×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

US Air Force Confirms New Stealth Aircraft

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the watching-you-from-on-high dept.

The Military 287

DesScorp writes "Aviation Week reports that the USAF has confirmed the existence of a new, formerly secret stealth aircraft, designated RQ-170 Sentinel, developed at Lockheed's legendary Skunk Works. Rumors of a secret new jet have been flying since 2007, with longtime aviation journalist Bill Sweetman dubbing the possible aircraft 'The Beast of Kandahar' because of the urban legend-like reports from Afghanistan. The aircraft is a UAV, a pilot-less drone that appears to have some kind of reconnaissance-only mission for the time being. It's a tailless flying wing that resembles a fighter-sized B-2 bomber."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

287 comments

top secret (5, Insightful)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336210)

Theyre just telling us its a secret new invisible jet because they dont want to tell us what theyre really working on

Re:top secret (3, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336286)

The fact that this aircraft has been publicly acknowledged suggests that they have something far more advanced that they are not telling us about at the Skunk Works.

Re:top secret (3, Informative)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336598)

In any case, here's a photo [aviationweek.com] of the RQ-170 Sentinel.

Any ideas on why they need such a secret and stealthy UAV in Afghanistan for? Obviously they weren't too worried about it if this Bill Sweetman guy was able to see it at the Kandahar International Airport.

Re:top secret (5, Interesting)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336734)

Afghanistan is a testing ground for the UAV. It is a fairly safe testing ground because the Afghanis do not have anything that has a realistic chance at shooting it down. The fact that it was at an international aeroport suggests that the US does not consider it to be one of their secret planes anymore. It will be interesting to see (five or ten years from now) what the real cutting edge of military aviation is in 2009.

Possible Reasons Why (5, Interesting)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336902)

Any ideas on why they need such a secret and stealthy UAV in Afghanistan for? Obviously they weren't too worried about it if this Bill Sweetman guy was able to see it at the Kandahar International Airport.

One, Sweetman didn't discover it in the field. He was likely first alerted to it when someone sent him the grainy photos of the bird in flight. He's probably the most prominent miltary aviation journalist in the world, so people come to him when they think they've found something secret.

As to why it's in Afghanistan, that was a puzzle to me to at first, but some very good (and intriguing) theories have come up about it. For one, some note that not everyone in the Pakistani military is reliable in the Afghan war; there's a good chance some members are feeding intel to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It's been suggested that since we've become very dependent on sending Predators and Reapers to hunt the Taliban in the desert, perhaps we don't completely trust Pakistani radar operators anymore. Perhaps we think they're sending what they know to the very people we're hunting.

Another, even more intriguing possibility, is that China is right next door. And considering the luck we've had with conventional intel aircraft monitoring China [wikipedia.org] , perhaps this is our way of keeping an eye on the growing Dragon. However, if we're actually penetrating Chinese airspace, then we're playing a very dangerous, Gary Powers-like game [wikipedia.org] .

Re:top secret (1)

Stunning Tard (653417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336912)

Any ideas on why they need such a secret and stealthy UAV in Afghanistan for?

These are overkill for Afganistan but they need field testing anyway?
The taliban got better at dealing with the current drones?
More drones are needed to support the extra troops and the current models are end-of-life?

Re:top secret (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336744)

Yes, and the Earth is really an 8-dimensional cube. The fact they has publicly acknowledged that it is round suggests that they know something far more advanced about the shape of the Earth that they are not telling us about. Also, George W. Bush must be a real supergenius working on fusion power, since he publicly came off as a retard for so many years.

And dude: just because you are paranoid does not mean that you aren't a retard. Oh, and if you think I'm a government operative who found it incredible important to spend scarce taxpayer dollars to troll you when I could have spent them on something worthwhile like icecream, here is a special message from your government to you: go fuck yourself you retarded little fuckface.

They are tesing X-304's now with the X-303 moveing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336508)

Theyre just telling us its a secret new invisible jet because they dont want to tell us what theyre really working on

They are tesing X-304's now with the X-303 moving form super super super secret to super area 51 secret

Is it really that necessary? (-1, Flamebait)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336232)

Looks like U.S. military is already at least 1, if not 2 generations ahead of its allies.
Besides, its enemies still have WWII-level technologies.

Does it really need to spend so much billions on finding -yet- more advanced stealth technology?
Isn't the U.S. already technology superior to everyone anyway?

Sounds like there are so many better ways the U.S. could spend its billions of dollars on, like healthcare, infrastructure projects for a very much underdeveloped public and railway transportation, and maybe paying down its trillion dollar debt.

Yes, the military complex creates jobs, but there are jobs in OTHER SECTORS as well, which imho are more beneficial to the overall well being of human civilization.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Funny)

afabbro (33948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336256)

Looks like U.S. military is already at least 1, if not 2 generations ahead of its allies. Besides, its enemies still have WWII-level technologies.

Does it really need to spend so much billions on finding -yet- more advanced stealth technology?

Are you volunteering to fly missions?

Yes, the military complex creates jobs, but there are jobs in OTHER SECTORS as well, which imho are more beneficial to the overall well being of human civilization.

There is nothing as beneficial to mankind as Pax Americana.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336306)

"Are you volunteering to fly missions?"

Maybe he could volunteer to join the 30,000 extra troops that are being sent to Afganistan.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (-1, Flamebait)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336334)

If the war was as morally important as something like World War II, YES I would volunteer.
I'd also rather wish that money was spent on my fellow soldiers for better armor, not for my fancy gadget.

If the war is as pointless (it won't make a difference in the long term) and hopeless (there is no real "victory" possible, as I've yet to hear someone clearly define it) as the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, NO I would NOT volunteer because I would not want ANYONE to volunteer or to go there in the 1st place.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336428)

American soldiers haven't had to fear death from the skies for 50 years because of America's complete superiority in the air. Similarly, America's ability to maintain that superiority into the future depends on continued funding and development of new technologies. It's foolish to stop development because we're good enough now. Halting the development of these technologies creates an environment in which no one has worked on advanced fighter aircraft for 30 years because "we were good enough back then" and we can't get back up to speed.

The other problem is deciding when the time is that we need to start development back up again? Is it when we think possible enemies catch up? Is it when we are devastated by previously unknown technology from somewhere?

I know we are fighting different kinds of wars now (counter-insurgency, gorilla warfare, etc), but I think it's unreasonable to pretend that we'll never need to worry about fighting large scale wars because we aren't fighting them now. The truth is, the threat of wars from foreign lands is not non-existent, and given that, the US military machine should work to be as prepared as possible for that eventuality.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Funny)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336484)

I'd like to see some pictures of gorilla warfare. Are these mechanized or trained Gorillas?

Re:Is it really that necessary? (2, Funny)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336932)

Thank you. Guerilla. Although an army of trained silverbacks would be pretty sweet.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (4, Funny)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337360)

Depends if you mean European Gorillas or the much larger African Gorillas. Of the course the African ones are non-migratory.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336886)

How many conflicts has the US fought in the last 50 years where the opposing military even had an air force? The reason troops havent had to fear "death from above" is that most of our enemies havent had planes, they are primarily infantry, rarely even mechanized infantry.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Informative)

glueball (232492) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337100)

Who had an Air Force?

Korea=yes, for the duration
Viet Nam= yes, for the duration
Cold War = yes, the USSR and USA often flew matching flights.
Iraq I = yes (for about 20 minutes)
Al Qaeda = yes (4 planes for about 90 minutes)
Iraq II = yes (for about 3 minutes)

For the Future:
Iran=yes (F-14s, thank you Jimmy Carter), MiG 29

Re:Is it really that necessary? (2, Insightful)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337176)

How many conflicts has the US fought in the last 50 years where the opposing military even had an air force?

Vietnam War, Libya (multiple 80's incidents), Iran (multiple 80's incidents), Iraq (gulf war, gulf war 2). Those are the ones I know of off the top of my head. Also, aircraft have multiple uses besides pure air superiority. Reconnaissance is the main use of UAVs right now (being able to see over the next hill can be useful in avoiding ambushes). Bombing is another use, especially when you need some extra support in a fire fight.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0, Redundant)

rhiorg (213355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337454)

An incomplete list of conflicts in the past 50 years wherein the US has fought adversaries possessing air power: - Vietnam War - Desert Storm - Iraq War ...not to mention the entirety of the Cold War. If you've ever been one of the guys on the ground, you're damn happy your team has control of the sky.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Insightful)

maeka (518272) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336430)

No armor has ever saved as many lives as good, fresh, intel on enemy positions and movements.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (2, Insightful)

hey (83763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337394)

But how does a Taliban guy look different than a regular Afghani?

Re:Is it really that necessary? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337496)

He's carrying a gun, mortar, and/or RPG. And he's in a group of several other guys like him. And he's moving toward a military checkpoint or installation. And he keeps ducking behind cover, thinking it will hide him.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1, Insightful)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336750)

If the war was as morally important as something like World War II, YES I would volunteer.

What made WWII morally important?

From America's view, it was just Europe going at it again like they'd always been doing. We didn't really know much about what was happening inside Germany until we invaded Germany.

We weren't really brought into the war until directly attacked by the Japanese. The war in Afghanistan is arguably built on comparable merits.

I'd also rather wish that money was spent on my fellow soldiers for better armor, not for my fancy gadget.

You would rather have bullet resistant armor than something which could keep you away from where the bullets would be flying in the first place?

If the war is as pointless (it won't make a difference in the long term) and hopeless (there is no real "victory" possible, as I've yet to hear someone clearly define it)

Victory is leaving behind a stable local government. (specifically a non-hostile one, if you want to be pedantic)

NO I would NOT volunteer because I would not want ANYONE to volunteer or to go there in the 1st place.

Whether you want people to volunteer to go there is irrelevant. The war and the people there are both givens. The question as it has been posed to you is whether your opposition to funding this technology means you are willing to sit in and do the job that it is designed to do. Or does your opposition to America fighting this war also extend to opposition to its have a low rate of causalities?

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336868)

um i'm assuming that you're referring to the stealth UAV as the "new fancy gadget" as far as protecting a life is concerned, that unmanned aircraft is better than any body armor, the pilot is far safer than any pilot in a manned vehicle. perhaps someday we'll have unmanned tanks and assault vehicles too. of course these will just be a precursor to skynet anyway

Re:Is it really that necessary? (3, Insightful)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337426)

Some people serve their country, not their morality. They step up to service because their country needs their service, not because their morality agreed with the current course of action. It's a fairly simple statement of "I'm willing to set aside my beliefs to do what my country believes is the better course of action for it." These people form the basis of the career military service. They don't volunteer for a war. They volunteer for whatever their country requires of them. They'll be there before the war starts and they'll be there after it's done. Only fools volunteers for a war, but it is a patriot who signs up for service.

Morality is simply a justification for war. It allows those who believe in morality to support war without their conscience gnawing at them. It lets them ignore the wounded, the dead, and the human suffering that will follow. It does not avoid any of that.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (-1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336378)

There is nothing as beneficial to mankind as Pax Americana.

As Gandhi would have said: "That would be a good idea."

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336476)

I believe the point is that our military is overkill compared with just about any military force on the planet. Anything beyond what we need to adequately defend ourselves is excessive.

There is nothing as beneficial to mankind as Pax Americana.

Not with the degree of interventionism we've seen over the last decade it isn't.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336742)

I believe the point is that our military is overkill compared with just about any military force on the planet.

And while there are valid questions about the cost of our forces... an issue I raise a lot... that's just the way we like it.

"Our joint forces don't want a fair fight," he said. "We want every fight we enter to be patently unfair - to the other guy." - Major Jack Miller, USAF, during Red Flag exercises

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337046)

I believe the point is that our military is overkill compared with just about any military force on the planet. Anything beyond what we need to adequately defend ourselves is excessive.

The problem is that you won't know what is needed to adequately defend yourselves until somebody attacks you.

We can get into the morality and ethics of extending military power into countries that don't necessarily want you there if you like, but it's beside the point. We can quote platitudes like "the best defense is a good offense" if you like, but that's also beside the point. The point is that until you know who is going to invade you, you don't know what size of force you will need to defend yourself. And even if you do have the numerical superiority, how do you know what technology you'll be going up against? The best insurance against that kind of unknown is to continue to develop the best and most advanced technologies you can so that should the need ever arise, the toys are already there. To paraphrase Roosevelt's "big stick" doctrine, you actually help to ensure that people never do invade you by maintaining a force that's equipped and staffed well enough to make it not worth it, which in turn allows diplomacy to actually work. That's a big part of why the cold war never went hot.

It's also worth noting that while you do still have to sign up for conscription, the US military hasn't conscripted soldiers in 30 years. Not that long, really, considering that some of her allies have never conscripted soldiers, but it's still worth pointing out that currently the US maintains a professional army. Every single member currently serving in the US Armed Forces is a volunteer.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337362)

There is nothing as beneficial to mankind as Pax Americana.

Not so beneficial to the American taxpayer. We could pay for some of the more ambitious health care reforms with what we've paid for in the Iraq war.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336370)

Fun fact: The United States spends as much on its military as the rest of the world... combined.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337250)

Fun fact. You're wrong. [wikipedia.org] Out of world military spending: Including the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan it's 41.5%. Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan it's closer to 35%. Take into adjustments for cost of living due to an over valued dollar and currency manipulation by other countries and it becomes even less.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337378)

1) Your stat is completely inaccurate. The US spends 41.5% of the world's total military spending.
2) Your stat is meaningless. As a percentage of GDP, US military spending is certainly high but it's not even close to the highest (which is Saudi Arabia) and is similar with other countries with a military focus (like Russia).
3) The US spends less as a percentage of GDP now than it has in many many years of its history. In fact, if you consider war era defense spending, we spend less now than we ever have in the last 100 years.

How's that for fun facts?

p.s. some of this info you can get from here: http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending [globalissues.org]
for the history information, you'll have to dig harder. I built my own spreadsheet to learn more about government spending (and what parties are responsible for it).

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0, Flamebait)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336376)

Yes, the military complex creates jobs

No it doesn't. Breaking windows to give the glass maker work to do doesn't create anything. A case can be made for infrastructure projects as they tend to facilitate the creation of actual things. Unfortunately, the military is in little danger of going on a diet any time soon as the US is still in "be afraid" mode.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337494)

"Breaking windows to give the glass maker work to do doesn't create anything."

That's not really what the military-industrial complex does. The jobs that are created are jobs developing, manufacturing, maintaining, and operating high-technology weapons and other equipment, not jobs repairing the stuff we blow up.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336558)

"Looks like U.S. military is already at least 1, if not 2 generations ahead of its allies.
Besides, its enemies still have WWII-level technologies."
Really? The latest Russian SAMS and fighters seem to be well in advance of The ME-262 and FLAK 88.
Maybe you don't know it but Drones tend to be pretty cheap for what they do so they are super expensive.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336928)

And yet, the Russia and the countries it sells its armaments to are not our enemies at the moment.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336650)

The most important task of the US military today is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of someone who would use one. Scoff if you will, but Iraq probably would've had them if not for a few well placed bombs back in 1981. North Korea and Pakistan already have them, Iran will soon. I doubt any of the leaders of those governments are crazy enough to actually use one, but there's always the chance of one being "stolen".

A system like this, which can go anywhere in the world and hit a target with perfect precision within hours isn't a deterrent to someone with a nuke, but it might help find or eliminate a threat.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (5, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336654)

I follow defense technology closely, and while I'm a critic of many new defense programs... I think the F-35 is becoming an overpriced boondoggle, for instance... I'm a firm believer that the US has to maintain a level of technology superior to its adversaries. You never want to go into an even fight. You want to be better in every way to the guy opposing you on the battlefield. That requires constant research. If you sit still, others pass you up.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (2, Insightful)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337266)

Yes, especially considering how much cold hard cash the Taliban are throwing at advanced weapons research.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337308)

I'm not sure about an "overpriced boondoggle" (although I do have a list of my own complaints, but that is another matter), but just remember that the cost of development is shared with about a dozen other countries.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336688)

The pursuit of scientific endeavors is the only future for mankind. Universal healthcare and public transit are good economic investments in infrastructure, but they contribute very little to the betterment of humanity in the manner that scientific advancement through military research has.

It is painfully short-sighted to invest too heavily in social services before investing in technologies that could someday make those services obsolete.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337016)

so, essentially what youre saying is, "why invest in healthcare when you can make a bomb that will kill everyone so that there is no need for heatlhcare ever?" sounds like a plan!

Re:Is it really that necessary? (4, Interesting)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337142)

The pursuit of scientific endeavors is the only future for mankind. Universal healthcare and public transit are good economic investments in infrastructure, but they contribute very little to the betterment of humanity in the manner that scientific advancement through military research has.

It's also worth pointing out that many of the medical advancements we would take for granted today came from military research/endeavours... :) Not all of the money being poured into the military is being spent on building bigger and better guns.

Um, No... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337066)

WW2 era? Even albania probably has some cold-war era stuff. As I understand it (from nonclassified sources), China has a significant portion of the plans to the B2 due to their good intelligence work and their willingness to bribe.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337156)

1) Looks like U.S. military is already at least 1, if not 2 generations ahead of its allies.
Besides, its enemies still have WWII-level technologies.

2) Does it really need to spend so much billions on finding -yet- more advanced stealth technology?
Isn't the U.S. already technology superior to everyone anyway?

#1 is the effect. #2 is the cause. #3 (below) is the reason.

Just because they are allies today doesn't mean they always will be.

Also remember that a F117 was shot down in Bosnia. Yeah, we have a ways to go in stealth tech.

Re:Is it really that necessary? (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337158)

"Isn't the U.S. already technology superior to everyone anyway?"

I'm sure that's what the enemies of the U.S. want everybody to believe. Oh..that's right, the U.S. does not HAVE any enemies anymore, just "misunderstood" countries that Dubya and Darth Cheney made in to Evil straw men...

Heh. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336284)

I bet it swoops overhead and downloads child porn to the hard drives of terrorists.
They have no idea what they're in for.

That's a pretty easy thing to confirm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336310)

"Oh yeah, we've got a new stealth aircraft. Check out these pictures. What? Can't see it? Oh, that's right... it's impossible to photograph! Booyah!"

Re:That's a pretty easy thing to confirm (0, Redundant)

Kagura (843695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336634)

The RQ-170 is impossible to photograph [aviationweek.com] .

Old news to me (4, Interesting)

Celeste R (1002377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336326)

This craft is also capable of bombing missions, according to the Military Channel's own documentaries on experimental craft. It DOES have a bomb bay and missile mounts.
The same documentary also said that this craft is capable of completely autonomous aircraft carrier landings, and can even do so in the dark. (a milestone feat in itself, due many factors)
It's also capable of 24+ hour flight, which is awesome for scouting missions waiting for a mobile target, and is capable of mid-air refueling. (this is a living pilot no-no, and potentially keeps the craft up as long as it needs to be).

Eventually, this will be flying more than our own pilots will be, due to the fact that pilots cannot be mass-produced. Eventually, we WILL be putting arms on them, even if only because there might not be a good enough alternative.

Also, rumors about similar tanks are in the works... that are so overengineered that they tried to break it and couldn't (experimental model).

Dinochrome Brigade (3, Funny)

rshol (746340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336422)

"Also, rumors about similar tanks are in the works... that are so overengineered that they tried to break it and couldn't (experimental model)." I for one welcome the arrival of the Bolos.

Re:Old news to me (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336550)

and is capable of mid-air refueling. (this is a living pilot no-no

Huh? We've been doing mid-air refuel for decades.

Re:Old news to me (1)

Celeste R (1002377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336578)

I was referring to the 24+ hour flight.

I should have clarified, thank you.

Re:Old news to me (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336606)

I was referring to the 24+ hour flight.

Maybe not 24 hr, but crews did a few 18 hour round trips from Barksdale-Iraq-Barksdale.

Re:Old news to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337174)

Wiki sez the b2 did missions as long as 50hrs. But I'm pretty sure you need a big plane if you want to do that (at least a bed, bathroom and galley).

Re:Old news to me (1)

Pfil2 (88340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336618)

Eventually, this will be flying more than our own pilots will be, due to the fact that pilots cannot be mass-produced.

Also, an autonomous aircraft can maneuver better than a plane with a human pilot. When you remove the pilot you no longer need to worry about what kind of G-forces they are subjected to. You can build an airplane that can withstand way more G-forces than you could ever train a pilot to withstand.

Re:Old news to me (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30337022)

This is, as far as I know, somewhat misleading. You can build an aircraft to withstand many more Gs than a human pilot can, but even today with human pilots the limiting factor isn't the human so much as the hardpoints. The F-16, at least, turns down the control sensitivity and limits maneuvering when carrying pretty much anything besides air to air missiles--air-ground stores and the hardpoints that hold them aren't rated for much more than 6.5g, well within the range of a human pilot.

IANAP, though, so I could be wrong.

Re:Old news to me (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336632)

24+ hour flight is expensive, but not prohibitive for "living pilots" if their bomber can carry extra aircrew.
B-52s have flown up to 35 hour missions.

Pilots can be mass-produced. We have a surplus of military aviators. Piloted AIRFRAMES are the limiting factor.

UAVs are useful because supporting pilots is expensive, and sending CSAR teams to rescue them is extremely expensive when they get shot down. Downed aircrew are a huge political liability when the public expect no casualties and Hollywood outcomes. Pilots require a huge training and logistics tail that can be shrunk dramatically by taking meat out of the cockpit. Remotely-manned systems need not return if the mission is worth it, and in extreme situations could be deliberately crashed into a target. Unmanned systems need not obey the "G" limits of manned aircraft. Instead of trying to fight while straining against gravity and worrying about not dying a UAV crew can concentrate on the mission.

Re:Old news to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336772)

Fighter-sized UAV =! Bomber

Re:Old news to me (1)

iroll (717924) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336940)

Aircraft that Drops Bombs = Bomber

A Stuka wasn't much bigger than the fighters of its day, which weren't as big as the fighters of our day. You're confusing "bomber," the generic term, with "strategic bomber," the term for monsters like the B-52.

Re:Old news to me (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337120)

Pure fighters are ancient history, and with the development of nice things like the Small Diameter Bomb it makes no sense to design any large UAV without the ability to kill enemy it locates.

Re:Old news to me (1)

ajmilton (975709) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336728)

How is mid-air refueling a "living pilot no-no"? The military's been doing that for years.

Coming to a city near you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336796)

Once Empress Palin has been placed on the throne and Martial Law declared to rid God's Country of the godless liberal commie pinko socialists that have brought the country to its knees.

Re:Old news to me (1)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337050)

i'm actually more interested in the paint on the aircraf, FTA:

Many questions remain about the aircraft’s use. If it is a high-altitude aircraft it is painted an unusual color – medium grey overall, like Predator or Reaper, rather then the dark gray or overall black that provides the best concealment at very high altitudes.

i know theyve developed asome sort of "radar absorbant" type materials and coatings in the past and i wonder what special coating this thing has. my assumption is that this will probably see lots of service over places like North Korea and possibly China, where these countries spend a good bundle on defense technology. why sacrifice the visual camouflage?

Re:Old news to me (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337346)

This craft is also capable of bombing missions, according to the Military Channel's own documentaries on experimental craft. It DOES have a bomb bay and missile mounts. The same documentary also said that this craft is capable of completely autonomous aircraft carrier landings, and can even do so in the dark. (a milestone feat in itself, due many factors)

Are you sure you're thinking of the RQ-170 and not the X-47B? The two appear to be vastly different aircraft, even if they do look similar.

They just want you to think they confirmed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336504)

The entire RQ-170 program is a setup. The actual stealth aircraft, RQ-170R is the real stealth aircraft, a saucer-shaped design that flies slightly behind the RQ-170 flying wing.

WW2 airframe (1)

onepoint (301486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336612)

I might be wrong, but I sure as heck see similarities to WW2 Nazi prototype aircraft ( might have been Japan's) if I can find the source I'll post it.

Re:WW2 airframe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336876)

By source you mean Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

X-45 outgrowth? (2, Interesting)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336628)

From the crappy pic at AviationLeak, it looks like it may be an outgrowth of the X-45 [globalaircraft.org] development bird [globalaircraft.org] .

More like Northrop's plane (2, Interesting)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336994)

From the crappy pic at AviationLeak, it looks like it may be an outgrowth of the X-45 [globalaircraft.org] development bird [globalaircraft.org] .

It looks more like the Navy's X-47B [northropgrumman.com] , which is also a tailless flying wing. The Navy and NG have been very open about the program, so perhaps that's another reason why USAF felt they didn't have to hide the Sentinel anymore.

Makes sense. (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336724)

Makes sense. A stealthed recon aircraft should be small. Recon is mostly flying preprogrammed flight paths, so the pilot doesn't make many decisions. Hence a moderate-sized UAV.

The Air Force guys hate it, but UAVs are getting the job done. The Army is going for more automation; they use autoland on their Predators, and have far fewer crashes than the USAF stick jocks who land the things manually.

Re:Makes sense. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337382)

The Air Force guys hate it, but UAVs are getting the job done.

And if they keep complaining, they'll be outsourced to Asia.
   

Stealth aircraft vs. the Taliban?? (4, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30336778)

One comment on tfa raised an obvious question: Why deploy an advanced and experimental stealth aircraft in Kandahar against an enemy that doesn't have radar (nor any capability to threaten aircraft)? One clue may be that the closest international border to Kandahar is Pakistan's, and Pakistan certainly does have radar. The next question, about why this story was leaked complete with a picture, might have a related answer: The message is "Fuck you, Pakistan; we'll talk as though we're your friends, but we own your airspace and can see every hair on your bare asses, so don't try anything."

Re:Stealth aircraft vs. the Taliban?? (1)

Lord Lemur (993283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337112)

While political implications of UAV testing near a "partner" who has been on the receiving end of a sortie or 2 of ours can't be completely discounted. The testing is most likely taking place in afganastan due to the varried terrain and enviromental conditions providing an array of opportunities to test. Coupled with the fact that a hostile force is currently trying not to get killed by our current round of UAV enabled air capabilites. This permits us to say important things like, "Global Hawk could acheive this mission is the Sentinal any better. Does it do it's primary mission as well? Will it save American lives?" Franlky it is a near certainty that Pakistan has plenty of eyes on it. Those could be from space, manned or unmanned aircraft or eyes on the ground. There is real benifit to see what is going on on the edges of an engagement, but this isn't placed to infuriate Pakistan. Maybe it's best to think of Pakistan as Loas, but I digress.

Re:Stealth aircraft vs. the Taliban?? (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337134)

The message is "Fuck you, China; we'll talk as though we're your friends, but we own your airspace and can see every hair on your bare asses, so don't try anything."

FTFY

Re:Stealth aircraft vs. the Taliban?? (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337180)

One comment on tfa raised an obvious question: Why deploy an advanced and experimental stealth aircraft in Kandahar against an enemy that doesn't have radar (nor any capability to threaten aircraft)?

For the same reason we use Aegis destroyers against pirates off of Somalia - we use what we have. We don't keep any 18th century sloops around in case we need to go against fishing boats, nor any biplane drones for use in Afghanistan.
 

The next question, about why this story was leaked

This isn't a leak - it's an official USAF confirmation.

Re:Stealth aircraft vs. the Taliban?? (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337194)

Either that, or they were concerned about the fact that Pakistani radar crews are most likely compromised by Al Qaeda, and are alerting them to our flight paths. Hard to get good intel when they know to go hide.

Best way around that is a stealth plane...

"pilotless drone"??! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30336948)

The article refers to this craft as a "pilotless drone". Could be in for trouble!

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/chroncast/detail?blogid=5&entry_id=12853

BWB (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30337422)

Ok, so we have loads of experience with Blended wing bodies in the military. How about applying that tech back to the BWB and getting it built. It can be used for Tanker, Cargo, and even bombers for the military. Likewise, it can be used for freight airlines. Then over time, we will see the regular airlines pick this up, put cargo on the outer edges and avoid the issues with having a regular airline pick it up. Why? Because it will use 30-50% less fuel.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...