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US Air Force Confirms New Stealth Aircraft 287

Posted by Soulskill
from the watching-you-from-on-high dept.
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."
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US Air Force Confirms New Stealth Aircraft

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  • top secret (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sentientbeing (688713) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:27PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:34PM (#30336286) Homepage

    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.

  • by rhsanborn (773855) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:48PM (#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.
  • by maeka (518272) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:49PM (#30336430) Journal

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

  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@G m a i> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:10PM (#30336654) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @02:18PM (#30336750) Homepage

    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?

  • by Ironsides (739422) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:02PM (#30337176) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:03PM (#30337180) Homepage

    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.

  • by MadFarmAnimalz (460972) * on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:12PM (#30337266) Homepage

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

  • by hey (83763) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:28PM (#30337394) Journal

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

  • by furball (2853) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @03:31PM (#30337426) Journal

    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.

  • by Henriok (6762) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:16PM (#30337844)
    Most unlikey. The design with very long wings and an unremakable engine nozzle suggest that it's strictly subsonic. It seems to be designed for high altitude and to be ale to stay in the air for a long time, not high speed. A supersonic design would probably have a elongated fuselage, shorter, probably delta shaped wings and engine nozzle with variable shape (it could be embedded in the fuselage though).
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @04:26PM (#30337930) Journal

    Those weapons don't create anything. Building more of them diverts resources from productive projects inevitably having a significant long term negative impact on the economy as a whole. The broken window fallacy applies to much more than the hypothetical broken windows themselves and in fact describes the result of intentionally over-producing any economically worthless goods.

  • Re:Makes sense. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @05:36PM (#30338492) Homepage

    There's still a role for air superiority fighters. Even if they're not used much in that role, if you don't have them, the other side has air superiority, which is Not Fun. The USAF likes to say that American troops have not had to fight under a hostile sky since WWII, and this did not happen by accident. They have a point.

    Recon and close air support, though, is going to go UAV. Using an F-16 to take out a truck is not only overkill, you don't have enough fighters to do it very often. The big advantage of UAVs is that the US can afford lots of them, and can keep them airborne so that there's one in the neighborhood when needed. The US has plenty of heavy weapon systems that can take out an visible enemy concentration. As a result, the surviving enemies of the US hide and don't bunch up. Air support is more of a retail operation now than a wholesale one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2009 @06:06PM (#30338706)

    > Iran=yes (F-14s, thank you Jimmy Carter), MiG 29

          I'm sorry, I think you mean Reagan and Bush (Iran-Contra, Arms for Hostage) for selling replacement parts.

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) * on Saturday December 05, 2009 @06:46PM (#30338986)
    Spending 41.5% of the total world military budget is very, very close to outspending the rest of the world combined. We're only 8.5% away.
  • Re:top secret (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goffee71 (628501) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @06:51PM (#30339018) Homepage
    Afghanistan is near to Iran, Pakistan and China, far more useful testing grounds.
  • by winwar (114053) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @08:10PM (#30339646)

    "Those weapons don't create anything."

    Aside from well paying jobs. In the US.

    "Building more of them diverts resources from productive projects inevitably having a significant long term negative impact on the economy as a whole."

    I find it hard to believe that spending money on weapons is more wasteful than spending money on any other shiny new trinket. Which probably isn't made in the US.

    I don't deny that the outcome of using the weapons is questionable at best. But don't assume that if we didn't spend the money on weapons we would spend it on something "useful" or "better". That would be a VERY dubious assumption based on our history.

  • Re:B2 jr.? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @08:35PM (#30339822)

    "LOL at the useless cockpit bulge."

    Probably houses sensors. Given the extreme importance of loiter time it would be absurd to have a fake cockpit and additional drag.

  • Re:BWB (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @10:26AM (#30343024) Journal
    hmmmm. Yeah, sorry. That was written in a hurry, and I left extra in there.

    A number of Criticism came out on the BWB as a passenger hauling aircraft:
    1. Not enough experience with BWB's. They are trickier, but the simply fact is, that the B2 and the drones are showing that extremely flyable.
    2. No windows that so many ppl have come to expect. Ccameras combined with seat-back videos have proven to be a hit, so this is a none issue.
    3. The number of exits will be tricky, though the designers say they have it covered. Considering that the same was said of 380, I would say a none issue.
    4. HOWEVER, the real interesting one is that ppl will feel more forces during a roll, or even in turbulance. Watch the wings next time you fly. A lot of bounce is in there.

      That last one is the only one with bite. The old 707 was a fairly stiff wing and lead to the hull being bounced a lot. Airlines feel that passengers will object to this aircraft due to the bounce. My argument (and many others), is that those who object will fly wing/tubes for a time, OR will fly the center seats. OTH, those who enjoy even moderate amusement park rides, will have no issues with flying the outer edges. Given the fuel economy of this design (30-50%) of which fuel now accounts for more than 50% of the costs, I think that this aircraft will take off quickly. Of course, it would be better if used by the military, followed by cargo haulers next (who will also be extremely happy with the craft's fuel savings).

  • by Ironsides (739422) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @10:49AM (#30343136) Homepage Journal
    I won't disagree that it was a broad uprising. However, prior to it Carter pressured the Shah to allow Ayatollah Khomeni to be allowed back into the country and a larger number of other things that essentially unblocked the Ayatollahs path to causing the uprising and taking power in the first place. I won't argue Carter is solely responsible, but it appears he does a portion of the blame.

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan