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Lockheed’s vaunted Skunk Works is setting its sights on developing a successor to its venerable U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane and Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) drone. This new aircraft will seemingly take the best of the unmanned and manned features of both aircraft, and fuse them into an updated stealthier airframe able to penetrate enemy airspace if need be.
Currently, both the U-2 and the RQ-4 are seen as strategic standoff surveillance platforms that are meant to operate in peacetime or during conflicts while outside the reach of enemy air defense systems. The Skunk Works’ updated design will have low observable features, which will allow it to get much closer to enemy airspace than either the U-2 or the Global Hawk can today, if not penetrate it altogether.
What they are calling the RQ-X/UQ-2 will be optionally manned so that it can leverage the endurance of a HALE drone when need be or the deterrence and flexibility of a piloted platform when the mission demands it. This will make access into and out of foreign airports and dense airspace much more possible than what the strictly unmanned Global Hawk experiences to this day.
originally posted by: yuppa
I know...make it out of clear stealth material. that will make it next to impossible to see at altitude.
Construction of the R.I was largely of wood covered by transparent Cellon (Cellulose acetate)[Note 1] in the first prototype, R.I number 8/15, and lozenge camouflage fabric in the second aircraft, 40/16.
Cellon was used with the intention of making the aircraft partially transparent and so less visible; however, the Cellon reflected sunlight, making the aircraft more visible, before quickly yellowing due to the effect of ultra violet radiation.