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Is This the "real" Lockheed X-44A Manta?

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posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 09:37 PM
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An aircraft that represents a missing technological link between Lockheed's abortive "Tier III-" RQ-3 Darkstar unmanned penetrating and long-loitering spy aircraft and the company's history making RQ-170 Sentinel is now coming to light. This previously unknown (to the public) flying-wing drone was built by Lockheed Skunk Works in 1999, shortly after the RQ-3 program vanished.

This new program, which aimed to prove rapid manufacturing technologies and penetrating aerial reconnaissance capabilities, as well as the aerodynamic validity of a relatively small, tailless, swept-wing drone, was dubbed the X-44A and first took to the skies in 2001.

The shadowy aircraft's designation is outright confusing as the X-44 "Manta" is largely known as a program that aimed to test a tailless manned aircraft design that emanated from the same period of time. This notional aircraft would use thrust vectoring for primary flight control, with the objective being to realize new speed, fuel efficiency, and maneuverability capabilities with such a design, as well as to demonstrate simpler and cheaper forms of aircraft structures production.

This USAF and NASA led program was supposedly cancelled around the turn of the millennium with some conceptual art being all that is left to show for it, which mainly includes drawings of what appears to be a tailless F-22 with an expanded trapezoidal wing.

It is unclear at this time how Lockheed's fat little flying-wing drone also ended up with the same X-44 designation, but there doesn't seem to be any direct relation between the two programs.

A patent dated 1996 and belonging to Lockheed has been identified as the real X-44A's design, or at least very close to it. The X-44's skin is supposedly made out of nano-carbon fiber and it's powered by a Williams F112 turbojet engine. The F112 powerplant is used in cruise missiles, such as the stealthy AGM-129, but it has also been used in other unmanned technology demonstrators, like the McDonnell Douglas's X-36 and Boeing's X-50.


www.thedrive.com...


There are some oddities here. Perhaps I am wrong (have been before and will be again), but the designation recycling that quick seems really off. And why stick with the X code? That's really...off.

I'm not doubting the patent and even the idea there's a flying something out there, but...hrm.

What do others think?




posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 09:41 PM
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Why is the designation off? It was an X-plane?



posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 09:46 PM
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a reply to: C0bzz

The original X plane was supposed to be a tailless, diamond shaped derivative of the F-22, but that was cancelled.

Then this is being touted as using the X-44A designation.

That's...odd.



posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 09:51 PM
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a reply to: C0bzz

Because they don't cancel a program one year, and the next use the same designation for something completely unrelated.

This is an artist impression of the X-44A Manta, that lost funding in 2000.



In 2001, the X-44A suddenly became a swept wing UAV, that looks something like the RQ-170. That's not normal.



posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 10:05 PM
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a reply to: anzha

Hey ATS, star and flag a great question!!

The project probably did make progress. What it is called is a problem for all black budget projects. And then you get idiots like me saying dumb stuff like, “Manta TR-3B Astra” to Zaphod’s chagrin!!

I am assuming that these are not drones as we know them but more like Penroc’s earlier thread. And... well, nobody here will say what for obvious reasons. Still cool tech and the hints keep coming!!

Thank you for posting!!



posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 10:33 PM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

The X-44A that they are writing about was most likely the father of the existing RQ-170 Sentinel. The RQ-3, also known as the Tier-III Minus, and probably where the never sufficiently damned TR-3B designation came from, was a long straight wing design. It was meant to operate at high altitude, in contested airspace and was fully autonomous. The original RQ-3 flew twice, and crashed on the second flight. A more stable, modified design flew in 1998, and made five flights, before the program was terminated in 1999. There were rumors of a larger version being built in secret, but no confirmation of that.



Then suddenly in 2009, the RQ-170 Sentinel was sighted, with nothing really in between the two. The Sentinel was a completely different design, for medium altitude operations, with a swept wing, and VLO design. There was nothing even out there about anything like that being developed, or going into operation. Until the "Beast of Kandahar" pictures showed up, no one had any idea it was out there.




posted on Feb, 2 2018 @ 11:15 PM
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an interesting mystery.

looks like Anzha has unearthed a new puzzle for us all to look into and solve.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 12:22 AM
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edit on 3-2-2018 by TAGBOARD because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 02:03 AM
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All i get from this article are some claims and very little evidence to back it up.
Not even a hint on where he got the information from. Maybe the desgination is ture, maybe its not. Maybe it was a prototype fort he RQ-170, maybe it was something else entirely. Maybe the patch is linked to it, maybe its not.
I take it as confirmation that ten or twenty years ago, Skunk Works had more UAV programs going on than publicly disclosed (how sursprising), but not much more.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 02:33 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Rumors of a larger version of a high altitude low observable recon? Something like the RQ-180? Or did that go away from the high altitude, long loitering, slower speed to something more of the flying wing design like the RQ-170? Most artist renditions I see have been cranked kite designs, but no idea if they have any confirmation of their representations.

Still seems odd to me that that RQ-180 has been an acknowledge secret for several years, but so little information has leaked about the platform or its true role. Every day I hope for someone to get a picture of it in the wild but so far no luck.

~Winter
edit on 3-2-2018 by Winterpain because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 03:06 AM
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They have taken more pics of the Big Black Triangles than the Green Lady,Companion or RQ-180.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 03:09 AM
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a reply to: Blackfinger

The Wichita KS photo couple years back crossed my mind as the RQ-180, but I think Zaph quickly shut that down. It does seem odd they intentionally leaked two unknown craft (TX/KS), but nothing on those known/strongly expected to exist.

~Winter



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 03:31 AM
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Both Wichita and Texas are known platforms in the right circles.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 08:54 AM
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hmmmmm its not me or it looks suspiciously close to the reports of the f-19?



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 09:14 AM
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a reply to: humanoidlord

Superficially maybe. The F-19, whichwas just a model, had a longer fuselage, canards, twin tails, and a smaller wing area.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 09:15 AM
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a reply to: humanoidlord
Its just you
The „real F-19“ is not a triangle or a flying wing



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 10:00 AM
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a reply to: anzha

That particular patent drawing has been known and discussed for a very long time. Whether or not the airplane was actually built remains an open question.

Even if it was, I would say that the "X-44A" design is entirely spurious. That designation was undeniably assigned to the tailless F-22-derived research aircraft. The fact that the MANTA program was cancelled does not obviate the use of the designation X-44. Such designations are not reassigned because a program is cancelled (see the Bell X-16 or lockheed X-27).

It's possible that the Skunk Works used "X-44A" as an unofficial, in-house designation. It might be like the rollout of the Lockheed Martin JSF mock-up that took place in advance of the official designations being assigned to the two competitors. The design (featuring twin tails, a truncated diamond wing planform, canards, and a lift fan) was painted in USMC colors and bore the designation X-32. Later, when the DoD handed out MDS designators for the JSF demonstrators, X-32 went to Boeing and LM received X-35.

The article that set off this discussion thread may have some interesting tidbits, but the X-44A designation is probably not one of them. We know that the Skunk Works has produced a number of classified UAVs in recent years including the one with the "Black Manta" patch. In the beginning, at least, they probably all carried typical Skunk Works prototype designations such as those we have seen or heard before (P-170, P-175, P-179, etc.).



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 11:40 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

was it ever seriously considered?



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 12:45 PM
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a reply to: humanoidlord

No. It wasn't even a real design. It was thought up by Testors, based on what everyone assumed a stealth aircraft would look like (this was before the F-117 reveal). They named it the F-19 because it was the logical next number to be used.



posted on Feb, 3 2018 @ 01:35 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

The future MiG that was supposed to be released at the same time by Testors apparently made people more nervous from what I heard.

The MiG-37B Ferret-E.

www.cybermodeler.com...
edit on 3-2-2018 by anzha because: (no reason given)



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