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

Dynoman

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I maybe wrong, but the Mad Hatters were supposed to be the Northrop test team at Groom Lake that is working on a classified ISR aircraft. The Roman numerals indicate 8, 3, 2010. This is around the time of the supposed RQ-180 first flew according to AW&ST. I think the Latin translates to Death from the Shadows. Also, a patch with the term 'Boomslang' is supposedly associated with the RQ-180. The Boomslang is a poisonous snake in Africa. The B-2 was nicknamed the Boomerang. It would be interesting if the Boomslang was of similar configuration to the B-2 or a 'family member.' The '300' maybe 300 missions? Any info on this patches?
 

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marauder2048

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I maybe wrong, but the Mad Hatters were supposed to be the Northrop test team at Groom Lake that is working on a classified ISR aircraft. The Roman numerals indicate 8, 3, 2010. This is around the time of the supposed RQ-180 first flew according to AW&ST.
I think that's the 492nd. An F-15E squadron.
 

quellish

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I merged some other relevant topics into this one.

I thought AFSP was just the U-2S with F118 engine?
In 97 the "Air Force Special Platform" reference appeared in a few places (budget documents, etc.). It was referenced alongside the RC-135 and U-2.

Janes quoted the head of DARO as saying it was a classified covert reconnaissance aircraft. The press picked up on this (see the janes article in my post) and reported it as a low observable "U-2 companion" manned aircraft (Janes). Or a low observable UAV (AvWeek?). Or Aurora (Daily Telegraph).

Fast forward a year or two. The budget documents that referenced AFSP previously now reference the U-2 in place of it. Exact same text, but "Air Force Special Platform" is replaced with "U-2". The U-2 was the classified covert reconnaissance aircraft the DARO general was referring to, not a new, exotic low observable anything. At the time of the AFSP references (IIRC) SYERS was classified. "Air Force Special Platform" was probably a U-2 configuration that had SYERS and other upgrades (engine, and with that electrical power) that could support certain new payloads. There are still people out there that believe the Air Force Special Platform is a secret low observable aircraft though.

There are several lessons to be learned here. One is that when generals start talking about classified platforms don't read too much into it. The generals who were talking about the "RQ-180" may have been talking about a different classified program (like the RQ-170, which is still classified).
 

TomcatViP

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Reading all of you guys (with plenty of informative post in the lot), I think that everybody would agree that's it's still too early to disagree.

Don't want to interrupt though.
 

Whisperstream

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I maybe wrong, but the Mad Hatters were supposed to be the Northrop test team at Groom Lake that is working on a classified ISR aircraft. The Roman numerals indicate 8, 3, 2010. This is around the time of the supposed RQ-180 first flew according to AW&ST. I think the Latin translates to Death from the Shadows. Also, a patch with the term 'Boomslang' is supposedly associated with the RQ-180. The Boomslang is a poisonous snake in Africa. The B-2 was nicknamed the Boomerang. It would be interesting if the Boomslang was of similar configuration to the B-2 or a 'family member.' The '300' maybe 300 missions? Any info on this patches?

Got it in one, Dynoman. You are not wrong. Incidentally, the M on that one patch signifies 1000 (hours? flights?); it appeared around 2016.
 

TomcatViP

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MMX: 2010
VIII. III : AUGUST THIRD (unless fully roman where that would be 8th of March)

So if it refer to a date, we have the 08 03 2010 or 03 08 2010
 
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marauder2048

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I maybe wrong, but the Mad Hatters were supposed to be the Northrop test team at Groom Lake that is working on a classified ISR aircraft. The Roman numerals indicate 8, 3, 2010. This is around the time of the supposed RQ-180 first flew according to AW&ST. I think the Latin translates to Death from the Shadows. Also, a patch with the term 'Boomslang' is supposedly associated with the RQ-180. The Boomslang is a poisonous snake in Africa. The B-2 was nicknamed the Boomerang. It would be interesting if the Boomslang was of similar configuration to the B-2 or a 'family member.' The '300' maybe 300 missions? Any info on this patches?

Got it in one, Dynoman. You are not wrong. Incidentally, the M on that one patch signifies 1000 (hours? flights?); it appeared around 2016.
"Death from the shadows" makes complete sense as a slogan for a penetrating ISR aircraft.
 

Mark S.

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Something to chew on with respect to fuels. As I suspected you can mitigate some of the varnish problems with picking materials that don't lend themselves to aiding the growth of those coatings. As you can see the working with thermally stable fuels have been ongoing for some time.
 

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marauder2048

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Something to chew on with respect to fuels. As I suspected you can mitigate some of the varnish problems with picking materials that don't lend themselves to aiding the growth of those coatings. As you can see the working with thermally stable fuels have been ongoing for some time.
And there's now, seemingly, nothing to show for it beyond JPTS.

JP-8+100.. RIP
JP-8+225.. RIP
JP-900.. RIP

JP-7 would be unsuitable for HALE.
And JP-10 is just way too expensive for aircraft usage.

The only thing that seems to continue at low funding amounts is on-board deoxygenation.

So the correct fuel to use is JPTS; the only place in CONUS that has the JPTS
infrastructure support something like a fleet is Beale.

But no one has seen anything like the RQ-180 there and claim by the author
has been withdrawn.
 
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marauder2048

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I maybe wrong, but the Mad Hatters were supposed to be the Northrop test team at Groom Lake that is working on a classified ISR aircraft. The Roman numerals indicate 8, 3, 2010. This is around the time of the supposed RQ-180 first flew according to AW&ST. I think the Latin translates to Death from the Shadows. Also, a patch with the term 'Boomslang' is supposedly associated with the RQ-180. The Boomslang is a poisonous snake in Africa. The B-2 was nicknamed the Boomerang. It would be interesting if the Boomslang was of similar configuration to the B-2 or a 'family member.' The '300' maybe 300 missions? Any info on this patches?

Got it in one, Dynoman. You are not wrong. Incidentally, the M on that one patch signifies 1000 (hours? flights?); it appeared around 2016.
So help me understand the putative history.

The SECDEF from 2006 - 2011 was Robert Gates, about
the most implacable domestic foe the Air Force has known.

Gates decapitated AF leadership in part because of alleged unresponsiveness to
volume buys of cheap, high-capacity MQ-9 style ISR.

Gates blocked a JROC recommendation (by an Admiral) that the Air Force become the
executive agency for unmanned systems operating at medium and high altitude.

Gates hated high ticket item, small volume, narrow-focus, "exquisite", next-war only oriented platforms.

Gates loved claimed substitutes e.g. (paraphrase) "the F-35 is comparable to the F-22 in air-to-air"

But Gates would have been *totally* cool with the exquisite, high-ticket item, low volume, next-war
only RQ-180 despite the overlap with the RQ-170, the ongoing X-47 and the
forthcoming optionally manned bomber that he himself directed and approved.
 

Flyaway

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If they ever do unveil an RQ-180 there’s going to be a number of posters on this thread who are going to look incredibly silly making such definitive statements.
 

Dynoman

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The hangars identified at Groom Lake in the December 9, 2013 AW&ST article, which were completed between 2006-2009, have doors that are approximately 90-100 feet in width. The wingspans of the Global Hawk and the B-2 are 131 ft and 172 ft, respectively. This makes the hangar designed for a 90-95 ft wingspan aircraft or an aircraft roughly 30% larger than the RQ-170.
 

Mark S.

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Here's an interesting article on the latest seals for use with fuels like JPTS. Nothing of consequence. Additionally as you can see even traditional materials can handle the temps up to 300 F.


If you have better engineering information please share it. I've worked with this firm. Great folks and you can rest assured that they know their products.

So how does NASA refuel their ER-2's at Ames and at their deployed locations?
 

marauder2048

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If they ever do unveil an RQ-180 there’s going to be a number of posters on this thread who are going to look incredibly silly making such definitive statements.
No one is saying it doesn't exist just that the evidence adduced to date does not support its existence.

We've said repeatedly that it is impossible to disprove such aircraft.

I'm happy to see it roll out and to see a rewrite of much of the current understanding
of DOD's acquisition history during the period.
 

marauder2048

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Here's an interesting article on the latest seals for use with fuels like JPTS. Nothing of consequence. Additionally as you can see even traditional materials can handle the temps up to 300 F.


If you have better engineering information please share it. I've worked with this firm. Great folks and you can rest assured that they know their products.

So how does NASA refuel their ER-2's at Ames and at their deployed locations?
JP-8 + 100 was required to be thermally stable up to 425 degrees.
And it was deemed inadequate as a JPTS replacement.

And of course sealants aren't really as much of a problem as coking.
They attack that with coking inhibitors and anti-agglomeration techniques (additives)

NASA uses JPTS for their ER-2s.
 
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quellish

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Here's an interesting article on the latest seals for use with fuels like JPTS. Nothing of consequence. Additionally as you can see even traditional materials can handle the temps up to 300 F.


If you have better engineering information please share it. I've worked with this firm. Great folks and you can rest assured that they know their products.

So how does NASA refuel their ER-2's at Ames and at their deployed locations?
JP-8 + 100 was required to be thermally stable up to 425 degrees.
And it was deemed inadequate as a JPTS replacement.

And of course sealants aren't really as much of a problem as coking.
They attack that with coking inhibitors and anti-agglomeration techniques (additives)

NASA uses JPTS for their ER-2s.
I believe JP8+100 is what the military U-2 fleet currently uses after the aircraft were modified with heaters, etc in the 90s.
 

marauder2048

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Here's an interesting article on the latest seals for use with fuels like JPTS. Nothing of consequence. Additionally as you can see even traditional materials can handle the temps up to 300 F.


If you have better engineering information please share it. I've worked with this firm. Great folks and you can rest assured that they know their products.

So how does NASA refuel their ER-2's at Ames and at their deployed locations?
JP-8 + 100 was required to be thermally stable up to 425 degrees.
And it was deemed inadequate as a JPTS replacement.

And of course sealants aren't really as much of a problem as coking.
They attack that with coking inhibitors and anti-agglomeration techniques (additives)

NASA uses JPTS for their ER-2s.
I believe JP8+100 is what the military U-2 fleet currently uses after the aircraft were modified with heaters, etc in the 90s.

JP-8 + 100 was removed from service in toto from the Air Force circa 2014.
I have this from the Air Force fuels branch author of the current JP-8 spec
and it's confirmed through numerous EIS and other change orders.


jp-8-plus-100.png
 
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marauder2048

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And Beale is actually getting a Type III Hydrant (Sept. 17, 2019).

“Here at Beale, 9th LRS/POL is still using a Type II Hydrant Fuel System,” Britten said. “There are very few bases left worldwide with this 63 year old fuel system. In the near future Beale will be upgraded to a Type III Hydrant System that will increase capability.”

This new capability is also tied to the type of fuels used here. Made exclusively for the U-2, the POL Airmen supply the Dragon lady with Jet Propellant Thermally Stable (JPTS) fuel.

According to Britten, JPTS allows for the aircraft to fly at higher altitudes for reconnaissance missions. This fuel type also has more stringent characteristics than other fuel types and requires more testing and care.
https://www.beale.af.mil/News/Artic...d-tankers-practice-for-mission-effectiveness/

(And you've seen recent (FY2015) revitalization of the smaller JPTS tanks at places like Hickam)

So the one place that should be hosting the RQ-180 due to its JPTS tank farms, JPTS rail delivery system, testing/handling
equipment and hydrant system...isn't.

IIRC, the NG Sensorcraft bird had > 70,000 lbs of fuel onboard so things like high GPM hydrants become really important
 
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quellish

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The hangars identified at Groom Lake in the December 9, 2013 AW&ST article, which were completed between 2006-2009, have doors that are approximately 90-100 feet in width. The wingspans of the Global Hawk and the B-2 are 131 ft and 172 ft, respectively. This makes the hangar designed for a 90-95 ft wingspan aircraft or an aircraft roughly 30% larger than the RQ-170.
For the 2007/2009 hangar, using Google Earth with several different time periods I get a hangar door width of 160-170 feet.
 

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dark sidius

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Interesting what type could be resident in ?, it seems on Google pictures a lot of activities year after year. It was for a project launched in 2006 ?
 

Dynoman

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Thank you Quellish I was using the vehicles parked next to the hangar as a comparison to the door size and used the wrong assumption for the car/truck length. The berms doesn't conceal the entire hangar, just the doors. Once it moves from the hangar I'm sure the lights are out.
 

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xstatic3000

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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."
Wow. Up until now, I was certain that if this thing existed at all it was some sort of contractor-funded technology demonstrator, along the lines of Polecat. Amazing that nothing has surfaced about it over the past several years - I’m wondering where they hid the procurement and O&M dollars?
 

Mark S.

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Coking often occurs at lower power settings. It's the result of incomplete combustion. We have all seen how folks flying F-4's would go into burner to cut the smoke trail they were leaving. As for thermal stability changing the alloys of the tubing in the engine solves much of the varnish build up. Thermal stability is the attribute that prevents varnish build-up from occurring at high temperatures on certain metals. Injectors and combustors for the last several decades can be designed to minimize these problems. Remember seeing FEA driven flame propagation studies. You might find one on You Tube.

If you read the recent articles on penetrating ISR and those that mention the SensorCraft you will see that the same air vehicle concept will work in both rolls. That being 360 deg. sensor coverage. Not at all bizarre.
 

marauder2048

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Coking often occurs at lower power settings. It's the result of incomplete combustion. We have all seen how folks flying F-4's would go into burner to cut the smoke trail they were leaving. As for thermal stability changing the alloys of the tubing in the engine solves much of the varnish build up. Thermal stability is the attribute that prevents varnish build-up from occurring at high temperatures on certain metals. Injectors and combustors for the last several decades can be designed to minimize these problems.
The coking of concern here involves dumping heat from solar heating, mission systems etc into the fuel tanks.

Since it's practically impossible to remove dissolved oxygen on the ground you have to appeal to some combination
of fuels that are designed for reduce coking, prevent the agglomeration of coke into obstructive stuff, or hardware like
filters or other coatings or some form of onboard deoxygenation equipment.

Custom fuels are preferred since it adds no weight or complexity to the aircraft. Recall, this is a *very* long
duration mission so simpler more reliable onboard systems are absolutely required.

The choice for this flight envelope is consequently abundantly clear: JPTS. Because it's good on
the thermal side and great on the freezing/viscosity side.

You've conveniently left that latter part unaddressed. Doing both well is really hard; there are all of
two fuels out there that seem to do it.

If you read the recent articles on penetrating ISR and those that mention the SensorCraft you will see that the same air vehicle concept will work in both rolls
SensorCraft was not survivable in the high threat environment if it penetrated and persisted.
All of the analysis out there was about how close it could get to defended airspace and survive.

The right and intended place for it was behind the FLOT; it was an all in one AMTI/GMTI/SAR/FOPEN bird
whose value proposition was based on replacing a bunch of vulnerable standoff things like JSTARS and AWACS
with one thing that could orbit longer and was more survivable in standoff.

Feel free to read up on the National Academies deeply unfavorable assessment (in their study of Boost Phase BMD)
of the survivability of such a craft against modern (circa 2010) IADS if it tried to penetrate and persist.

This is echoed by contemporary studies using EADSIM and other tools for modeling the survivability of a high
and slow penetrating + persisting VLO; it doesn't end well.

Now the AF could have ignored all of this and built it anyway.
 
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Mark S.

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Just saying, you can't get coking without a combustion process. Fundamental chemistry! Dumping heat from solar energy or heat transfer from other sources does nothing but raise the temperature of the fuel. Always enjoy these posts.
 

marauder2048

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Just saying, you can't get coking without a combustion process. Fundamental chemistry! Dumping heat from solar energy or heat transfer from other sources does nothing but raise the temperature of the fuel. Always enjoy these posts.
The important distinction is how, when and where the (partial) combustion occurs.
That drives very different solutions.

And on the freezing front: they've had near hull losses on the Global Hawk because of fuel
freezing due to insufficient mission system heat (say the AESA radar is off) being dumped into the tanks
during cruise segments.

HALE is a pretty unforgiving envelope.
 
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