posted on May, 28 2004 @ 08:27 AM
TR-3A Black Manta is not a real plane. It is the bad interpretation of unmanned spy plane Lockheed Tier 3. Both - TR and Tier - means Tactical
The first real replacement of retired SR-71 Blackbird come from Northrop and E-Systems. They proposed a variation of B-2 bomber called RB-2 with
redesigned weapon bay for reconnaissance equipment. McDonnel Douglas proposed a ballistic hypersonic waverider reentry vehicle. Lockheed dusted off
its design for the Advanced Technology Bomber competition and began modifying it for the mission requirements being drafted by the Director of Central
Intelligence. By the Spring of 1992 several agencies were funding the Lockheed work under the name Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System and a
contract seemed near. Lockheed's ATB design was much like Northrop's winning B-2 as it was originally concieved, though smaller. The Lockheed ATB
was a flying wing with a single sawtooth trailing edge (the original Northrop design also had a single sawtooth, the additional two were added as part
of a major redesign at the Air Force's request in 1983) and a wingspan of roughtly 26 meters.
for the Tier 3 the Lockheed ATB was almost completely redesigned. Weapons bays were changed to better fit recon systems and their associated
apertures, and a host of new populsion and low observables features were added. Prior efforts by the STOVL concept were worked into the propulsion
system to give the Tier 3 dramatically improved low speed manueverability for extended sensor coverage and time over target. For the first time
Lockheed incorporated "active stealth" features. Active stealth isn't jamming, but methods of deceiving or spoofing enemy sensors over a broad
range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Instead of merely absorbing or redirecting radar as previous low observable aircraft had done, the Tier 3 was
capable of intercepting the signal and sending back a "phase conjugate pulse" injected with noise - essentially cancelling out the enemy radar
system and burying the signature of the Tier 3 in normal background noise.
Loral, Boeing and General Electric signed on as team members before work began on subscale demonstrator aircraft in the Summer of 1992. By 1993 a
manned prototype aircraft had been completed and was in test on the restricted ranges of the Southwest. A manned version was used to reduce the risk
involved - the prototype was at the time the most advanced stealth aircraft flying, and as a result was one of the most expensive aircraft ever built.
Program managers insisted on having a man in the loop after learning from experience with other UAV programs that unmanned vehicles are prone to
software bugs and tend to crash and burn (paradoxly it was the destiny of its follower Tier 3- Dark Star). A number of observers reported seeing large
boomerrang-shaped aircraft, often flying at "near walking speed".
By mid-1994 the flight test program had progressed well and many milestones had been achieved- though the cost of the production version was much more
than the customers were willing to pay. Many sources within the Air Force and intelligence community reffered to the Tier 3 as the most advanced
aircraft ever produced- so advanced that if one was to crash over hostile territory the US would have to "bomb that country back into the stone age"
to protect the technology used in the Tier 3. After much debate within the intelligence agaencies and recently formed DARO, the Tier 3 program was
judged to be too expensive and high risk, and studies for replacements were begun. The CIA Gnat 750 program was restructered and brought out of the
black to provide an interim theatre recon capability in the form of several Gnats and the Predator, while requests for proposals for two new aircraft
were let out to industry. The Tier 2+ which led to RQ-4 Global Hawk was to be a high-endurance UAV with little low observable to reduce cost and fill
in for the gap in coverage capability left by the cancellation of the Tier 3. Loral's competitor for the Tier 2+ contract was a cheaper version of
the Tier 3, entered without the permission of the other Tier 3 team memebrs, causing an uproar in the black aircraft community (it was presented as
the Frontier Systems W570 design). The Tier 3- was designed as a low observable aircraft with less range and endurance than the Tier 2+ and Tier 3,
while still allowing commanders to have eyes over heavily defended airspace. The delayed first flight of the Tier 3- DarkStar UAV was primarily caused
by the reuse of Tier 3 flight control and guidance software for the DarkStar- more changes in the Tier 3 code were required than originally
By the way, name MANTA is used on Lockheed X-44 experimental plane and means Multi-Axis No Tail Aircraft. More info and pictures (but still only in
Tier 3 picture: www.hitechweb.szm.sk/UAV02.htm
X-44 information: www.hitechweb.szm.sk/x44.htm
ATB program information: ww.hitechweb.szm.sk/stealth4.htm
If I learn, how to add an image, I will do so.