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

Flyaway

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By the way LOL at a certain conspiracy aircraft forum convincing themselves that is a P-175, kind of ironic that. I’d rather go with the opinion of posters on here.
 

CiTrus90

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This is definitely not a Polecat
The aircraft in the picture is banking and/or climbing, I don't think we can really compensate for that angle (with light and shadows) and compare it to a plan view without causing extensive distortions on such a small image. In my opinion this is quite similar to what happened with the B-2 photographed over Texas., but I'll keep an open mind and hope more details and other pics might surface sooner or later.
 

Flyaway

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This is definitely not a Polecat
The aircraft in the picture is banking and/or climbing, I don't think we can really compensate for that angle (with light and shadows) and compare it to a plan view without causing extensive distortions on such a small image. In my opinion this is quite similar to what happened with the B-2 photographed over Texas., but I'll keep an open mind and hope more details and other pics might surface sooner or later.
But don’t the contrails indicate it’s a bigger vehicle than the Polecat which wasn’t that large a UAV, 90ft wingspan, compared to the RQ-180’s alleged 170ft.
 

flateric

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This is definitely not a Polecat
The aircraft in the picture is banking and/or climbing, I don't think we can really compensate for that angle (with light and shadows) and compare it to a plan view without causing extensive distortions on such a small image. In my opinion this is quite similar to what happened with the B-2 photographed over Texas., but I'll keep an open mind and hope more details and other pics might surface sooner or later.
Banking it or not, it will not change longitudonal proportions with that distinctive narrow outer wing sections.
Cmon, guys, again - of all possible variants, with all that RQ-180 info confirmed by numerous sources and even DoD documents, why for the God's sake did you came to ressurected P-175 version?
 

Flyaway

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This is definitely not a Polecat
The aircraft in the picture is banking and/or climbing, I don't think we can really compensate for that angle (with light and shadows) and compare it to a plan view without causing extensive distortions on such a small image. In my opinion this is quite similar to what happened with the B-2 photographed over Texas., but I'll keep an open mind and hope more details and other pics might surface sooner or later.
Banking it or not, it will not change longitudonal proportions with that distinctive narrow outer wing sections.
Cmon, guys, again - of all possible variants, with all that RQ-180 info confirmed by numerous sources and even DoD documents, why for the God's sake did you came to ressurected P-175 version?
The main support for this Polecat idea seems to come from the fact that the bits of airframes for other Polecats disappeared from where they had been left outside for years. Because of course Lockheed or the USAF might not just have decided to throw them away after all this time.
 

coanda

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Well, the photograph appears to me to show an aircraft banking to the right and heading away from the photographer. This angle visually compresses the true wing chord/body length.

My main reason for thinking its from the same lineage as the RQ170 is the design of the ventral bay. That seems fairly close to the RQ170 in being a V shaped 'canoe'. The Polecat did not have this, and I have yet to see another UAV with this style of design language.
 

flateric

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Polecat didn't have what?
Yet does it mean that RQ-180 can't have similar design to provide useful volumes?
 

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Flyaway

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Well, the photograph appears to me to show an aircraft banking to the right and heading away from the photographer. This angle visually compresses the true wing chord/body length.

My main reason for thinking its from the same lineage as the RQ170 is the design of the ventral bay. That seems fairly close to the RQ170 in being a V shaped 'canoe'. The Polecat did not have this, and I have yet to see another UAV with this style of design language.
All that proves is how ahead of the game the Polecat’s design was.
 

coanda

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Well, the photograph appears to me to show an aircraft banking to the right and heading away from the photographer. This angle visually compresses the true wing chord/body length.

My main reason for thinking its from the same lineage as the RQ170 is the design of the ventral bay. That seems fairly close to the RQ170 in being a V shaped 'canoe'. The Polecat did not have this, and I have yet to see another UAV with this style of design language.
All that proves is how ahead of the game the Polecat’s design was.
Lol, it does no such thing.
 

Flyaway

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Well, the photograph appears to me to show an aircraft banking to the right and heading away from the photographer. This angle visually compresses the true wing chord/body length.

My main reason for thinking its from the same lineage as the RQ170 is the design of the ventral bay. That seems fairly close to the RQ170 in being a V shaped 'canoe'. The Polecat did not have this, and I have yet to see another UAV with this style of design language.
All that proves is how ahead of the game the Polecat’s design was.
Lol, it does no such thing.
Yes it does if people are more than willing to believe that it is the P-175, and you can’t tell me that the Polecat wasn’t an influence on what we’ve seen since.

This perfectly proves my point about it being taken for the P-175:

View: https://mobile.twitter.com/rubenhofs/status/1323179947352010754

View: https://mobile.twitter.com/rubenhofs/status/1323182335404216320
 

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- The aircraft is in a pronounced bank (main axis is offset from contrails axis)
- the picture uses digital zoom (that with point above suggests slant range)
- both wings not having rigorously the same length (on the picture) could give the slant distance and wing span using the fact that the bank angle is probably 30<X<60deg (but on a finite value as a computer is probably in command of that baby).

My 2 cents.
 
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Flyaway

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At least it’s a much better quality image than the infamous ‘Flying Dorito’.
 

quellish

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- The aircraft is in a pronounced bank (main axis is offset from contrails axis)
- the picture uses digital zoom (that with point above suggests slant range)
- both wings not having rigorously the same length (on the picture) could give the slant distance and wing span using the fact that the bank angle is probably 30<X<60deg (but on a finite value as a computer is probably in command of that baby).

My 2 cents.

Data on the time, location, camera settings could tell us all this and more as it did with the Amarillo B-2s, etc
 

flateric

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It didn't bank, it flew right above the observer. 300 mm lenses were used
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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It appears to have a thick bulge on the centreline which is somewhat reminiscent of RQ-170, but the wing shape is closer to the Northrop Sensorcraft. The Northrop Grumman HiLDA wing tested at Langley in 2004 as part of Sensorcraft work is pretty close, and in 2004 there were plans of a flight demonstrator for the wing technology in 2010....
 

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flateric

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NG SC would have been 205 ft wingspan flying aesa arrays carrier, while RQ-180 is apparently smaller (170 ft according to some sources) and doesn't have to mimic mission/internal volumes distribution/OML to SC
 

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LowObservable

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coanda

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It didn't bank, it flew right above the observer. 300 mm lenses were used
Whatever it did, it's not directly over the photographer in that picture, and it's not at zero degrees bank angle either. The shadow of the central fuselage and reflected light of the undersides proves that beyond doubt.
 

coanda

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Well, the photograph appears to me to show an aircraft banking to the right and heading away from the photographer. This angle visually compresses the true wing chord/body length.

My main reason for thinking its from the same lineage as the RQ170 is the design of the ventral bay. That seems fairly close to the RQ170 in being a V shaped 'canoe'. The Polecat did not have this, and I have yet to see another UAV with this style of design language.
All that proves is how ahead of the game the Polecat’s design was.
Lol, it does no such thing.
Yes it does if people are more than willing to believe that it is the P-175, and you can’t tell me that the Polecat wasn’t an influence on what we’ve seen since.

This perfectly proves my point about it being taken for the P-175:

View: https://mobile.twitter.com/rubenhofs/status/1323179947352010754

View: https://mobile.twitter.com/rubenhofs/status/1323182335404216320
It is not Polecat.

As far as influencing design decisions go, the design space is very limited for these requirements. All designs will look like this - that was settled a long time ago. If the B-2 hadn't had its requirements changed for low level it would look like this. The B21 will look like this. Physics makes it so. All you've got now are details to go on - manufacturer 'design languages' and preferred ways of doing things.

Actually, if it is real and LM, it'll be a mashup of both P175 and RQ170 and anything else similar that LM have been doing for the past 20 years.

If its NG its gonna be the same for them - a mashup of everything they've already learnt on sensorcraft or similar.
 
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coanda

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- The aircraft is in a pronounced bank (main axis is offset from contrails axis)
- the picture uses digital zoom (that with point above suggests slant range)
- both wings not having rigorously the same length (on the picture) could give the slant distance and wing span using the fact that the bank angle is probably 30<X<60deg (but on a finite value as a computer is probably in command of that baby).

My 2 cents.

Data on the time, location, camera settings could tell us all this and more as it did with the Amarillo B-2s, etc
What do you think this is?
 

The Artist

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It didn't bank, it flew right above the observer. 300 mm lenses were used
Whatever it did, it's not directly over the photographer in that picture, and it's not at zero degrees bank angle either. The shadow of the central fuselage and reflected light of the undersides proves that beyond doubt.
What was the time of day? If it was early morning, or late afternoon when the sun would be lower in the sky than the aircraft to the viewer on the ground, you could get lighting like that. I've seen the bellies of many an airliner lit in flight.
 

flateric

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It didn't bank, it flew right above the observer. 300 mm lenses were used
Whatever it did, it's not directly over the photographer in that picture, and it's not at zero degrees bank angle either. The shadow of the central fuselage and reflected light of the undersides proves that beyond doubt.
What was the time of day? If it was early morning, or late afternoon when the sun would be lower in the sky than the aircraft to the viewer on the ground, you could get lighting like that. I've seen the bellies of many an airliner lit in flight.
5-6 P.M.
 

Flyaway

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No longer behind a paywall:

A picture has surfaced showing a new aircraft generally matching Aerospace DAILY’s understanding of the shape of what is commonly known as the RQ-180 unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

Aerospace DAILY understands the picture of the UAS was taken two to three weeks ago inside the Military Operating Area around Edwards AFB, California.

The picture was taken in daylight hours, and the unknown aircraft was flying above California City in a racetrack pattern at an estimated altitude of 20,000 ft.

The picture surfaces slightly more than a year after Aerospace DAILY reported that the U.S. Air Force had made the fleet of RQ-180 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operational.

The configuration appears to share many of the supposed features of the RQ-180, namely a large-span flying wing with a simple trailing edge and—judging by the contrail—embedded, closely paired twin turbofan engines.

The high-aspect-ratio wing also appears greater in span than other known large unmanned aircraft and has a relatively low sweep angle.

The unusual light color of the vehicle also is believed to be a link to the RQ-180. A local nickname around Edwards AFB for the RQ-180 is the “Great White Bat”—or sometimes “Shikaka”—a fictional sacred white bat from the 1995 movie Ace Venture 2.

The “white bat” symbol also has appeared as the badge for the 74th Reconnaissance Squadron. The unit is thought to have become a training squadron for the RQ-180. It is understood to have been established earlier this year, following the 2018 activation of Detachment 5 of the 9th Operations Group at Beale AFB, California.

 

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I was somewhat sceptical about the RQ-180. It took so long for the first picture to leak, I figured a prototype was flown but it never went operational. But seeing this picture I think a lot of things finally make sense:


The RQ-180 was always reported as sight sensitive, hence the extreme secrecy around it. The platform on the picture is almost exactly like the SensorCraft renderings we’ve seen, so it’s basic shape can’t be that sensitive. It’s white colour though is definitely very interesting, and that could be the only reason for the RQ-180 being sight sensitive. We don’t know the reason for it’s white colour, or whether it’s paint or it’s structural colour. I think it would be a safe bet that it has something to do with infrared heat management, or a composite that is somehow integrated with the electronics and sensors on board. I’m pretty sure it’s colour has a very good reason and it’s not camouflage.

I also think it’s a very good explanation for the earthen wall next to it’s hangar at Groom Lake. A black flying wing should not be to much out of the ordinary at Groom; a white one probably raises a few eyebrows of the local staff (of which I’m sure most have seen some pretty advanced stuff!).

Besides that, the ‘Great White Bat’, what’s in a name?

Secondly, I think the timing of it’s flight is no coincidence. Just a few week before the elections it would make sense for the USA to send out a signal to it’s adversaries that, while it’s leadership and citizens are in turmoil, the military is watching their each and every move.

So far my personal thesis. But a good thesis should also have a prediction. Mine is a disappointing one though: although we’ll find out more and more about what it can do, where it’s based, and it’s missions, it will be a while before the next picture comes out.

We still don’t know. There is no definitive proof. But a lot of things add up. But we win either way: if this is not the RQ-180, it is the next generation of HALO/Sensorcraft drones. We certainly live in exciting times!

Although I hope sure I’m wrong about the next sighting!
 
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Flyaway

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I was somewhat sceptical about the RQ-180. It took so long for the first picture to leak, I figured a prototype was flown but it never went operational. But seeing this picture I think a lot of things finally make sense:


The RQ-180 was always reported as sight sensitive, hence the extreme secrecy around it. The platform on the picture is almost exactly like the SensorCraft renderings we’ve seen, so it’s basic shape can’t be that sensitive. It’s white colour though is definitely very interesting, and that could be the only reason for the RQ-180 being sight sensitive. We don’t know the reason for it’s white colour, or whether it’s paint or it’s structural colour. I think it would be a safe bet that it has something to do with infrared heat management, or a composite that is somehow integrated with the electronics and sensors on board. I’m pretty sure it’s colour has a very good reason and it’s not camouflage.

I also think it’s a very good explanation for the earthen wall next to it’s hangar at Groom Lake. A black flying wing should not be to much out of the ordinary at Groom; a white one probably raises a few eyebrows of the local staff (of which I’m sure most have seen some pretty advanced stuff!).

Besides that, the ‘Great White Bat’, what’s in a name?

Secondly, I think the timing of it’s flight is no coincidence. Just a few week before the elections it would make sense for the USA to send out a signal to it’s adversaries that, while it’s leadership and citizens are in turmoil, the military is watching their each and every move.

So far my personal thesis. But a good thesis should also have a prediction. Mine is a disappointing one though: although we’ll find out more and more about what it can do, where it’s based, and it’s missions, it will be a while before the next picture comes out.

We still don’t know. There is no definitive proof. But a lot of things add up. But we win either way: if this is not the RQ-180, it is the next generation of HALO/Sensorcraft drones. We certainly live in exciting times!

Although I hope sure I’m wrong about the next sighting!
I’ve never thought of the program as a truly black program, if it was we would never have seen rumours of way back in 2013. Or very slow trickle of speculation since. It certainly seems more of a grey program now. I agree with you that this was certainly sending a signal to certain other countries what with all the turmoil in the US this year.
 

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Quellish, I truly value your opinion. What do you think it is we saw?
 

AeroFranz

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NorthROP GODDAMMIT NorthROP.

FLYING WINGS WERE NOT PIONEERED BY SEED COMPANIES OR CARTOON ELEPHANTS YOU MORON

Pardon the screaming but I GET EFFING TIRED OF THIS and it's aimed at the Aviationist not Flyaway.
To be fair, i have seen aerospace engineers spell it that way in their slide decks...sigh...
 

quellish

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How realistic is the idea of being able to estimate any of its dimensions from the picture?

It is straightforward when you have the required information - camera sensor, lens, settings, estimated altitude

The idea is to calculate the spatial resolution - how many (feet, meters, whatever) does each pixel in the image represent?

IIRC, this is something like:

(distance * (sensor width / focal length) ) / width in pixels

Which gets more complicated with some types of lens, etc.

The photo shows a contrail. If we knew the date and time the photo was taken we could find the minimum and maximum altitudes that could form contrails over that location and use that to create distance estimates, there are other ways to estimate the altitude/distance as well (such as R2515 procedures for that area)
 
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Josh_TN

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I assume '180' is wrong and was just chosen because it comes after the known designation 170. Presumably if it is armed it gets an MQ designation instead of RQ, and I would think they would give it some minimal weapon load for very high priority/time sensitive targets.
 

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I assume '180' is wrong and was just chosen because it comes after the known designation 170.
I don't follow - where is it indicated that the aircraft recently photographed has a -17x designation? Are you referring to the suggestion earlier on in this thread that this is the RQ-170 i.e. operation aircraft developed from the P175 or P-170?

I agree that '180' only comes from the original AvWeek article and has not been confirmed by anyone official.... thoughts?

Genuinely excited about about this coming Out Of The Black (see my subtitle!)
 
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Josh_TN

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I think the RQ-180 designation was made up in open source because the last known designation of an operational platform was RQ-170. I am not knowledgeable enough to comment as to whether that images we are seeing correspond to the same system generally regarded as 'RQ-180' in open source.
 

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