I know. I know: the project name. I didn't pick it. The USAF did. 40 years ago or more.
When the US found the paper by the Russian physicist describing how to model radar frequency cross sections of objects, the US interest and
capability for stealth aircraft leapt forward immensely. The US had long been interested in radar absorbing materials and even stealth aircraft.
However, the results were not great and there were serious challenges with getting the returns just right. However, the paper played beautifully into
the US advantages with computing capabilities: the Soviets couldn't model the RF returns on the computers they had. The US could. The Have Blue
project to build a stealthy aircraft was born.
And as we know, it was a wild success with the follow-on being the F-117.
The US wasn't working on the F-117. It did several stealth aircraft at the time, taking advantage of the rapidly advancing computing capabilities
and other technologies the US had long been working on and were perfect for stealth aircraft (flying wings, for example). One of those projects was
I know. I know. I didn't pick the name. The USAF did. 40 years ago. Deal.
Senior Prom was a project to try to adapt the Have Blue technology into a cruise missile. A miniature version of the Have Blue airframe was test
flown and several test articles were built. Many, like the picture were flown attached to BUFFs (B-52s for those of you nonAvGeeks) in a captive
carry and reportedly several were outright flown.
The officially project was scrapped even though it was technically successful. There were some issues.
The first was the bauplan of the Senior Prom missile was incompatible with the internal bays of the bomber fleet. The missile as you can see was
patterned off the Have Blue and therefore NOT a nice fit like a standard cruise missile. In fact, the AGM-129 stealthy cruise missile was
developed instead. The AGM-129 has a standard bauplan and could fit, despite its stealthy design, in the bomb bays of the bombers.
Second was cost. It was rumored to be significantly more expensive than the missiles it would be replacing, making it untenable as a replacement for
the ALCM. In a bit of irony, the AGm-129 which was going to be cheaper ended up going through the procurement death spiral and became too expensive
to do a complete replacement of the cruise missiles in the USAF inventory.
That would seem to be that. Senior Prom died, as so many other aircraft projects did.
Or did it?
Six airframes were made. They flew. Some have stated they were turned into UAVs. Or follow-on airframes were.
American UAVs of the timeframe were relatively primitive compared to those started in the 1990s. Take a look at the Lockheed Aquila as an example.
And it's associated control station. It's entirely possible there was a preprogrammed UAV, much like the D-21 was, that flew at that time
frame, but it's limitations might have been too great and the risk of loss of the stealth tech too much for real life use.
On the other hand...what if...
There was a pet aircraft that folks here love to talk about. And the original Have Blue was stealthier than the F-117. Perhaps. Maybe. The fruit
of Senior Prom might have been the companion on dates with the F-117? It would fit with the timeframe and numbering scheme thrown around on here and
elsewhere for that aircraft.
Makes you wonder...
1. This is exactly why I say not underestimating your enemy is a big deal. The Russkis had the science, but lack crucial bits. Who is to say the
Chinese won't have it as well?