posted on Aug, 23 2008 @ 01:41 PM
Just some trivial background info....
They use opaque curtains to block off specific areas at the hangars
in Area 51, PHantom Works, Skunkworks so that manufacturing crews
from different projects don't intrude upon another during building of
individual projects such as planes, UAV's, etc.
Worker badges are also colour coded
and many times have a shape associated with that colour such as
square, triangle, octagon, diamond, etc. to indicate BOTH
the area allowed for access AND the function of the worker
(i.e. Assembly, Avionics Install, Coatings, Project Lead, etc.)
On SAP aircraft the teams are small of about 10 to 15 workers
are assigned a specific aircraft to complete.
THe guards are usually in the access hallway to check badges
or are sometimes placed OUTSIDE of the curtains and almost
NEVER see the craft being built unless there is an incident
IN the hangar where a badged worker strays into a
manufacturing area NOT of their badge code
IN the 80's/90's the individual teams would get to see almost
everything about the craft being built because it was entirely
built in places like Palmdale (skunkworks) but nowadays
entire airframes (or parts thereof) come in pre-assembled
from places like St. Louis, Austin, Utah, etc. and are put together
like lego blocks and the only thing that gets assembled
at phantomworks, skunkworks, etc. is the
installation of the engines and avionics which are now just
black boxes that get attached via simple connectors to
glass panels (small flatscreen video monitors) in the cockpit.
THe assembly process has been "Dumbed Down" and you
never get to see the good parts anymore because
everything is all pre-built. It's the pilots and UAV controllers
who have all the fun and who get to "Play in the Sandbox"
SAP (or special access Programs) in USAF projects are almost ALWAYS
UAV craft or higher end "Special Performance Flight Envelope" projects
designed for initial prototyping and testing. Once the initial team
has been setup, only the team members assigned (about 10 people
max) get to have access to the project offices.
THis tiger team is usually the initial design teams that uses a CAD/CAM
system to prototype a craft on a computer and then send the design
to a 3D printer or CNC machine for initial prototype which is then tested
for conformance to design specs. Once the design is set in stone
it gets farmed out an initial assembly area usually in Utah,
A-51 or sometimes even at a outside-of-the-lower-48
special flight testing area in Alaska, the U.K., Puerto Rico, Australia or Hawaii,
once the first craft is assembled, engine testing starts,
avionics tested, radar cross-section tests, coatings durability tests
and final test pilot cockpit familiarity sessions take places.
Then flight testing begins and that can take 2 to 4 years
(but is getting shorter) and designs have been tweaked
and re-tested only then is final assembly is farmed out
to the large hangars at Phantomworks, Northrup and Skunkworks
The craft then goes operational and given an operational codename
patches are made up and flight/maintenance squadrons assembled
and then sent to bases in Arizona, Utah, Texas, etc.
The plane stays secret for between 5 to 15 years until it's effectiveness
is superseded by newer technology and then goes Whiteworld
unveiled to the public near it's designed life span
and the process starts all over again...