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USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut

Unread postPosted: 24 Oct 2019, 09:36
by element1loop
Gets a bit secret-squirrel but more at link:

USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut

Oct 24, 2019

Guy Norris | Aviation Week & Space Technology

Secret Service

Almost six years after Aviation Week first disclosed the existence of a large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman, there is a growing body of evidence that the stealthy vehicle is now fully operational with the U.S. Air Force in a penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role. Thought to be dubbed the RQ-180, the advanced design is believed to have been flying since 2010 and under operational test and evaluation since late 2014. According to new information provided to Aviation Week, the aircraft became operational with the recently reformed 427th Reconnaissance Sqdn. at Beale AFB, California, this year. The Air Force declined to comment on the status of the program. ...

... Developed to conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed since the retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1999, ...

At the same time [fiscal 2007], Air Force funds were transferred into a classified high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) program which, it is believed, led to a competition between Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Northrop also publicly discussed a range of longer-winged X-47C configurations around this time. The largest of these was a 172-ft.-span design with two engines derived from General Electric’s CF34 and capable of carrying a 10,000-lb. weapon load. ...

... Additional evidence now suggests the final configuration may be closer to the company’s more familiar flying-wing designs, with a simpler trailing edge similar to that seen in the Air Force’s official rendering of the B-21 Raider. ...

... The RQ-180 design also was likely strongly influenced by Northrop Grumman’s work for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) SensorCraft project, aimed at developing technologies for future stealthy, high-altitude unmanned surveillance platforms. In 2002, AFRL unveiled several SensorCraft vehicle studies, including a Northrop Grumman flying wing with a highly loaded airfoil capable of handling large aeroelastic deflections. Two years later, the company revealed it was partnering with AFRL to mature advanced conformal antenna integration technology for SensorCraft under a five-year, $12 million effort called the Low-Band Structural Array (Lobstar) program. At the time, the company said Lobstar would “enhance the surveillance capabilities of aerial vehicles by embedding antennas in the primary load-bearing structures of composite aircraft wings.

[An embedded VHF to upper-HF band stand-off surveillance radar in a VLO HALE drone? Nice option for theater tracking of J-20, for F-22A and F-35A/B/C to engage.]

In 2007, following a year-long Air Force HALE contest, Northrop signaled it had been successful when the corporation’s leaders reported they expected to win a major restricted program. By June of that year, observers of the Air Force’s top-secret Area 51 test complex at Nellis AFB, Nevada, noted that construction was underway for a new large hangar at the “Southend” zone of the Groom Lake facility. The size and dimensions of the building suggested it was being made ready for an aircraft with a relatively large span wing. As the new Groom Lake hangar neared completion in early 2008, Northrop Grumman’s financial reports revealed the company had been awarded a large classified aircraft development contract valued at $2 billion for an operational ISR UAV with an unprecedented combination of extreme low-observable (LO) features and aerodynamic efficiency. The development effort was undertaken by Northrop Grumman’s Advanced Technology Development Center, the equivalent of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works or Boeing’s Phantom Works. ...

... Although the Air Force has made no reference to operations by the unit involving any particular aircraft type, the 427th Reconnaissance Sqdn., together with Detachment 5 of the 9th Operations Group and Detachment 3 of the 605th Test and Evaluation Group, hosted the opening of a new Common Mission Control Center at the base on April 23. The the new center will “provide combatant commanders scalable, tailorable products and services for use in contested environments,” the Air Force says. “Using software, hardware and human machines, the center will be able to manage C2 productivity, shorten the task execution chain, and reduce human-intensive communication. ... -ops-debut

Re: USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut

Unread postPosted: 04 Nov 2020, 18:02
by charlielima223
Mysterious drone appearing over the skies of California "dissapears" on social media ... alifornia/
An interesting photo of what could be either the classified Northrup Grumman RQ-180 drone, or the Lockheed Martin P-175 Polecat drone, surfaced briefly on Instagram late Sunday, November 1, 2020, then disappeared. The original poster, Rob Kolinsky of Sundowner Studios on Instagram, replaced the image with a graphic that reads, “[REDACTED]”. Kolinsky added this comment after removing his photo, “Lol!! Until I dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s!! Then the picture will return!”

Kolinsky wrote in the original Instagram post, “This thing flew over my house several weeks ago and I still have yet to identify it! It’s shaped like a B-21 (in illustrations) but was painted white. Mystery! I was not going to post it but I thought that if it were really classified, they wouldn’t be flying it in broad daylight like this. Can anyone lend a hand in identifying her?” Kolinsky did not specify the date, time or specific location that the photo was taken in his original post, or the equipment he used to take the photo.

Before Kolinsky could remove the image, it was screen captured and has been reposted on several internet groups, where most comments seem to support the idea that this may be the enigmatic RQ-180 or the P-175 Polecat.

Soon after the photo appeared, then disappeared to become more or less viral, Aviation Week reporters Steve Trimble and Guy Norris wrote that, “A picture has surfaced showing a new aircraft generally matching Aviation Week’s understanding of the shape of what is commonly known as the RQ-180 unmanned aircraft system”

Good read at the source

Re: USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut

Unread postPosted: 07 Sep 2021, 01:08
by charlielima223 ... ilippines/


Provided they are the same type, the main difference between the sighting last year and the one of a few days ago is that the latter proves the mysterious (most probably unmanned) aircraft would be already conducting operational missions around the world. In fact, based on the location where the aircraft was spotted, it seems reasonable to believe it was returning from a mission in the South China Sea where there might have been interesting Chinese activity to surveil. Dispatching a HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) low-observable drone from either the U.S. or a forward operating location (like Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, that already hosts the RQ-4s) to cover some specific time-sensitive target, would totally make sense. These missions could require the aircraft to cross some unpopulated areas of the Philippines during daylight conditions (as happened on Sept. 2), when chances to be spotted from the ground are scarce.

Obioviously, there are many other intriguing theories, including the one that the aircraft overflying the Philippines could be a Chinese H-20 stealth bomber, but we have no details suggesting the Chinese have reached a phase of the development of their aircraft that would allow them to fly it in daylight inside enemy airspace.

Re: USAF Unit Moves Reveal Clues To RQ-180 Ops Debut

Unread postPosted: 07 Sep 2021, 19:36
by milosh
Chinese have couple of simular UAV/UCAV projects and it is likely they have their own black ops UAV.

It is lot more logical for Chinese to probe Philippines air defense then for Americans, because in future most effective route for H-20 to Pacific is over Philippines.