
and I can't find any evidence that DLA is buying any of the additives; they were all from well known
aviation fluids companies.
 

Q-nimbus

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Quellish is skeptical for a long, long list of reasons. The evidence given in the press has not been compelling. For example, the IIRC the 2013 Aviation Week article mentioned:

- Funding coming from the J-UCAS accounts. Nope, didn't happen.
- New hangar at Groom Lake. The "hangar" in question is a scoot and hide shelter. And it has been used as a scoot and hide shelter since it was built. It's a big shelter for sure, but that's what it is. It was not built for a specific program. Construction was easy enough to monitor, funding was as well, and it's been observed since then.
- Engine test cells at NG Palmdale. Yes, there are engine test cells there (very close to public roads). They were built for existing programs like GlobalHawk. You can see and hear them used for that easily.

A number of times I have looked for any sign of a penetrating ISR UAV that is not the RQ-170. Funding, construction, staffing, engines and landing gear, etc. I haven't found anything, not even a black hole things could disappear into. Just known programs (though not all publicly or well known programs).

USAF already does have a penetrating ISR platform, the RQ-170. The payloads it can carry may be limited, but there isn't a clear reason to spend a lot of money developing an "RQ-180" when the RQ-170 exists. A VLO HALE platform has been on DoD's wish list since the 80s but that doesn't mean it's happening now.
I was very sceptical about the RQ-180 just like you, until yesterday. I doubt whether the RQ-180 is it's true designation, but the very cleverly found report found by Mister London 24/7 convinced me it actually does exist. Whether it's operational with at least 7 aircraft like AW claimed? Or whether it is a HALE VLO UAV? I'm still sceptical about that. It's very difficult to keep an aircraft, especially one as large as the RQ-180, hidden and secret. Look at the RQ-170; right around the time everybody got a camera on them with their cell phone pictures started leaking out. The fact that hasn't happened yet makes me sceptical about it's operational status. Surely pictures, however grainy and vague would have leaked out, especially if it is operating from bases in Korea and Japan.

I wouldn't be surpised if they only build a prototype. Perhaps it was/is a demonstrator for the B-21, or the X-47B gone black.

But of course I hope I'm wrong. :)

About the hangars: which hangar do you mean? The 2007 or the 2009 one at the southern end of the base? If you mean the 2009 hangar I completely agree with you, that one is definitely a scoot and hide hangar, probably for most if not all the programs at Groom Lake. (On a side note, that one does seem too small to hide the RQ-180 for that matter, if the estimates about it's size are correct.)

The 2007 one seems to be quite illogically placed for a scoot and hide hangar. As the hangar can be clearly seen from Tikaboo Peak, the earthen berm must be there to shelter whatever is in there from the rest of the workers at Groom. Of course all programs at Groom are kept separate and secret from each other, within reasonable bounds (although I'm pretty sure most people working at Area 51 have a pretty good idea what's going on around the base, especially when a new flying prototype is involved).

But it seems they've gone to exceptional lengths to keep whatever is or was going on the 2007 hangar away from the rest of the base.

It makes you wonder...
 

marauder2048

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I highly doubt that the DOD would intentionally lie to Congress which would be the case if the RQ-180 wasn't real. That document would have had distribution to the government and industry executives involved in DOD procurement. There should be a cover letter for it. Anyone see it and under who's signature it went out under? Woe be the persons who's errors would put their boss in front of a Congressional Committee explaining what was incorrect about the report and why.

We would mix fuel additives with plain old gasoline all the time in the auto industry. Piece of cake. Now you know why cars start so readily in dealer lots in the winter.

Airports with airline service and even small air bases receive their fuel from the trans-continental pipelines. It's been that way since the 1960's. Do you think you could keep up with the demand from a bomb wing flying B-52's and KC-135's any other way? Don't forget Beale had a SAC wing in the 60's and 70's.
JPTS is special; the stuff they use for every other fighter/bomber/transport aircraft is not.

There's dedicated handling equipment,, tanks, pumps etc. And different environmental regs as well.

It's not the 60's where you could get away with dumping Zip fuels into the gutters.

https://www.beale.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/667022/fueling-the-mission-saving-money/

"Plus 100" had specialized injectors and handling equipment too including personal protection equipment.
It's all gone now.
 
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overscan (PaulMM)

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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".
And there's no chance that the Lt General was thinking of the RQ-170 at the time? This is thin evidence at best.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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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*
What are the possibilities?

There's no reason that the report author would have access to classified information.

1) The report author(s) used did not know about this secret program and used non-classified public sources to compile the report. They just took a program list from Aviation Week / Air Force Magazine / some website. They didn't know that RQ-180 didn't exist / was secret (delete as applicable) in order to remove it.

2) The report author(s) knew of this secret program and intentionally disclosed the existence of it in a public document.

3) The report author(s) knew of this secret program and accidentally disclosed the existence of it in a public document.

I'd say 1) is the more likely scenario. Knowing big organisations, making the report probably got delegated to an intern.
 

quellish

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And the hangar at Groom is a scoot and hide for what ?? surely not a F-35, not a B-2, not a tanker so for what ?? Some obervers say about Northrop is the resident what kind have Northrop to need a big scoot and hide ? surely not a Global Hawk.
For everyone. The shelter is located where the south taxiway meets the south end of the runway, far from the main base and hangars. It does not have any vehicle parking to speak of or other infrastructure and is open on both ends (i.e. it is a "pass through). I don't think it could really support a "resident". It is a long taxi from the base hangars to the runways. Having a shelter out there simplifies things greatly. If you need to keep an aircraft out of sight you no longer need to taxi 5 minutes back to the base. You can do your engine tests there. You can refuel out of sight and close to the runway. Etc.
 

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It would be a stretch to say that since there is no increase in usage of the fuel for the U-2 there obviously isn't a new aircraft. All you can safely say is that if there is a new aircraft it doesn't use the same fuel. Aromatic hydrocarbons compared to other industrial chemicals are relatively easy to blend, mix and add additives to. All regulations have become more stringent especially those concerning the release of VOC's. I can't get excited about the equipment needed to make it happen. Typically it's a matter of getting the correct compound for the seals in the equipment.

Wonder what the RQ-4 uses for a fuel? Both it's missions and altitudes it operates at are near that of the U-2. You would think it would have a greater problem since it can be airborne for 30 hours. That's a lot longer than the U-2.
 

marauder2048

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It would be a stretch to say that since there is no increase in usage of the fuel for the U-2 there obviously isn't a new aircraft. All you can safely say is that if there is a new aircraft it doesn't use the same fuel. Aromatic hydrocarbons compared to other industrial chemicals are relatively easy to blend, mix and add additives to. All regulations have become more stringent especially those concerning the release of VOC's. I can't get excited about the equipment needed to make it happen. Typically it's a matter of getting the correct compound for the seals in the equipment.

Wonder what the RQ-4 uses for a fuel? Both it's missions and altitudes it operates at are near that of the U-2. You would think it would have a greater problem since it can be airborne for 30 hours. That's a lot longer than the U-2.
It's not only *not* an increase it's a decrease. And a substantial one at that. From memory, it was > 25% fewer gallons.
The RQ-4 flies lower, is not stealthy (a major thermal management consideration),
(was once described as) attritable and doesn't have or need the power generation.

Aromatic hydrocarbon blends aren't likely to magically meet the freezing point temps and be coking resistant;
JP-8+100 was a decadal effort to get right. And there's no evidence whatsoever of boutique blends in use in the AF.

No one is risking a large, expensive, low-production run HALE VLO penetrator on something utterly unproven.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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marauder2048

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Well, apparently 7 operational examples are operated by the 427th Reconnaissance Sqdn. out of Beale AFB, California. So hopefully some photographs will emerge to prove its existence.

They've clearly perfected EO/IR and acoustic stealth and the greatest non-cooperative Auto-ACAS system in order to operate
for a year with nary a trace in some very congested (ranks 3rd in the US) airspace.
 
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Mr London 24/7

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Strawman arguements are bring put up here as reasons why the RQ-180 can’t exist, including:

Identifying unsuitable hangars (a Scoot-n-hide) at a classified facility which has other suitable hangar space.

Pointing out fuel shipment detail sourced from public domain documents to an unsuitable very public base which has limited hangar space.

Implying interns must be writing OUSD/DASD reports to Congress.

Topped off by the sarcasm from a prolific Troll on this site.

I don’t put any particular stake in the ground around the RQ-180 myself either: but I do have to wonder why knocking it down garners such an effort.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Strawman arguements are bring put up here as reasons why the RQ-180 can’t exist, including:
Identifying unsuitable hangars (a Scoot-n-hide) at a classified facility which has other suitable hangar space.
That's entirely wrong. The existence of new hangars was used as evidence of RQ-180 existence. Quellish was arguing that the hangar in question is not related to RQ-180. That's not a strawman argument, its rebutting part of the "evidence".

Implying interns must be writing OUSD/DASD reports to Congress.
I'm interested in what you think caused this mention of RQ-180 to slip out. If it's secret, that'd be a bad mistake.

I don’t put any particular stake in the ground around the RQ-180 myself either: but I do have to wonder why knocking it down garners such an effort.
I have no idea if it exists or not, and nothing on the line, but the evidence presented is weak. If RQ-180 exists, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) don't know about it in June 2020, because they were grilling the Air Force over its plan to retire MQ-4 Block 20 and 30 without a replacement capability. If RQ-180 was in or near service, they wouldn't be as concerned surely. So if RQ-180 exists, they hadn't informed HASC yet.
 

quellish

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Strawman arguements are bring put up here as reasons why the RQ-180 can’t exist, including:

Identifying unsuitable hangars (a Scoot-n-hide) at a classified facility which has other suitable hangar space.
It was Aviation Week, in their 2013 article, that (IIRC) pointed to the new hangar as evidence of the existence of the RQ-180. My argument is that no, that does not indicate the existence of an "RQ-180" as that is not a new hangar for a new program.

As far as why the RQ-180 "can't" exist, I don't argue that it "can't". I can find no evidence that it does.

The history of programs like the F-117 and RQ-170 - both classified programs that resulted in a small operational force - is informative.

For example, when the RQ-170 was ramping up to become operational a new unit was stood up at TTR for it. Same for the F-117.

Low observable aircraft have a lot of special needs. Some personnel from the F-117 program with low observable experience moved to the new unit at TTR. Now some of the low observables needs of the RQ-170 are being met by contractors. In a lot of cases a given individual will stay in the same role working on the RQ-170, but follow the contract. The contract changes hands from company X to company Y, the individual changes companies. These might be people with experience maintaining LO airframes. Or they may be experts in mission planning and routing, RCS diagnostics, or some other specialty specific to LO aircraft. These people can be found on the Interwebs these days.

Aircraft are built somewhere. And there are a limited number of places they are built. They have to get from that place to where they are tested or operated. The larger the aircraft is, the harder it is to hide the movement. The F-117s were delivered by C-5 from Burbank to Groom Lake and TTR. Those movements were widely reported in the press in the 1980s. RQ-170 airframes were delivered by C-17 from Palmdale to Nevada, again movements that were easily visible. Some programs have used trucks rather than aircraft.

F-117 and RQ-170 squadrons were funded out of the Air Force budget. Once the F-117 was overt the Air Force was very open about the funding. Once overt it was possible to work backwards and find how the program was funded while it was classified and operational at TTR. Through that lens it was not difficult to find the funding for the new UAV unit at TTR that operated the RQ-170.

These are just examples of some of the things to look for. But I don't see these things (and many others) happening with the "RQ-180". There aren't regular midnight C-5 or C-17 flights out of the Northrop section of Palmdale. There aren't LO experts disappearing into a new black hole (there are people disappearing into other programs). There doesn't seem to be funding for the development or operation of an expensive unknown ISR program.

I do look for these kinds of indicators - and others - regularly. There have been many times I've looked and seen something like "Where the hell are these people disappearing to?" or "There is a lot of money being spent on some new (specific) program". And you pull on that thread and other things start to make sense and you build a picture of something going on. Sometimes it's real - some program you weren't aware of before - and sometimes it turns out of be something you already knew about (like the Air Force Special Program). I haven't seen anything that makes me suspect there is something like the "RQ-180" out there. That doesn't mean there isn't. I just have not been able to find anything to indicate there is.
 

marauder2048

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Per Twitter, Guy Norris subsequently walked back his claim that the RQ-180 is operating from Beale AFB.

Screen Shot 2020-08-27 at 11.03.54 PM.png
 

marauder2048

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Topped off by the sarcasm from a prolific Troll on this site.
I just have a problem believing that a publication that failed to unmask the "boring" Cessna SkyCourier which was developed by two large, publicly traded companies is somehow replete with the details on a fleet of large, technically exquisite aircraft from an undisclosed Special Access Program.

Also: none of the claims adduced to date really stand up to scrutiny and no one has found corroboratory evidence that's convincing.

The counter-evidence against is much stronger than the evidence for.

Which leads to:

I haven't seen anything that makes me suspect there is something like the "RQ-180" out there. That doesn't mean there isn't. I just have not been able to find anything to indicate there is.
Which is, IMHO, seemingly the recurring theme: proof too meager, disproof impossible.

At some point, after decades of this stuff with no reveal, you might start to think that the black aircraft resistance to disproof is why they are propounded in the first place.
 
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overscan (PaulMM)

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There's a long history of "sources" feeding information on 'Secret Projects' to journalists. Sometimes the information is good, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the source is genuine, but the information is wrong. Sometimes the source is a troll or fantasist, who often tend to congregate on places like Above Top Secret or the Dreamland Resort forum. Sometimes the journalist makes a mistake interpreting the information given. And sometimes, its a genuine story.

Anyone seen that Blackstar recently? Maybe its the same hangar with the Aurora.
 
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dark sidius

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And the hangar at Groom is a scoot and hide for what ?? surely not a F-35, not a B-2, not a tanker so for what ?? Some obervers say about Northrop is the resident what kind have Northrop to need a big scoot and hide ? surely not a Global Hawk.
For everyone. The shelter is located where the south taxiway meets the south end of the runway, far from the main base and hangars. It does not have any vehicle parking to speak of or other infrastructure and is open on both ends (i.e. it is a "pass through). I don't think it could really support a "resident". It is a long taxi from the base hangars to the runways. Having a shelter out there simplifies things greatly. If you need to keep an aircraft out of sight you no longer need to taxi 5 minutes back to the base. You can do your engine tests there. You can refuel out of sight and close to the runway. Etc.
All right for that , but I was speaking about the 2007 hangar this one with the berm near south of the ancient SR-71, in the timing 2007 to present it could be good for something like the RQ-180.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Having said all that, the RQ-180 designation has been seen in an Army publication as well. One possibility is, like Aurora, bits of it are real enough but pieced together into a non-existent whole for example RQ-180 designation exists, but isn't a stealthy HALE to replace the MQ-4 and U-2. Or it does exist, but only prototypes exist so far. Or it does exist, and was just really well hidden.
 
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sferrin

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And the hangar at Groom is a scoot and hide for what ?? surely not a F-35, not a B-2, not a tanker so for what ?? Some obervers say about Northrop is the resident what kind have Northrop to need a big scoot and hide ? surely not a Global Hawk.
Obviously any test aircraft they'd want to keep under wraps. It may not even be being used. It's not impossible it was built for a cancelled program.
 
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sublight is back

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For example, when the RQ-170 was ramping up to become operational a new unit was stood up at TTR for it. Same for the F-117.
However, we live in the age of the "advanced persistent threat" which is arguably much more comprehensive than anything from the Soviet era. I would not be surprised if the contractors assumed a lot more of the logistics.
 

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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".
Quellish is skeptical for a long, long list of reasons. The evidence given in the press has not been compelling. For example, the IIRC the 2013 Aviation Week article mentioned:

- Funding coming from the J-UCAS accounts. Nope, didn't happen.
- New hangar at Groom Lake. The "hangar" in question is a scoot and hide shelter. And it has been used as a scoot and hide shelter since it was built. It's a big shelter for sure, but that's what it is. It was not built for a specific program. Construction was easy enough to monitor, funding was as well, and it's been observed since then.
- Engine test cells at NG Palmdale. Yes, there are engine test cells there (very close to public roads). They were built for existing programs like GlobalHawk. You can see and hear them used for that easily.

A number of times I have looked for any sign of a penetrating ISR UAV that is not the RQ-170. Funding, construction, staffing, engines and landing gear, etc. I haven't found anything, not even a black hole things could disappear into. Just known programs (though not all publicly or well known programs).

USAF already does have a penetrating ISR platform, the RQ-170. The payloads it can carry may be limited, but there isn't a clear reason to spend a lot of money developing an "RQ-180" when the RQ-170 exists. A VLO HALE platform has been on DoD's wish list since the 80s but that doesn't mean it's happening now.
So it basically boils down to the fact that just because you can’t find any evidence or any evidence that satisfies you that it exists that therefore it mustn’t exist.:rolleyes:
 

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Quellish is skeptical for a long, long list of reasons. The evidence given in the press has not been compelling. For example, the IIRC the 2013 Aviation Week article mentioned:

- Funding coming from the J-UCAS accounts. Nope, didn't happen.
- New hangar at Groom Lake. The "hangar" in question is a scoot and hide shelter. And it has been used as a scoot and hide shelter since it was built. It's a big shelter for sure, but that's what it is. It was not built for a specific program. Construction was easy enough to monitor, funding was as well, and it's been observed since then.
- Engine test cells at NG Palmdale. Yes, there are engine test cells there (very close to public roads). They were built for existing programs like GlobalHawk. You can see and hear them used for that easily.

A number of times I have looked for any sign of a penetrating ISR UAV that is not the RQ-170. Funding, construction, staffing, engines and landing gear, etc. I haven't found anything, not even a black hole things could disappear into. Just known programs (though not all publicly or well known programs).

USAF already does have a penetrating ISR platform, the RQ-170. The payloads it can carry may be limited, but there isn't a clear reason to spend a lot of money developing an "RQ-180" when the RQ-170 exists. A VLO HALE platform has been on DoD's wish list since the 80s but that doesn't mean it's happening now.
I was very sceptical about the RQ-180 just like you, until yesterday. I doubt whether the RQ-180 is it's true designation, but the very cleverly found report found by Mister London 24/7 convinced me it actually does exist. Whether it's operational with at least 7 aircraft like AW claimed? Or whether it is a HALE VLO UAV? I'm still sceptical about that. It's very difficult to keep an aircraft, especially one as large as the RQ-180, hidden and secret. Look at the RQ-170; right around the time everybody got a camera on them with their cell phone pictures started leaking out. The fact that hasn't happened yet makes me sceptical about it's operational status. Surely pictures, however grainy and vague would have leaked out, especially if it is operating from bases in Korea and Japan.

I wouldn't be surpised if they only build a prototype. Perhaps it was/is a demonstrator for the B-21, or the X-47B gone black.

But of course I hope I'm wrong. :)

About the hangars: which hangar do you mean? The 2007 or the 2009 one at the southern end of the base? If you mean the 2009 hangar I completely agree with you, that one is definitely a scoot and hide hangar, probably for most if not all the programs at Groom Lake. (On a side note, that one does seem too small to hide the RQ-180 for that matter, if the estimates about it's size are correct.)

The 2007 one seems to be quite illogically placed for a scoot and hide hangar. As the hangar can be clearly seen from Tikaboo Peak, the earthen berm must be there to shelter whatever is in there from the rest of the workers at Groom. Of course all programs at Groom are kept separate and secret from each other, within reasonable bounds (although I'm pretty sure most people working at Area 51 have a pretty good idea what's going on around the base, especially when a new flying prototype is involved).

But it seems they've gone to exceptional lengths to keep whatever is or was going on the 2007 hangar away from the rest of the base.

It makes you wonder...
As far as I can remember it wasn’t claimed to be an operational program yet in that article rather those 7 you mentioned were development models.
 

In_A_Dream

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And the hangar at Groom is a scoot and hide for what ?? surely not a F-35, not a B-2, not a tanker so for what ?? Some obervers say about Northrop is the resident what kind have Northrop to need a big scoot and hide ? surely not a Global Hawk.
Its proximity to the runway and distance from the engineering bays is enough to justify it as a scoot-n-hide shelter, maybe to even store multiple aircraft. Maybe something big, who knows.

As for the "RQ-180", remember that budgets can be hidden within the line items of other programs. What if the U-2 program hid funding for another project? The U-2 is a high flying aircraft too. Or maybe something high $$ like the B-2? Who knows what the "RQ-180"'s real role is, the DOD engages in misinformation/disinformation to shroud its developments, can't take everything for face value. With so much attention focused on the RQ-180, it's the perfect deflection.
 
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marauder2048

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Having said all that, the RQ-180 designation has been seen in an Army publication as well. One possibility is, like Aurora, bits of it are real enough but pieced together into a non-existent whole for example RQ-180 designation exists, but isn't a stealthy HALE to replace the MQ-4 and U-2. Or it does exist, but only prototypes exist so far. Or it does exist, and was just really well hidden.
Since Paul brought it up: even the incredibly weak and ever weakening case for Aurora is stronger than the case for the RQ-180.

No one doubts that something like the RQ-180 could be built even though it would be a major technological undertaking.
I'm sure Lockheed openly pitching TR-X is part and parcel of what's going on in the ISR realm.

But that a fleet of seven large, distinctive looking aircraft are operating regularly with a truly invisible logistics,
personnel and visual evidence trail is doubtful.
 

Grey Havoc

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Not that it proves anything, but I should note that such shelters have also occasionally proven handy for hiding access to underground hangers in plain sight.
 

quellish

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As for the "RQ-180", remember that budgets can be hidden within the line items of other programs. What if the U-2 program hid funding for another project? The U-2 is a high flying aircraft too. Or maybe something high $$ like the B-2? Who knows what the "RQ-180"'s real role is, the DOD engages in misinformation/disinformation to shroud its developments, can't take everything for face value. With so much attention focused on the RQ-180, it's the perfect deflection.
Yes and no. They can't do something like use money from the B-2 DMS upgrades to fund the RQ-180 development or operations. Back in the 80s the Navy did things like this to fund the A-12 and it got them into a lot of trouble. That would be very illegal without a "reprogramming" action, which requires justification and authorization (and is not secret). Reprogramming actions can sometimes (but not often) be insightful. For example, there might be money shifted out of program X into something it depends on, like money shifted from F-35 RDTE into a defense-wide operational testing account to upgrade a facility to support F-35 testing. Or it can be just shifting money to where it's needed and the donor and recipient have no real relation to each other.

They can, however, do things like fund a sensor that both the GlobalHawk and RQ-180 can use under the GlobalHawk program and then fund the integration onto the RQ-180 from the RQ-180 account. Things like that do happen.

And they do fund things under broader efforts, like "Advanced Aerospace Engineering" or things like that. Under that effort there may be (public) demos of automated in flight refueling for NGB, but right next to that a classified program that supports some other classified program (like the RQ-170). If you look at the funding for the broad effort you will notice the public programs do no add up to the total, the difference being the classified programs. Some years they list the classified programs, some years they don't, if you can see across enough of the timeline you can piece it all together though.

If you pay attention you can see money disappearing into a black hole, and you can often (not always) figure out the nature of the black hole and the composition of the money in it.
 

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Remember a couple of AF Lt. Generals made statements that an advanced ISR aircraft may already be in existence as far back as 2013.

April 2013 Lt. General James Davis, told the Armed Services Committee in an effort to rid the AF of some RQ-4's, states that Global Hawk can not penetrate denied airspace and that there are classified systems that can (eluding to a possible existence of an existing deep-penetration ISR aircraft).

June 9, 2014 USAF Lt. General Robert "Bob" Otto stated that the RQ-180 existed, reported Air Force Magazine. He is the Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR. That comment was never retracted nor confirmed by others in the AF.
 

marauder2048

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Back in the 80s the Navy did things like this to fund the A-12 and it got them into a lot of trouble. That would be very illegal without a "reprogramming" action, which requires justification and authorization (and is not secret).
And there's nothing the internal Pentagon watchdogs groups like doing more than busting programs for this behavior.
(below was just an attempt by a Navy program to use procurement funds for Block I to fund RDT&E for Block II).

It's probably worse for SAPs because only the more senior, hardened and no-B$ auditors are allowed to review them.

irst-dodig.png
 

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The big hangar with the earthen berm next to it was built for the "RQ-180," and was ready for use about the time the combined test force was stood up. The big Scoot-N-Hide shelter down near the south end of the runway was built a few years later and is a general use hangar. I'm not sure why people get these two confused.

The "RQ-180" (I prefer the term penetrating-ISR, or P-ISR, that has been used in official unclassified briefings) is a program with a very large footprint in terms of personnel, organizational infrastructure, and other indicators. Aviation Week & Space Technology has done a pretty good job reporting on it over the past decade, though they haven't always gotten everything right. Considering how long they have been flying, and how many airframes have been built, it's a bit surprising that no one outside the program has laid eyes one, even if they only fly at night. For what it's worth, it has been described as "beautiful."
 

marauder2048

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The big hangar with the earthen berm next to it was built for the "RQ-180," and was ready for use about the time the combined test force was stood up. The big Scoot-N-Hide shelter down near the south end of the runway was built a few years later and is a general use hangar. I'm not sure why people get these two confused.

The "RQ-180" (I prefer the term penetrating-ISR, or P-ISR, that has been used in official unclassified briefings)
I'd prefer if you'd state your affiliation as openly as your writing style reveals.

At least LO/Underhill/GeorgeHill took pains to try to disguise his style.
 

quellish

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Remember a couple of AF Lt. Generals made statements that an advanced ISR aircraft may already be in existence as far back as 2013.

April 2013 Lt. General James Davis, told the Armed Services Committee in an effort to rid the AF of some RQ-4's, states that Global Hawk can not penetrate denied airspace and that there are classified systems that can (eluding to a possible existence of an existing deep-penetration ISR aircraft).

June 9, 2014 USAF Lt. General Robert "Bob" Otto stated that the RQ-180 existed, reported Air Force Magazine. He is the Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR. That comment was never retracted nor confirmed by others in the AF.
There is a long history of generals making statements that confirm penetrating ISR aircraft. I'll just leave this here.

"USAF confirms existence of secret U-2 companion aircraft

A secret reconnaissance aircraft, probably a low-observable (LO) counterpart to the Lockheed Martin U-2, has been confirmed to exist. A footnote in the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office's (DARO) 1997 report on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development refers to "the U-2 and the Air Force Special Platform". DARO director Maj Gen Kenneth Israel acknowledges that this reference points to "a covert reconnaissance aircraft ... in the classified world."

The status of the program is unknown, but the context implies that it is at least under development, if not already in service. The vehicle can carry the same sensors as the U-2, including the Raytheon ASARS (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System) and SYERS (Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System), and it will also be able to carry the Joint SlGlNT Avionics Family (USAF) sensor suite. These systems are designed to be carried on long-endurance subsonic, high-flying aircraft. Additionally, the secret vehicle is probably a manned, LO aircraft, because these characteristics would distinguish it from the U-2 and the RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV.

The existence of such an aircraft has been the subject of speculation for more than a decade, because LO technology is an obvious match to the mission. An LO aircraft would be able to penetrate air defenses, overflying the detection range of lower-powered systems, detecting and locating large radars, and using stand-off sensors to remain outside the effective range of defensive SAMs. It would also be able to operate unobserved in a stand-off mission. The aircraft is probably quite large, combining long endurance with a large sensor and communications payload. It would not be surprising if it were twin-engined, and it could well have a two-member crew -- the U-2's single-seat, single-engine design is a legacy of the original U-2A, and its long missions push the limits of engine reliability and pilot endurance.

The existence of an LO high-flyer may explain why the delays in development of the Lockheed Martin/Boeing Darkstar are not causing undue alarm. The smaller, relatively inexpensive Darkstar, which achieves a very low radar cross section without using the most advanced and sensitive materials, may be critical only against the most heavily defended targets . BS
DARO has acknowledged that a low-observable reconnaissance aircraft, the 'Air Force Special Platform', is in existence, and probably serves as a companion to the U-2. (Photo:Lockheed Martin)"



"Currently, there are four platforms scheduled to receive
either the LBSS, the HBSS, or both. The Air force plans to
install JSAF on two platforms, the RC-135 Rivet Joint and the
Air Force special platform. There are 16 of each of the two
platforms in the Air Force. The navy plans to install JSAF on
its EP-3E aircraft. The Navy maintains 12 EP-3E platforms. The
Army plans to install JSAF on nine Airborne Reconnaissance Low
(ARL) aircraft for a total of 53 manned platforms. Under the
present plan, the Air Force special platform will be the only
aircraft equipped with the LBSS and the HBSS."


"Integration for "Plug and Play" with U-2 and Air Force Special Platform"

 

overscan (PaulMM)

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The big hangar with the earthen berm next to it was built for the "RQ-180," and was ready for use about the time the combined test force was stood up. The big Scoot-N-Hide shelter down near the south end of the runway was built a few years later and is a general use hangar. I'm not sure why people get these two confused.

The "RQ-180" (I prefer the term penetrating-ISR, or P-ISR, that has been used in official unclassified briefings)
I'd prefer if you'd state your affiliation as openly as your writing style reveals.

At least LO/Underhill/GeorgeHill took pains to try to disguise his style.
I know who LO is, but no idea what "Underhill" and "GeorgeHill" refer to. I'm not sure this is relevant to the topic though.
 

marauder2048

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The big hangar with the earthen berm next to it was built for the "RQ-180," and was ready for use about the time the combined test force was stood up. The big Scoot-N-Hide shelter down near the south end of the runway was built a few years later and is a general use hangar. I'm not sure why people get these two confused.

The "RQ-180" (I prefer the term penetrating-ISR, or P-ISR, that has been used in official unclassified briefings)
I'd prefer if you'd state your affiliation as openly as your writing style reveals.

At least LO/Underhill/GeorgeHill took pains to try to disguise his style.
I know who LO is, but no idea what "Underhill" and "GeorgeHill" refer to. I'm not sure this is relevant to the topic though.
Various aliases used elsewhere but easily spotted; snarkiness is hard to hide stylistically.

You (or I) can delete those references if you wish.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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I merged some other relevant topics into this one.

I thought AFSP was just the U-2S with F118 engine?
 
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