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United States The Military

Secret New UAS Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
Fnord666 writes in with this link about one the development of a new unmanned toy for the U.S. Air Force. "A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015. Funded through the Air Force's classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998."
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Secret New UAS Shows Stealth, Efficiency Advances

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  • What about the SR-72 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What I found interesting about the recent SR-72 "teaser" was that it is essentially what people have rumored for the Aurora for years now. Maybe it already exists, and "announcing" it as a hypothetical is step 1 of the unveiling process?

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Sunday December 08, 2013 @03:18PM (#45634185)

      As an American, I'd be fairly pissed off if the military didn't have a secret replacement for the SR-71 already in service (since before 1998).

      • Don't they have already? Isn't that what all those spy satellites do better and cheaper?
        • by jittles (1613415)

          Don't they have already? Isn't that what all those spy satellites do better and cheaper?

          Spy satellites do not always do it better. Anyone who can build a radar system, do a bit of orbital mechanics, or can navigate to this satellite tracking site [n2yo.com] can get a pretty good idea of when your recon bird is passing over. You have no idea when or where an SR-71, U2 or other spy plane will be at any given moment.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      that article, just like this one, originated in Aviation Week.
      Aviation Week is the Fox News of the aviation industry.
      (in the sense of, say anything crazy to get eyeballs/ratings)

  • At what cost? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In these times of austerity it is necessary to disguise your pork barrels.

    Advanced stealth technology makes this enormous barrel of pork look more like a small can of spam.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by bradrum (1639141)

      I read that as "can of sperm". I was surprised someone else canned their sperm, I thought I was the only one that did that.

    • by bradrum (1639141)

      On a serious note, these are only "times of austerity" for some programs. Since 9/11 went down, contractors who make hardware for spying and provide services to provide logistics/security to US personnel abroad pretty much get a blank check from the Federal government. Pretty much no elected official wants to be seem as "soft on terrorism".

      The very few that question the trillions we have spent on the war on terror are called conspiracy theorists or are labeled as nut cases.

      • Pretty much no elected official wants to be seem as "soft on terrorism".

        True - most seem much happier to appear "soft in the head".

    • I don't know what country you're in, but the US is not doing austerity.
    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Of course it will only work if the US military industrial complex can convince other countries it will work and get them to join the game by countering the supposed threat with public displays of military technology which of course will be used to justify yet further development of more expensive military technology. Face it although diplomacy done properly prevents war, it sucks ass because there just ain't no profit in it. So exactly who is the US planning to start a war with next that justifies this fir

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:30PM (#45633967)
    Does anybody really believe there's a "coverage gap" between satellites and (for example) Global Hawks? No, of course not. The SR-71 was retired because it wasn't needed, not with satellites that can read a license plate from orbit in real time. This is just a corporate handout for Northrup Grumman, we can't have them feeling left out, what with Lockheed Martin getting all the F-35 moniez.
    • Actually, yes. Clouds.
    • by PPH (736903) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @03:06PM (#45634121)

      It takes time to reposition a satellite. Even after changing orbits, enemy forces can make reasonable estimates about when there will be coverage gaps and plan operations accordingly.

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        It takes time to reposition a satellite. Even after changing orbits, enemy forces can make reasonable estimates about when there will be coverage gaps and plan operations accordingly.

        Not only can they, they already have. I've read that the Soviets gave us a false picture of the accuracy of their ballistic missiles by timing the tests based on our satellite orbits. After the missile had been launched and hit the target range, but before our satellites passed over again, they'd move the target closer to the impact point.

        And, of course, you can only reposition a satellite so many times before it runs out of fuel, and there are limits to the degree of repositioning. With aircraft, you can h

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        not to mention it means giving up on whateer the sat was watching previously, and it can only be done a few times.
        regardless of hollywood movies, retasking a sat is neither easy, nor commonly done.

    • Northrop Grumman style!

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      In a worst-case scenario it could take a day or two to get imagery back from a satellite. More, if there are clouds. The clever Evil Genius will plan his Fortress of Eviltude to be somewhere where it's always cloudy. Or maybe at one of the poles. Or anywhere on the international date line. I'm told that's an excellent location for a Fortress of Eviltude, as long has half of the fortress is on one side and half the fortress is on the other side. The international date line effectively renders you immune sate
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @03:29PM (#45634255) Journal

      The SR-71 was retired because it wasn't needed, not with satellites that can read a license plate from orbit in real time.

      The SR-71 was killed because of *budget cuts.
      It's a wildly expensive plane to operate and needs a lot of fuel support to go anywhere and come back.

      Satellite coverage isn't the panopticon you seem to think it is.
      Yes they can read your license plate from space, but only if there's a satellite in the right spot, at the right angle.
      Sometimes it's faster to put real eyes in the sky (SR-71 or *U-2) than it is to re-task an out of place satellite.
      And despite the magic of satellite imagery, high resolution film from a plane still wins out.

      *The military is currently looking at mothballing other types of fleets as a fallout of the sequester. Goodbye A-10 Thunderbolt.
      **Yea, we're still using the U-2 spy plane since its introduction in 1957. The Pentagon plans to keep it in service until 2023. They're killing the drone program that was supposed to replace it.

      • by AJWM (19027)

        Goodbye A-10 Thunderbolt.

        The Air Force has being trying to get rid of it forever. It's for close air support, not a role the USAF is fond of. The Army would love to take it over but they're not allowed fixed-wing aircraft.

        Stupid turf wars.

        • by SJ (13711)

          Interesting that the Army is not permitted fixed wing aircraft or heavy boats. The Airforce isn't permitted heavy armour/troops...

          and yet the Navy is allowed both.

          How the heck did that get worked out?

      • The histories of the SR-71 program show an irrational, tribalist rejection of anything that didn't drop bombs or refuel bombers. It's more than a little disturbing to read about.

        Maybe the CIA should have taken it over. It was their program in the first place (look up "Oxcart").

    • Neither a satellite not a Global Hawk could collect air samples downwind from Yongbyon. The Global Hawk would get shot down.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      Sorry, no. Your analysis is faulty. And you don't know history.

      The only thing Global Hawk brings to the table is loiter time. Its slow, decidely unstealthy. It can fill gaps in the sat coverage, much like the U2 (also still in service). But it's rather easy to intercept, east to detect, easy to see coming.

      The SR71 wasnt canceled because it wasnt needed. it was canceled because it was expensive as shit to operate.
      What the SR brought to the table was speed, the ability to be anywhere in the world within 2 hou

  • Eternal war... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spacefight (577141) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:32PM (#45633983)
    ... for eternal peace. Those funds --- ah forget it. Nothing going to change anytime soon.
  • toasters (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaoshin (110328) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:52PM (#45634049)
    This one bears resemblance to a cylon raider. Perhaps their plan is a much more sinister one?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What is the deal with flying wings anyway? It seems like everything these days is a flying wing or close to a flying wing.

      Is it more efficient or what is the advantage. As an R/C enthusiast I have flown them and they're not that fun because they really aren't very stable or maneuverable.

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        What is the deal with flying wings anyway? It seems like everything these days is a flying wing or close to a flying wing.

        Is it more efficient or what is the advantage. As an R/C enthusiast I have flown them and they're not that fun because they really aren't very stable or maneuverable.

        Flying wings are good because the entire structure provides lift, and the drag of a fuselage and vertical control surfaces is eliminated. Their shape also makes them more stealthy, even without the use of radar-absorbing materials. The control issue was always the limiting factor and was a major reason why the YB-35/YB-49 [wikipedia.org] didn't succeed. Current flying wings would be unflyable without advanced computer "fly by wire" controls (which your R/C planes don't have). In other words, the pilot's controls aren't dir

    • I like drones and frankly would like to see them more in use within US borders. Drones can be used for very high quality crime prevention and control. We are reaching the point at which many criminals will be forced into a much more law abiding life style. Low level criminals may be slow to catch on but once it becomes clear that drones can take their freedom away they may be forced into a more normal way of life. Drive by shootings may be one of the first crimes to vanish as they are so eas
  • Encrypted communications channels? Redundant navigation systems? Ability to return home amid heavy signal jamming?
  • by odoketa (1040340)

    Is there a reason we're not calling this a drone? The use of 'UAS' makes me feel like I'm reading propaganda.

    • The widespread use of the term "drone" is actually fairly new and rather media led, as UAVs, UASs, UCAVs etc have been around for well over two decades and have been referred to in those terms as well. If anything, its the medias use of the term "drone" that is propaganda, as they have managed to equate it with negative usage pretty much universally.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        To keep it neutral I, for one, prefer the term Demoncraft.

      • by PapayaSF (721268)

        The widespread use of the term "drone" is actually fairly new and rather media led, as UAVs, UASs, UCAVs etc have been around for well over two decades.

        True. In fact, by the traditional definition of the term, this aircraft isn't a "drone," a term that used to be reserved for "target drones" and other relatively unsophisticated aircraft. But "drone" is easy to say and remember, compared to UAV etc. For the media, that's close enough. It's like calling a DSL box a "modem" even though it doesn't actually modulate and demodulate.

  • How many cup holders does it have? And why were the windows painted over?
  • https://www.sensefly.com/ [sensefly.com]
    ultralight drone (0.7 kg) for aerial orthorectfied imagery. Ten square kilometers of imagery per 45 minutes flight.
  • Was the 'major advance' the fact they managed to paint it white? I mean, who ever thought that a huge, pointy black aircraft was 'stealthy'?

  • Do you really believe the US has been without a high-altitude, high-speed reconnaissance aircraft since the SR-71 was moth-balled? You believe that the government that is listening to all your phone calls, and reading all your email has been without this kind of aerial surveillance capability? You also probably believe that if you speak out openly in a negative regard about this administration, or our Glorious Leader himself, that the IRS will not target you for auditing as well. The year 1984 may have come

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