Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Often eclipsed by its more famous relative the F-117A Nighthawk (aka Stealth Fighter), for which it served as a proof-of-concept vehicle, Lockheed’s small Have Blue technology demonstrator remains a shadowy aircraft to this day. Relatively few photographs exist in the public domain, and a crashed article that had once been earmarked for display remains buried in an unmarked grave at the Groom Lake test facility in Nevada, popularly known as Area 51.

lockheed have blue xst 1  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue xst 2  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Images: DARPA/US Air ForceU.S. Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Designed and built by the famous Skunk Works and test flown in total secrecy from 1977 to 1979, Have Blue demonstrators XST-1 and XST-2 tested the angular, faceted design that gave the F-117A its sinister appearance and low observability.

Despite the loss of both aircraft (with pilots ejecting to safety) the programme was deemed a success and development of the larger Nighthawk went ahead. Meanwhile, both Have Blue wrecks were quietly buried in anonymous graves within the boundaries of the Nellis Test Range.

near have blue resting place  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: Google Earth)

One of the demonstrators was reportedly interred at Groom Lake, immediately south of the former A-12 Oxcart hangar complex (above). Years later, when Have Blue’s existence had finally been made public, Lockheed engineers set about trying to unearth the relatively intact wreck for restoration as a static display article.

lockheed have blue in flight  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: USAF, public domain)

But their efforts went unrewarded. Some reports say they couldn’t find it, while others assert that the search was cancelled when engineers began unearthing the shattered components of other classified programmes. Whatever the truth may be, it’s thought that the wreck now lies beneath a paved section of recently constructed taxiway. If this is the case, Have Blue is unlikely to see the light of day any time soon – if ever!

Stealth On Ice! Climate Testing an F-117 at McKinley Climatic Laboratory

f 117 fsd ice climate lab  Stealth On Ice! Climate Testing an F-117 at McKinley Climatic Laboratory(Image: via US Federal Government, public domain)

Sightings over the past few years have confirmed that a small number of previously retired F-117 Nighthawks are flying again over the desert ranges of the western United States. Meanwhile, reports point to a bleak fate for the remainder of the mothballed Stealth Fighter fleet – burial near the restricted Tonopah Test Range Airport, perhaps even with their own headstones.

So you could be forgiven for thinking the above picture showed a Nighthawk carcass being placed into cryostasis pending a time when it might be resurrected. In reality, however, the airframe depicted is one of the original five full scale development (FSD) YF-117 aircraft. The picture shows the jet undergoing testing in the refrigeration system at McKinley Climatic Laboratory.

With the exception of some wreckage in Belgrade and a hybrid jet mounted on a pole outside the Skunk Works in Palmdale, the YF-117s are the only ‘Stealth Fighters’ you’re likely to get close to today. The others remain off-limits at Tonopah.

Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?

Boeing F A XX1  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image: Boeing via YouTube)

For several years black project researchers have debated the possible existence of a classified aircraft called the YF-24, which was referenced in the bio of test pilot Colonel Joseph Lanni. It was later redacted, causing speculation that the plane could be a foreign jet under evaluation by the US Air Force, a one-of-a-kind technology demonstrator or stealth prototype, or simply a typo.

The Pentagon has denied the existence of a YF-24, while some stealth watchers remain similarly unconvinced. But others have speculated that it could be linked to the ill-fated Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) programme or early Joint Strike Fighter studies.

Boeing Model 24F  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Boeing/US Air Force study)

Dave Majumdar recently posted this interesting article on the DEW Line, citing an engineering paper for a Boeing Multirole Fighter concept dating back to the 1990s. The design – known as the Model-24F – shares commonalities with Boeing concepts for the Advanced Tactical Fighter programme, the unsuccessful X-32 demonstrator, and artist impressions of the future F/A-XX programme.

According to Majumdar, the design reflects a more agile aircraft than the current Lockheed Martin F-35 and “has provisions for two-dimensional thrust vectoring and some other interesting features. The design matches the Raptor’s top speed of about Mach 2.2 though it doesn’t cruise supersonically like the F-22.”

Boeing MRF 24X  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Key Publishing Aviation Forum)

Interestingly, a more recent study shows what appears to be a tailless version of the same aircraft, with vertical and horizontal stabilisers removed and a redesigned back-end. The earlier Model-24F design apparently utilises 1998 technology, while the MRF-24X (above) study incorporates 2003 technology and appears to be a step closer to more recent Boeing F/A-XX concepts.

Whether Boeing built and flight tested a full scale demonstrator aircraft based on the Model-24F during the 1990s, and indeed whether it was related to the mysterious YF-24, remains unknown. If nothing else, these intriguing engineering studies may help map the evolution of an aircraft design from early concepts to a future air superiority fighter.

X-47B has Washington, D.C Residents Crying “UFO”

(Image: Screenshot via YouTube, watch full clip here)

With the amount of government workers in and around the Washington, DC metro area, you’d think locals would be among the last to cry “UFO” after witnessing a mysterious aircraft being transported on the back of a flat bed truck. But an X-47B on the Washington Beltway bound for Patuxent River, MD, ignited a lively Twitter debate and found its way onto a number of mainstream news sites.

x 47b1  X-47B has Washington, D.C Residents Crying “UFO”(Image: U.S. Air Force, public domain)

The experimental Northrop Grumman X-47B – the second to arrive at NAS Patuxent River for testing – was at the end of a two week road journey from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, where it was manufactured. Now a key part of the U.S. Navy’s UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) programme, the semi-autonomous UCAV is undergoing carrier launch and recovery testing at Patuxent River before sea trials commence next year.

B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash, Guam (in Pictures)

b 2 spirit crash  B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash, Guam (in Pictures)(Image: Federal Aviation Administration, public domain)

Our previous article Secret US Planes that Remained Largely Intact after Crashing included the remains of this B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, named Spirit of Kansas, that crashed within the confines of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on February 23, 2008.  These grainy images, taken from a security camera, track the massive flying wing’s last takeoff roll and ultimate demise, at a cost of $1.4 billion to the US taxpayer.

b 2 spirit crash guam 2  B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash, Guam (in Pictures)(Image: U.S. Air Force security camera via YouTube)

Above, the B-2, serial number 89-0127, begins its takeoff roll.  Below, Spirit of Kansas pitches up violently immediately after liftoff before leveling out.  Then, just feet above the ground, the jet drifts uncontrollably to port as the wing comes perilously close to the runway.  As the wing impacts the dirt, both crew members eject safely before the Stealth Bomber cartwheels into the ground.

(Image: U.S. Air Force security camera via YouTube)

The B-2 fleet was later grounded for 53 days pending the outcome of the crash investigation.  The cause of the accident was determined to be moisture in the port transducer units that distorted the information being sent to the aircraft’s air data system.  As a result, the flight control computers calculated an incorrect air speed, causing the B-2’s nose to pitch up 30 degrees.  From that point, the bomber became uncontrollable and the pilots had little choice but to bail out.  Incredibly, nobody was seriously hurt in the accident.

Be sure to check out these crashed American stealth aircraft that remained largely intact.

Lockheed’s CALF Aircraft Powered Model Seen on Google Earth

Lockheed CALF  Lockheed’s CALF Aircraft Powered Model Seen on Google Earth(Image: Google Earth 2011)

Sitting in a junk filled corner of Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, Texas, is a corroding aircraft that formed the basis of Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter design. At first glance, the plane resembles an F-35 Lightning II, but is actually a large scale powered model built by Lockheed to meet DARPA requirements for an Advanced Short Takeoff Vertical Landing (ASTOVL) and Common Affordable Lightweight Fighter (CALF) aircraft.

F 35 lift fan  Lockheed’s CALF Aircraft Powered Model Seen on Google Earth(Image: Duch.seb, cc-sa-3.0)

The stealthy canard design, developed in the early 1990s, adopted a revolutionary lift fan to achieve short takeoff and vertical landing, helping cement Lockheed’s success in the later Joint Strike Fighter programme against Boeing’s X-32. At this stage of the programme, renamed Joint Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) by 1995, competing designs were also submitted by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing.

Lockheed CALF Fort Worth  Lockheed’s CALF Aircraft Powered Model Seen on Google Earth(Image: Google Earth 2011)

While the ASTOVL/CALF/JAST design was not a flyable aircraft, it was also not a traditional full size replica. As a large scale powered model, the stealthy demonstrator was used in a series of ground-based tests, many focusing on the lift fan system. Despite an obvious resemblance, the final X-35 and F-35 designs differ significantly from CALF. The powered model, similar in size to the F-16 alongside it, looks like a gutted shell in these recent Google Earth images. Nearby is a mock-up of the ill-fated A-12 Avenger II attack aircraft, designed for the Navy, and cancelled in 1993 amid ongoing legal difficulties.

The University Engineering Department With its Own Fighter Plane

british aerospace eap  The University Engineering Department With its Own Fighter Plane(Image: Mr.C.Pearson.UK, cc-sa-3.0)

UK airshow goers from the 1980s might remember an early Eurofighter Typhoon lookalike with a Tornado‘s vertical stabilizer.  Similarly anyone passing through the University of Loughborough’s engineering department might be surprised to find a prototype fighter plane standing in a corner of a lab amid chairs and desks.  Of course, these jets are one and the same – the British Aerospace EAP (Experimental Aircraft Programme).

british aerospace eap 3  The University Engineering Department With its Own Fighter Plane(Image: Paul Grayson, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

EAP originated from a 1982 full size replica of an Agile Combat Aircraft (ACA), combining several years of R&D by British Aerospace alongside Italian and German firms. Plans were made to build two technology demonstrators but lack of funding from West Germany meant the second jet never materialised. The sole EAP (ZF524) was built at Warton and first flew in 1986, with a total of £80 million invested by the British government.

british aerospace eap 2  The University Engineering Department With its Own Fighter Plane(Image: Ian3055, cc-sa-3.0)

The aircraft boasted many innovations, including carbon fibre composites and aluminium lithium alloy. EAP used a modified Tornado tail fin to reduce cost, and despite significant differences, bore a striking resemblance to today’s Eurofighter. Retired in 1991, the EAP is displayed within Loughborough University’s Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering department, and is used to help students get to grips with the components of a modern fighter plane.

F-117 Stealth Fighters Stored at Tonopah – Flying Again?

f 117 storage tonopah  F-117 Stealth Fighters Stored at Tonopah – Flying Again?(Image: U.S. Air Force, public domain)
This rare photograph shows four F-117 Nighthawks – known as Stealth Fighters – in storage at the Tonopah Test Range Airport in Nevada. It was here that the low observable jets were based during the early years of their operational life, after initial testing at the top secret Groom Lake (Area 51) facility. U.S. military aircraft traditionally retire to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, better known as the Boneyard, but the sensitive materials and still-classified nature of some F-117 components demand a more secure storage location.

f 117 tonopah  F-117 Stealth Fighters Stored at Tonopah – Flying Again?(Images: Google Earth via DigitalGlobe; Inset: Airman 1st Class Vanessa LaBoy, public domain)

The surviving fleet of 52 production F-117s are stored, with wings removed, in their original hangars at Tonopah. One of the mothballed Stealth Fighters is painted in “Gray Dragon” experimental camouflage, like the aircraft shown above (inset). Only the YF-117 Full Scale Development (FSD) aircraft – externally the same – can be found on public display. Of these, one was scrapped in 2008 to test effective methods of disposing of the fleet.

f 117 nellis range 2010  F-117 Stealth Fighters Stored at Tonopah – Flying Again?(Image: YouTube screen shot – watch full clip here)

The last operational F-117 left Palmdale – home of the Lockheed Skunk Works – for Tonopah on August 11, 2008, marking the disbandment of the 410th Flight Test Squadron. Like these top secret A-12 spy planes once stored at Palmdale, the fleet has languished under cover away from prying eyes ever since. But much to the delight – and confusion – of plane spotters, the F-117 Stealth Fighter was filmed flying near Groom Lake in 2010.  Four airframes plus two maintenance spares are reportedly back in use for R&D purposes, but the fate of the rest sounds decidedly ominous.

Chinese F-117 Full Size Replica – a Cause for Concern?

f 117 full size replica china  Chinese F-117 Full Size Replica – a Cause for Concern?(Image: Google Earth via GeoEye)

Previously we reported that Pakistan may have given China access to the stealth helicopter that crashed during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.  In that article we mentioned that the F-117 Stealth Fighter shot down during the Kosovo War may have found its way to Russia.  Interestingly, this 2010 Google Earth image shows the faint outline of an F-117 in the Chinese city of Luoyang, reportedly sitting outside the Electro-Optical Technology Development Center – an R&D centre for Chinese air-to-air missiles.

f 117 mock up china  Chinese F-117 Full Size Replica – a Cause for Concern?(Image: Google Earth via GeoEye)

Not surprisingly, the F-117 in the satellite photo is reportedly a full size replica.  China is believed to have developed several Stealth Fighter and SR-71 mock-ups (see here) over the years, in a bid to better understand U.S. stealth technology.  These images purportedly show the Blackbird attempt along with an F-22 Raptor.  But the authenticity of the images is in question because the F-22 certainly is not a full size replica built by China – it’s a direct mirror image of this legitimate American photo of the first operational Raptor in the paint shop.

china j 20  Chinese F-117 Full Size Replica – a Cause for Concern?(Image: Air Defense, cc-sa-3.0)

The F-117 in the satellite photo was reportedly spotted by the China Defense Forum and appears to be partially complete, perhaps missing its forward fuselage.  But the grainy image – with a fuselage that fades into the concrete as it nears the front – almost looks as if the wannabe Stealth Fighter is painted on the ground.  Either way, is this replica a cause for concern?  Probably not, since the F-117’s faceted stealth is decades old by modern standards.  China’s fifth generation Chengdu J-20 stealth prototype (above) is far more concerning.

U.S. Suspects Pakistan of Allowing China to Inspect Crashed Stealth Helicopter

stealth helicopter black hawk  U.S. Suspects Pakistan of Allowing China to Inspect Crashed Stealth Helicopter(Image: YouTube screenshot, via Aviation Explorer)

Pakistan may have allowed China to inspect the remains of a stealth helicopter that crashed during the raid on Osama bin Laden‘s compound in Abbottabad, it has been reported.  A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We have reason to suspect China was given access but we cannot confirm it definitively.”  Pakistan condemned the allegations, calling them a “malicious campaign” by foreign news agencies against Pakistan’s security forces.  China, meanwhile, declined to comment.

downed US aircraft  U.S. Suspects Pakistan of Allowing China to Inspect Crashed Stealth Helicopter(Images: Marko M (left), cc-sa-3.0; U.S. Air Force, public domain)

If U.S. concerns are correct, it wouldn’t be the first time high-tech American weaponry had found its way into unfriendly hands.  Pakistan is believed to have allowed Chinese officials to examine its U.S.-built F-104 Starfighters at the height of the Vietnam War.  Meanwhile, an F-117 shot down during the Kosovo War reportedly found its way to Russia.  The canopy (above) is on display at the Museum of Aviation in Belgrade.  Since that time, a full size replica stealth fighter have reportedly surfaced in China, while the U.S. has operated a decades-long programme to exploit foreign military technology.