Price $25 (+ s/h)
In late 1995 Lockheed, Martin and Boeing revealed details of their highly secret UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) codenamed 'Darkstar'. It made its public debut at Lockheed's 'Skunk Works' at Palmdale, Cal. on 1 June, 1996. Ham radio enthusiasts, meanwhile, had tuned to a frequency used by an AWACS E-3 aircraft in 1992 and identified callsigns 'Dark Star Mike' and 'November', possibly used in a 'Dark Star' test. DarkStar is a high-altitude, low-observable endurance UAV optimized for reconnaissance in highly defended areas. The UAV is capable of travelling 500 miles to an operational point, and operating for over 8 hours at 45,000 feet. It is powered by a 1,900 lb. thrust Rolls Royce F129 (FJ44) turbofan in a graphite-based structure. It is capable of independent takeoff, cruise and landing procedures. In September 1995 the first Dark Star was ready to move to NASA-Dryden at Edwards AFB, Cal. for tests. The prototype crashed in 1996 and a second version was ready to operate in 1997. It made its first successful flight in June 1998. This marked the the restart of a test program to evaluate basic system performance, including the high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and electro-optical (EO) payloads. The Dark Star can operate in all weather and has stealth properties making detection difficult. It can send close-up images to battlefield commanders, and work in conjunction with the longer endurance Global Hawk UAV, the E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS. The Department of Defense canceled the Dark Star UAV program in February 1999 due to budget cuts. Given a trade-off between stealth and range, the Air Force chose the range of Global Hawk over Darkstar's stealth.
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