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Spirit Ancestors

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posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 12:02 PM
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Hey all

I want to take a look at something I have previously discussed with a forum member. Nothing earth shattering and probably not entirely correct as these things go but maybe at least interesting.
As the thread title suggests
, I want to look at the B-2 Spirits, or rather what came before them. Or to be more precise, the precursors they officially didn’t have: demonstrator aircrafts or prototypes (besides AV 1-6, I’ll address those)

The origins of the B-2 can be traced back to Carter era. Official development efforts were underway by 1979 with two competition teams participating in the Advanced Technology Bomber program: Northrop/Boeing (Senior Ice) and Lockheed/Rockwell (Senior Peg). Northrop was selected as the winner in 1981, a new program name – Senior Cejay – was assigned along with the B-2 designation and the new bomber was finally revealed to the public in 1988. Its first public fight wasn’t until almost a year later when the first B-2 departed from Palmdale to Edwards.

That’s the official (short) version of the B-2 development history. One important detail going forward is that there was a costly redesign during the development phase. mission profile was changed from high-altitude to low-altitude, terrain-following.
You can read about it here in some detail:
www.thedrive.com...

So as said, the question I’d like to explore is the possibility of prototypes or demonstrators for the B-2 program and what could have happened to them.
I think it would be rather unusual for Northrop to move from drawing board straight to production. The B-2 wasn’t just your run in the mill aircraft but something radically different, revolutionary even in many aspects.
I can accept that there were no prototypes in the initial competition between Lockheed and Northrop. But I have a hard time believing they didn’t built something after they got the contract and the program was changed from Senior Ice to Senior Cejay.

Think about what happened during the F-117 development. No prototypes built during the competition (‚just‘ RCS mockups) but as soon as Lockheed got the contract they built the Have Blue demonstrator and prototypes (YF-117A Senior Trend).
Or if we look at the bomber programs before the B-2: The B-1 program had four prototypes. And the XB-70 was, well the XB-70 prototype.
Same is true for the fighter jets of the time. The F-15 had no less than 12 prototypes. The YF-18 was a thing and the aircraft it flew against – the YF-17 – went on to become the F-18 Hornet. And there were the YF-22 and YF-23 too of course.

So what about the B-2 program? In a way it had prototypes. The first 6 B-2 (called Air Vehicles 1-6) were actually built as flight test aircraft with specialized flight test hardware. They were eventually all converted to operational status, the first B-2 ever built (Air Vehicle 1) was actually the last, 21st B-2 delivered to the Air Force.
And there was BSAX/Tacit Blue of course from which at least curved surfaces or composite materials could have been reused in the ATB program. But this program basically happened in parallel to the ATB effort, it would be weird to test stuff for ATB on a completely separate program. Weird but not impossible.

So this is where the story ends? Quite possibly, but maybe there is more to it. There are some hints pointing in a different direction and of course, lots of speculation as usual.

If we look at the development history of the B-2 we see its shaping up quite similar to the F-117 (the only other official stealth aircraft project at the time). You can read up about it here: foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com...

Notice the picture of Senior Peg on the RCS test pole. Just like with the F-117 competition they tested the RCS of the entries. How likely is it, that Northrop didn’t built their B-2 Senior Cejay demonstrator after they had won, just like Lockheed built Have Blue and Senior Trend?
I realize a glorified attack aircraft is not comparable to a strategic bomber, but it took Lockheed about four years, going from winning the contract and building the demonstrators to build production aircraft. Northrop took seven years going from winning to production, even factoring in the delay due to the redesign, what did they do during this time? Testing stuff on Tacit Blue which isn’t even a flying wing?

The B-2 was a radical design for its time and yet they decided trusting the data left over from the YB-49 in the 1950s was enough?
They had money to burn – 23 billions US-$ for R&D on the B-2 alone – and yet they decided testing some of the tech on Tacit Blue was enough?
ATB was a strategic program with the highest national priority during a time of exploding defense spending and they didn’t go with a demonstrator? Instead going from drawing board directly to initial low rate production within 7 years?
In my opinion the timeline screams for them to build an early demonstrator/prototype under Senior Cejay, just after they won the contract in 1981.

And then – going with this theory, and its really just a theory – the redesign in the mid 80s really screwed them over.
Again take a look at how the B-2 were orignially supposed to look:
i.kinja-img.com...
I think is quite possible they were left with a High Altitude Penetrator demonstrator, they couldn’t really do anything with after the redesign in the mid 80s.

At this point I’d like to introduce us to USAF Colonel Frank T Birk, flight test pilot, test pilot for the 6512th Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, B-1A Test Program Director of Operations, B-1B Combined Test Force Director of Flight Test, Commander of the 412th Test Group and … Director of the B-2 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base.
What Frank T Birk is actually famous for is being the first pilot to fly a “classified advanced technology demonstration prototype” at Groom Lake in August 1983:
thetartanterror.blogspot.de...

Now of course we don’t know what that thing actually was. I’d however like to make the case for it being a B-2 pre redesign prototype.
A) the guy was basically a go to men for everything bomber related. Him flying an early B-2 demo would be a perfect fit.
B) The timeline adds up exceptionally well if we assume Northrop built the demo just after they won the contract in 1981. The fact that Birk flew only three flights with it might even hint at the redesign screwing things up for Northrop, grounding the bird prematurely.
C) consider the name:
The B-2 development project was named Advanced Technology Bomber program. This aircraft is named Advanced Technology Demonstration Prototype. Taken literally this aircraft is just that, a demonstration prototype for the ATB program.
Something similar happened recently with the Long Range Strike – Bomber program. I won’t go into this here, just read up on NGLRS-D. Similar naming game there.

[continued below]




posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 12:04 PM
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Moving on, I think the redesign due to the requirement change may very well be the main reason why a possible demo vehicle was never made public. It probably would have led to questions they weren’t comfortable answering (AARS cancelation, the mismanagement of the program in general).
This is to say, I suspect a possible ATB demo bird was looking very much (or even exactly) like Northrop’s High Altitude Concept Studies pre ATB redesign:
imagesvc.timeincapp.com... .jpg

The question of course is what happened to them, if they existed of course.

I’m not the first to suggest the existence of ATB demonstrators. A hint in this direction came from a throwaway comment written by Tyler Rogoway a couple of years ago in the comment section on one of its articles over at aviationintel.
This comment originally caused me / us looking at this more closely:


Also, there is some talk that some of the B-2’s ATB tech demonstrators were re-roled to prove the tactical recon mission further. I am going to do a piece on this in the future.

aviationintel.com...

The comment of course takes the existence of ATB demos as a matter of fact. We tried contacting Rogoway in different ways and ask about this, but unfortunately received no answer. The piece he talks about never happened.
But Rogoway indicates that the demonstrators could have been re-roled for recon missions.
If you think about it, that could make a lot of sense. Northrop’s original high altitude penetrator concept was built to be VLO, presumably high endurance and well, to operate at high altitude. Well suited for a long range reconnaissance asset. Just picture it like a stealthy U-2.
Of course, there was talk about a black U-2 Companion asset back in the day. The ‘Air Force Special platform’ was another term used for it. Opinions on that vary, I don’t want to claim a connection, just putting it out there as a possibility.
I wrote about it recently if anyone is interested: www.abovetopsecret.com...

Moving on, another possible connection was a rather peculiar article by Steve Douglass a couple of years ago: deepbluehorizon.blogspot.de...
The article refers to a mysterious, stealthy, loitering asset flying on last mission before retirement. Unfortunately, Douglass made the mistake of connecting it to Northrop ATOP which turned out to be bs. You can read about what happened here: www.dreamlandresort.com...
Of course a obvious question would be, why was Douglass thinking about a Northrop build high flying platform when confusing it with Northrops ATOP. Maybe the mysterious aircraft was from Northrop and high flying, VLO, high endurance etc...
Someone asked Douglass recently about this; without going into details, he still stands by the rest of the article, the aircraft did exist and the last flight happened. As a side note, this alleged retirement time of the aircraft corresponds with the emergence of the ‘RQ-80’.

Anyway, another thought we had on what happened to a possible ATB Demonstrator was actually about the LRS-B. As you see in the thedrive article I linked at the top, the B-21 is actually very close to the original ATB before the redesign. What if Northrop actually used the (of course refurbished) ATB demo for the LRS-B competition? It’s just a thought,
I know the rumor is that at least one competition team on LRS-B used a manned Quartz platform for the LRS-B prototype.
And Northrop got that 2 billion US-$ classified contract a few years back to build something of course, but that’s commonly associated with the ‘RQ-180’.

So what’s your opinion on all of this? Do you think the story ends with BSAX and AV 1-6 or is there more to it than this?



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 12:33 PM
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This is something I came across many times when thinking about how advanced B-2 was/is. Why not use proven airframe or its characteristics for other projects?
B-2's first flight was in 1989. That would be a great time to use some of the ATB technology demonstrators for recon role as the primary project was built and became flying. Medium altitude and relatively low speed would be a good trump for New World order requirements. We are talking about a "time" of Desert Storm conflict here.
Many people were shocked how advanced Tacit Blue was. Maybe someone "borrowed" the Tacit Blue technology&DNA's and crossed it with ATB technology demonstrator(s)? That would give us cheap, proven, subsonic, medium altitude, VLO bird that could fill the gap left by Tacit Blue and before Darkstar...

Just a thought...



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 01:47 PM
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Interesting read, thanks. I cant add anything other than that I worked on those first active duty jets at whiteman back in 92-93. What an awesome plane to work on. I found an article while looking up something else aout when we took it to Guam for the first time. THAT was a highly enjoyable TDY I tell ya, Missouri is cooooold in January.
uk.businessinsider.com.../#the-b-2-bomber-was-shown-to-the-public-for-the-first-time-in- 1988-just-before-the-end-of-the-cold-war-its-stealth-capabilities-were-virtually-unmatched-1


Something else I found that you may be interested in, NG just got cleared to build another bomber after being sued by Lockheed and Boeing. Honestly, I worked the F-35 and I wouldn't let Lockheed build me a paper airplane.

www.seattletimes.com...



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 01:59 PM
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originally posted by: lakenheath24
Something else I found that you may be interested in, NG just got cleared to build another bomber after being sued by Lockheed and Boeing.


I wouldn't say just, that was a year and s half ago. And they chose not to sue, although they did file a protest with the GAO.


Honestly, I worked the F-35 and I wouldn't let Lockheed build me a paper airplane.


What did people think was going to happen when they decided to simultaneously build essentially three different aircraft, using the same baseline and fuselage. And then have to build separate versions for the international customers. There was no chance in hell of the F-35 development going anything like smoothly. They were actually kind of lucky it went as well as it has.



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 02:36 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

A year and a half in the military aircraft field IS "just". LOL

That is a big part of it, but a lot of the fancy gizmos that were promised are still on someone's blackboard! I know every jet has had teething problems, but my god, that thing is a joke. Although the engine is pretty sweet. It drones so much at idle that it will actually put you to sleep.



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 03:15 PM
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a reply to: lakenheath24

It's the most complex aircraft ever built. When they first started software development they were looking at 10 million lines of code. By the time 3F rolled out that had almost doubled to 18 million. It's come a long way and is turning into a damn good jet. It won't ever be great, but it's getting there.

They did the same thing with the F-22. According to the leadership the F-22 radar was going to have anti-UAV capabilities, and could do everything including the dishes, and the aircraft would have all kinds of incredible capabilities that it doesn't have.



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 07:01 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58




There was no chance in hell of the F-35 development going anything like smoothly. 


Yes. But also, no. It was a stupid idea forced on everybody involved, so it was destined to be controversial and difficult. But there have been some real problems on the LockMart side.
It's something of a racket, and they've run with it. You can tell the brass aren't real happy with them by the way they jammed the last F-35 contract down their throat. Don't think other projects aren't being affected by this impression of LM either.



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 07:05 PM
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a reply to: RadioRobert

Which goes along with the whole "there's no way it was going smoothly".I never said all the problems were on the aircraft side of things. Lockheed promised a lot more than they were ready to deliver, which both they and Boeing are well known for.
edit on 2/25/2018 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 08:06 PM
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I know its "Tyler" but some interesting theories..
Wichita Kansas....Texas sightings



posted on Feb, 25 2018 @ 08:25 PM
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Key thing in all this.....is the deal going to be able to counter enemy advances in anti air tech?



posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 01:02 PM
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IIRC the krauts had a flying wing designed in WWII

you can see one briefly during 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'.
don't think one actually flew.

not sure how much that inspired the Spirit.



posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 01:06 PM
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a reply to: ElGoobero

Jack Northrop had multiple flying wings at the same time. He had already flown a couple designs by the time the Horton brothers were doing glide testing. He may have taken a little from it, but he was already flying them.



posted on Feb, 26 2018 @ 01:27 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Flying wings were a Quixotic passion for Jack Northrop, and he damn near killed his company in the 1940s with the resources that he spent trying to make the XP-79, the XB-35 and the YB-49 work.

And yeah, his designs were nothing like the Horten's and were the result of a pretty clear design progression tracing back to the 1920s.

One of my absolute favorite pieces of aviation lore is the fact that Jack Northrop, more or less on his deathbed, got to see the early drawings and models for THAP and the early ATB concepts, and I wouldn't be surprised if he got to see even more than that. Like Moses leading his people to the promised land, never reaching it himself, but dying in sight of it, knowing his Jong torturous journey was a successful one in the end.



posted on Feb, 27 2018 @ 06:10 AM
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originally posted by: SpeedFanatic
Many people were shocked how advanced Tacit Blue was. Maybe someone "borrowed" the Tacit Blue technology&DNA's and crossed it with ATB technology demonstrator(s)? That would give us cheap, proven, subsonic, medium altitude, VLO bird that could fill the gap left by Tacit Blue and before Darkstar...
Just a thought...

This is also a great idea, hadn't thought of it. It would fit in nicley with Rogoways unending quest for a manned Tact Blue follow on. Tacit Blue last flew in 1985, seemingly abandoned after a supposedly very successfull program, right when the B-2 redesign happned. JSTARS eventually emerged with a foucs on command and control and battle managment.
Though we do know that they were at least thinking about an operational LO design too:


In 1982, the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDRE) combined the SOTAS and Pave Mover efforts into a joint program, later designated Joint STARS. From 1982-1984, the services, OSD, and Congress wrestled over the development of requirements for the joint program, as well as the appropriate platform for the sensor. At the time, one option under active consideration was a two-phased program in which the radar would initially be deployed on ten conventional aircraft, with subsequent production focused on a stealth platform derived from the TACIT BLUE test aircraft. The technology surrounding Tacit Blue entered heavily into the debates surrounding the JointSTARS and the platform choices. But the inherent impossibility of making the radar truly undetectable was realized and the "unobservable/undetectable" approach to JointSTARS was abandoned. In May 1984, the Chiefs of Staff of the Air Force and Army made the final decision to put the Joint STARS radar on a 707 platform.

www.globalsecurity.org...

While these described difficulties remain, whos to say Northrop didnt try putting the BSAX radar on their alleged ATB demonstrator(s)? Another low cost, low risk silverbullet for a rainy day...



posted on Feb, 28 2018 @ 08:05 AM
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originally posted by: Barnalby
a reply to: Zaphod58

Flying wings were a Quixotic passion for Jack Northrop, and he damn near killed his company in the 1940s with the resources that he spent trying to make the XP-79, the XB-35 and the YB-49 work.

And yeah, his designs were nothing like the Horten's and were the result of a pretty clear design progression tracing back to the 1920s.

One of my absolute favorite pieces of aviation lore is the fact that Jack Northrop, more or less on his deathbed, got to see the early drawings and models for THAP and the early ATB concepts, and I wouldn't be surprised if he got to see even more than that. Like Moses leading his people to the promised land, never reaching it himself, but dying in sight of it, knowing his Jong torturous journey was a successful one in the end.


The aviation lore seems to be true. Check out page 37 of the PDF.
The whole thing is a great read about the history and development of the B2.B2-Spirit of Innovation




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