Dating hardware wing

One of the areas where they wanted to push the stealth envelope was in the business of battlefield reconnaissance.

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This new radar technology development program was known as “Pave Mover,” and it would prove to have drastic effects on the future of airborne intelligence collection.

With the “Pave Mover” radar concept and Northrop’s stealthy and persistent tactical intelligence aircraft in mind, the folks at DARPA decided to combine the two into a top-secret program now known officially as the Battlefield Surveillance Aircraft-Experimental (BSAX), code name “Tacit Blue.” By combining the deep penetrating radar capabilities of “Pave Mover” and Northrop’s stealthy surveillance platform, commanders would theoretically be able to look deeper into enemy territory than ever previously imagined, and the products of such a capability could truly be war winning.

By the turn of decade multiple “low observable” programs, spearheaded by a variety of manufacturers, were well underway.

Most notable of all of these programs was Lockheed’s notorious bleeding edge “Skunkworks” design house’s “Have Blue” demonstrator, aka the “Hopeless Diamond.” The successful Have Blue program would eventually morph into the world’s first true “Stealth” production aircraft, the infamous F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter (the Nighthawk was really an attack aircraft but marketing is a powerful thing even in the Pentagon’s black budget world).

At best these systems could capture a snapshot in time of the enemies force posture, which could never be exploited in real-time, and was only gained at incredible risk to the aircrews involved.

Other surveillance assets, such as the SR-71 Blackbird and especially reconnaissance satellites had similar, if not even more severe drawbacks, as the information they gathered was momentary in nature, and resolutions were at times inconsistent.

My first piece on the ancestry of the RQ-170 Sentinel, America’s secret unmanned stealthy sensor truck of choice, got a lot of traffic and was the topic of one of my recent colorful interviews on John Batchelor’s national radio program (

Yet after writing the piece something about the genesis of the now infamous bat-winged tactical reconnaissance platform sat odd with me.

Tacit Blue had no such luxury as it would have to loiter for hours over enemy territory, and thus every angle would be susceptible to radar surveillance for prolonged periods of time.

Tacit Blue’s rounded approach to stealth, known as curvilinear design, would be a massive development that would affect future stealth technology arguably more than the famous F-117’s “faceted” approach to masking radar signatures.

I had heard of its unique mission requirement somewhere along the abstract timeline of aerospace technology I have built-in my head over the years, long before even the whole TIER3- concept officially existed.

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