Re: RQ-180

Message posted by Ron P Milione on December 10, 2013 at 9:39:27 PST:

The RQ-180 appears to be a follow on to the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems project which was cancelled in late 2005 when the United States Navy (USN) wanted a carrier-based aircraft (which led to the UCAS-D) while the United States Air Force (USAF) wanted a larger, long-range global strike platform. In December 2005, the program was split in two, with the USN starting the UCAS-D program which created the X-47B, and the USAF starting a "classified program."

The RQ-180 was secretly funded through the USAF's classified budget. Northrop Grumman was given the task to build the aircraft after a competition in which it defeated Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman is believed to have been awarded a development contract for the RQ-180 in 2008, with deliveries of low-rate production aircraft beginning in 2013. Satellite imagery of Area 51 reportedly shows large hangers that could house the 130 ft (40 m) or larger wingspan of the aircraft. The RQ-180 may also be related to the expansion of Northrop Grumman's production facility in Palmdale, California.

Now according to Aviation Week, the secret development of the RQ-180 explains public statements of USAF officials calling for penetrating Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities with no public acknowledgement of an effort to create one. It may explain the service's lack of commitment for the RQ-4 Global Hawk and instead favoring of higher priority "classified platforms". The USAF also does not want to buy and maintain large numbers of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper systems to have the ability to penetrate denied airspace and persistently provide ISR coverage. The RQ-180 may also be responsible for the termination of the Next-Generation Bomber program in 2009 from costs, and the emergence of the follow-on Long Range Strike Bomber program that would be cheaper and work with the UAV. The USAF MQ-X program that was to find a platform to replace the Reaper may have been cancelled in 2012 because of the RQ-180.

In Reply to: Re: RQ-180 posted by Peter Merlin on December 06, 2013 at 19:13:46 PST:


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