Northrop Tacit Blue
|First flight||February 5, 1982|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
The Northrop Tacit Blue was a technology demonstrator aircraft created to demonstrate that a low-observable stealth surveillance aircraft with a low probability of intercept radar and other sensors could operate close to the forward line of battle with a high degree of survivability.
Unveiled by the U.S. Air Force on 30 April 1996, the Tacit Blue Technology Demonstration Program was designed to prove that such an aircraft could continuously monitor the ground situation deep behind the battlefield and provide targeting information in real time to a ground command center.
In December 1976, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force initiated the Battlefield Surveillance Aircraft-Experimental (BSAX) program, which was part of a larger Air Force program called Pave Mover. The BSAX program's goal was to develop an efficient stealth reconnaissance aircraft with a low probability of intercept radar and other sensors that could operate close to the forward line of battle with a high degree of survivability.
Tacit Blue represented the "black" component in the larger "Assault Breaker" program, which intended to validate the concept of massed standoff attacks on advancing armoured formations using smart munitions. The Pave Mover radar demonstrators provided the non-stealth portion of the program's targeting system, whereas Tacit Blue was intended to demonstrate a similar but stealth capability, while validating a number of innovative stealth technology advances.
Tacit Blue, nicknamed "the whale" (and sometimes also called an "alien school bus" for its only slightly rounded-off rectangular shape), featured a straight tapered wing with a V-tail mounted on an oversized fuselage with a curved shape. It was the first stealth aircraft to feature curved surfaces for RCS reduction. Northrop would use this stealth technology on the B-2 bomber. A single flush inlet on the top of the fuselage provided air to two high-bypass turbofan engines. Tacit Blue employed a quadruply redundant digital fly-by-wire flight control system to help stabilize the aircraft about its longitudinal and directional axes.
The aircraft made its first successful flight on February 5, 1982, in Area 51, at Groom Lake, Nevada, flown by Northrop test pilot Richard G. Thomas. The aircraft subsequently logged 135 flights over a three-year period. The aircraft often flew three to four flights weekly and several times flew more than once a day. After reaching about 250 flight hours, the aircraft was placed in storage in 1985. In 1996, after Tacit Blue was declassified, it was placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio and has been on display in the new fourth hangar at the museum since June 2016.
- Crew: one
- Length: 55 ft 10 in (17 m)
- Wingspan: 48 ft 2 in (14.7 m)
- Height: 10 ft 7 in (3.2 m)
- Loaded weight: 30,000 lb (13,606 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Garrett ATF3-6 high-bypass turbofans, 5,440 lbf (24 kN) each
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- List of experimental aircraft
- List of military aircraft of the United States
- List of stealth aircraft
- Assault Breaker Program Analysis.
- VARTABEDIAN, Ralph (26 February 1993). "Job Stress Catches Up With 'Dr. Stealth' of Aerospace : Science: Eccentric genius John Cashen's departure for Australia has many questioning the technology's future". L A Times. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- "Tacit Blue". Photos: A brief history of stealth aircraft. C/Net news. November 23, 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2012.[dead link]
- Grier, Peter (August 1996). "The (Tacit) Blue Whale". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
- "Lockheed's Senior Peg: The Forgotten Stealth Bomber".
- National Museum of the USAF Fact Sheet
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