The ‘Senior Crown’ programme was living on borrowed time without an electro-optical backplate for the camera system and a data-link system which would permit camera imagery and radar data from ASARS-1 to be down-linked in near real time. Eventually, funds were appropriated for the development of Senior King, a secure data link via satellite, but its development would prove too late to save the SR-71.

By the late eighties the list of those articulating an anti SR-71 posture was as long and varied as it was powerful. By 1988 it looked as though the efforts of the antagonists would be successful. But all was not quite lost: Admiral Lee Baggott, Commander in Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT) required SR-71 coverage of the Kola peninsula as there were no other means of obtaining the quality of coverage required. He took the battle to retain the SR-71 in Europe right to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and obtained funding for Det 4 for a further year. Meanwhile, the SR-71 PEM and his action officer were able to secure a commitment from a staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee for S46 million to keep Kadena and Palmdale open for another year. By now however, it was only a question of time before these valiant rearguard actions faced the inevitable. What was to be the final flight of an SR-71 took place on 6 March 1990, when Ed Yeilding and JT Vida flew ‘972 on a Wcst-to-East coast record-breaking flight across the United States, before landing at the Smithsonian National Aerospace Museum, Washington DC, where the aircraft was handed over for permanent display. Thereafter, SR – 71As (‘962, ‘967 and ‘968), were placed in storage at Site 2 Palmdale. Two SR-71As (‘971 and ‘980), together with the sole surviving SR-71 В (‘956) were loaned to NASA, the remaining 13 aircraft (including the hybrid trainer designated SR-71C which consisted of the forward fuse­lage from a static specimen mated to the wing and rear. section of YF-12A, 60-6934), were donated to museums throughout the US. Despite more than forty members of Congress, and many other well placed officials and senior officers voicing their concern over the decision.

During the course of the Gulf War, two requests were made to reactivate the Senior Crown programme, both however were turned down by the same SECDEF who had presided over the aircraft’s shutdown – Dick Cheney. That Desert Storm was an overwhelming success for coalition forces is beyond despute; however there were lessons to be learned from the 41-day campaign, not least of which was the lack of timely reconnaissance material available to General Schwarzkopfs field commanders.

It wasn’t until March/April 1994 that events in the international arena once more took a turn. Relations

Right, top, middle and bottom SR-71A 17968 is caught on anoth­er sortie. The aircraft first flew on 3 August 1966, with Bill Weaver in the front and George Andre in the back; it was retired on 12 February 1990. having accumulated 2,279 flight hours. (Eric Schulzinger)

between North Korea and the United States, at best always strained, reached a new low over the north’s refusal to allow inspection of their nuclear sites. At this point Senator Robert Byrd took centre stage. Together with several members of the Armed Services, and various members of Congress, he contended that back in 1990 the Pentagon had consistently lied about the supposed readi­ness of a replacement for the SR-71. The motivation behind such commitments was not the usual politicking, but one of genuine concern for the maintenance of a plat­form capable of broad area synoptic coverage.

The campaigning and lobbying paid off as noted in the ‘Department of Defence Appropriations Bill 1995’, report 103-321, dated July 20, wherein provision was made for a modest, ‘three plane SR-71 aircraft contingency recon­naissance capability’, at a cost of SI00 million, for fiscal year 1995 (FY95). Of the three SR-71As placed in deep storage at Site 2, Palmdale, only ‘967 was called to arms. The other A model to be recommissioned was ‘971 which had been loaned to NASA, re-numbered 832 and regular­ly ground tested but never flown by its civilian caretakers. Pilot trainer SR-71B, together with the brand new flight simulator, would be shared between the Air Force and NASA, and in a further move to keep operating costs to a minimum the new detachment, designated det 2, would,
like NASA, operate its aircraft from Edwards AFB, California.

Aircraft reactivation began on 5 January 1995 and seven days later, at 11:26 hrs, NASA crew Steve Ishmael and Marta Bohn-Meyer got airborne from Edwards in ‘971 on a 26 minute ferry flight which terminated at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, Plant 10 Building 602, Palmdale. Over the next three months ASARS and other sensors previously in storage at Luke AFB, Arizona were installed. At 10:18 hrs on 26 April, NASA crew Ed Schneider and Marta completed a 34 minutes FCF on ‘971. A month later Ed and Marta’s husband Bob Meyer conducted 971’s second and final FCF which lasted 2.5 hours. It took seven further FCFs to wring out all the glitches in ‘967, the final one successfully completed on 12 January 1996.

Three Air Force crews were selected to flv the aircraft, pilots Gil Luloff, Tom McQeary and Don Watkins together with RSOs Blair Bozek, Mike Finan and Jim Greenwood, the plan being that two crew’s would always be Mission Ready qualified and the third crew. Mission Capable. Whilst crew proficiency training got underway in the simulator and the ‘B’ model, R&D funds were used to develop and install the long overdue data-link, the antenna for which is housed in a small radome, just

Left On program shut down, Eric, with the help of friends in the 9th SRW, captured this memorable image of eleven SR-71 s.

(Eric Schulzinger)

Below Of the two SR-71 As loaned to NASA after USAF oper­ations were initially terminated on 22 November 1989, 17971, renumbered NASA 832, was called back to arms and 17967 was pulled from Air Force Site 2, deep storage, Palmdale. (Paul



forward of the front undercarriage wheel well. A digital cassette recorder system (DCRsi) provided recording and playback of both FLINT and ASARS data. Near-real – . time data could be provided if the aircraft was within 300n ml line-of-sight range of a receiving station; if not, the entire recorded collection could be downloaded in ten minutes once within station range.

As qualified Air Force crews began to acquaint them­selves with their operational aircraft, the long-running battle between the various factions supporting or oppos­ing the resurrected programme came to a head. Exploiting a complex technical loophole in the legislation concerning the deployment of funds which had been assigned by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the FY1996 Defence Appropriations Bill, but not authorised in two other pieces of supporting legislation, it was decided that tech­nically it was illegal to operate the SR-71. Consequently at 23:00 (Z) on 16 April 1996 a signal was despatched from the Pentagon, suspending SR-71 operations with immediate effect. The war between various Senate Committees then escalated, when supporters of the SR-71 program serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee threatened to eliminate section 8080 of the Appropriations Act and defeat the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY97. This would effectively ensure that all intelligence
activities for FY97 would grind to a halt – one can imag­ine the sheer panic this action would have produced in AF, DIA CIA and NSA circles!

Perhaps not surprisingly the tactic worked. Of the S253 billion Defence Budget for 1997, S30 million was allocat­ed for SR-71 Operations & Maintenance and a further S9 million for procurement. This spend was ratified and signed off by President Clinton and the three flight crews once again worked their way up to full proficiency and the ASARS-1 data link worked extremely well. The next major sensor enhancement update involved the develop­ment of an electro-optical backplate for the TEOCs by Recon Optical, located in Barrington, Illinois. This would have replaced film and instead enabled high quality, close-look imagery, to be transmitted, also via the data link, in real time, directly to theatre commanders. Unfortunately, political prevarication continued and in October 1997, President Clinton line vetoed the release of further SR-71 funds. On 30 September 1999, the end of the military fiscal year, remaining monies ran out and Senior Crown succumbed. Kelly’s prophesy that the SR – 71 would prove invulnerable to shoot-downs until at least 2001, failed to take cognisance of the weaponry mustered against the program by various politicians and (self) inter­est groups within the ranks of his fellow countrymen.

Air Force Operations

With the Agency U-2 operation up and running, the Air Force began recruiting pilots for its program largely from the same source; namely, the two recently deactivated SAC F-84 wings at Turner AFB, Georgia. Having under­taken ground crew and pilot training at Area 51, Col Jack Nole, commander of the 4028 Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS), led the first of two three-ship U-2 formations down to their new home at Laughlin AFB, Texas on 11 June 1957. Part of the 4080 SRW, their
sister squadron, the 4025th SRS, were equipped with Martin RB-57Ds. Seventeen days later disaster struck. Shortly before 9am on Friday 28 June, Lt Ford Lowcock crashed his U-2 near Del Rio, a few miles from Laughlin, and was killed, just three days after his first U-2 flight. Then, three hours later, Lt Leo Smith crashed his U-2 about thirty miles north of Abilene, Texas. He too was killed. Accident investigations determined that fuel imbalance in the wing tanks was probably a contributory factor in both incidents.

During September, the 4028th received five more U-2s which were assigned to the Air Force project HASP (High Altitude Sampling Program), sponsored by the Defence Atomic Support Agency (DASA). The objective was to determine the role played by the stratosphere in the worldwide distribution of fusion products resulting from nuclear explosions. In all the program lasted five years and involved some 45,000 flying hours – almost all in U-2s. Eventually DASA published its results, making its findings available to the UN. The result was a ban on all ‘air burst’ testing of nuclear weapons.

Air Force Operations

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During July and August 1962, John McCone, Director of the ‘Agency’ (he replaced Allen Dulles after the CIA – sponsored ‘Bay of Pigs’ affair), received a number of increasingly disturbing accounts concerning a Soviet military build-up on the island of Cuba. On 22 August he went directly to President Kennedy stating that it was his belief that Cuba were receiving intermediate range

Be/ow left During the‘bad old days’ of the Cold War, Alconbury based aircraft would usually take up station over Germany, reaching 60,000ft about 30 miles south of Amsterdam, where­upon they would turn off their mode ‘Charlie’ height read-out.

(Paul Crickmore) .

Be/ow The 95RS used ROOK as its call sign for all training sorties. Here Maj Blaire Bachus, flying ‘093, Rook 32, climbs away after another touch and go. (Paul Crickmore)

Air Force Operations

ballistic missiles. The President demanded corroborative evidence of such aggression before taking further action. Consequently, CIA U-2 overflights of the island were stepped up, with flights on the 28th August, 5, 17, 26 and 29 September and the 5 and 7 October. However, only evidence of SAM construction sites and increased fighter activity including the delivery of MiG-2 Is was detected. It was an alert photo-interpreter in the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), who noticed that the layout of some of these SA-2 sites on Cuba matched those deployed to protect offensive ballistic missile sites in the Soviet Union. When the Committee on Overhead Reconnaissance (COMOR) reconvened on 4 October, further coverage of western Cuba was requested. Despite the risks, again it was decided to use the U-2. However, as a potential military conflict seemed to be brewing on the island, the Air Force, with support from the Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara, insisted that it should fly all future U-2 sorties over Cuba. A view which, after some squabbling, was upheld, and on Wednesday 10 October the President sanctioned a resumption on U-2 flights over western Cuba.

It had been agreed that Agency U-2Cs would be used by the Air Force, as these were equipped with both System 9 and System 12 ECM units – the latter was a Radar Homing and Warning Receiver (RHAW), which warned the pilot if he was being tracked by SAM radars.

Majors Anderson and Heyser were chosen to conduct the flights as they had both checked out in the ‘C’ model, so they were packed off to Edwards North Base to join up with their mounts. Early on the morning of 14 October, Steve Heyser took off from Edwards and headed towards Isla de Pinos and then north toward the Cuban mainland. The most critical portion of the mission was the run from San Cristobal, which lasted approximately five minutes, after which Heyser set course for McCoy AFB, Florida – from where it had been agreed, future sorties over the island would be based. Upon landing, the

film was rushed to the National Photographic Interpretation Centre (NP1C), at Washington via a wait­ing Air Force jet. At about 5.30 on the afternoon of the 15th, Arthur Lundahl, the head of NPIC, passed the news to CIA headquarters – now located in Langley, Virginia – that Heysev’s film had captured the required evidence. Khrushchev was in the process of deploying SS-4 MRBM’s (NATO codename Scandal), right in America’s back yard. Shortly before 9am on Tuesday the 16th, McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy’s assistant for National Security Affairs, showed his president the photos. For the next thirteen days, Kennedy and a circle of his closest advisors became embroiled in a crisis that took the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust.

Early on the morning of 15 October, Randy Anderson had launched from Edwards and conducted a sortie simi­lar to that of Heyser, but it was appreciated that two U-2Cs would not be nearly enough resource for the job in hand. With its U-2s participating in the HASP and therefore stationed all around the globe, the 4028th SRS faced the challenge of gathering together enough aircraft to provide national command authorities with the vast amount of timely imagery upon which crucial decisions would be based. However, with extraordinary effort, the Air Force managed to muster ten aircraft and eleven pilots. At 4am on Tuesday 16th, three U-2 As were launched in blinding rain from Laughlin to conduct further overflights – like the preceding U-2Cs, they also recovered into McCoy.

As analysis of U-2 imagery continued, NPIC were able to confirm two MRBM sites near San Cristobal, each equipped with a regiment of eight SS-4s on launches with eight more ready for a second salvo, and that both sites were operational. Another regiment of SS-4s was discovered near Sagua La Grande; they were expected to become operational within a week. Finally the interpreters were convinced that they had also found two sites, near Guanajav, that were intended for the 2,200 mile-range

Top and above The original plans for the 17RW involved basing 12 aircraft at Alconbury and six at Weathersfield, two TR-ls were then to orbit over Central Europe 24 hours a day. In the event, Alconbury never operated more than eleven aircraft before the Cold War melted away. (Paul Crickmore Collection)

Right Returning from the Gulf War, these six U-2Rs were dispatched to Plant 2 at Palmdale, where Lockheed Martin provides support. (Lockheed Martin)

SS-5s (Skean), which, they predicted, would be operational in six to eight weeks – these missiles touted a range capability that threatened US ICBM bases in the north of the country. On top of all this, 4028th surveillance also discovered crates containing Ilyushin 11-28 bombers at San Julian airfield and thirty nine MiG-2 Is at Santa Clara.

In the cabinet room at 9.45 on Friday 19th October, Kennedy met with his joint Chiefs of Staff. The ever bullish Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen Curtis Le May, was in no doubt what should be done, … “ take out the missiles, I think you’ve got to take out their air with it, and their radar, communication, the whole works. It just doesn’t make any sense to do anything but that.”

Luckily for humanity, the result of a long-running meeting at the State Department on Saturday formed the basis of a more rational policy, which was accepted by Kennedy on Monday; namely, that the island would be blockaded and the United States would pledge to Khrushchev the withdrawal of US Jupiter IRBMs in Turkey, in exchange for a quid pro quo withdrawal of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

That same day, following further meetings with the JCS and briefings to Senior Democrat and Republican

leaders of Congress, Kennedy delivered a televised address to tens of millions of anxious viewers across the United States, the speech was then re-broadcast and distributed in many languages around the world.

Now the crisis was in the public domain, low-level photo recce sorties by Air Force RF-101 Voodoos and US Navy RF-8 Crusaders were also authorised. On Wednesday 24th October, the first signs that sense was beginning to prevail emerged when Soviet freighters, en route to Cuba, were seen to heave to in mid Atlantic.

Three day’s later, Randy Anderson got airborne from McCoy in Article 343 for another overflight. Flying along the northern coast of Cuba, despite carrying the System 12 SAM radar warning receiver, he was taken by surprise by a salvo of SA-2s fired from Banes naval base, at the eastern end of the island. One missile exploded above and behind the aircraft.

Shrapnel penetrated the cockpit and Anderson’s pressure suit. It is believed he was killed when the cockpit depressurised and his suit failed to inflate.

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Less than a day after the loss of Major Anderson, Khrushchev announced on Moscow Radio that the Cuban missiles would be withdrawn, thus bringing to an end the most serious east/west standoff of the twentieth century.

Подпись: AVIATION PIONEERS: LOCKHEED'S BLACKWORLD SKUNK WORKSHaving moved from Laughlin to Davies-Monthan AFB, Arizona on 12 July 1963, the 4028th SRS compli­ment of reconnaissance gathering platforms increased substantially when an international agreement was reached to discontinue all above ground nuclear weapons testing and all HASP aircraft were re-configured accordingly.

31 December 1963 saw the beginning of another U-2 chapter when President Johnson granted his approval for its deployment to South Vietnam, under the SAC code name Dragon Lady. And so on 14 February 1964, four aircraft touched down at Bien Hoa, near Saigon, thus creating the detachment known as OL-20. Their mission was to provide covert surveillance of North Vietnam’s border areas, particularly Vietcong infiltration routes and develop a contingency list of targets inside ‘the North’ should the war escalate – how prophetic such planning would prove to be…

The F-117

During the air war over Vietnam, the most lethal threat facing US air elements was radar directed surface to air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA). It was extremely disruptive, often result­ing in attack aircraft missing their targets in order to evade SAMs or dodge AAA. Latterly, during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the Israeli Air Force lost 109 aircraft in just eighteen days, virtually all falling victim to radar guided SAM or AAA batteries. With the Soviet Union having developed a highly sophisticated, integrated defence network, US planners estimated that if the Israeli loss ratio were extrapolated into a NATO/War Pact scenario, NATO Air Forces would be decimated in just over two weeks. Clearly, what was needed was a funda­mental rethink on how to redress this imbalance.

In 1974, Ken Perko in the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) at the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), requested submissions from Northrop,

McDonnell Douglas, General Dynamics, Fairchild and Grumman, addressing two considerations:-

1. What were the signature thresholds that an aircraft would need to achieve to become essentially undetectable at an operationally useful range?

2. Did those companies possess the capabilities to design and produce an aircraft with those necessary low signatures?

Fairchild and Grumman declined the invitation to partici­pate, while General Dynamics emphasised the continued need for electronic counter measures. Submissions from McDonnell Douglas and Northrop however demonstrated a grasp of the problem, and consequently, they were awarded contracts worth approximately SI00,000 each during the closing months of 1974 to conduct further studies.

On 17 January 1975, ‘Kelly’ Johnson’s protege, Ben Rich, became president of the Skunk Works. It was while Ben was still Kelly’s Deputy that the former became aware of the low observability study. Lockheed hadn’t
been one of the five original companies approached by the DARPA team, simply because it hadn’t produced a fighter for nearly ten years (the F-104 starfighter). Ben however, obtained a letter from the CIA, granting the Skunk Works permission to discuss with DARPA the low observable characteristics of the A-12 and D-21 drone. After much negotiating, Lockheed were allowed into the competition without a Government contract – a move that ultimately paid a handsome dividend.

In early 1975, the initial Skunk Works Project Team consisted of Ed Martin (Project Manager), Dick Scherrcr and Denys Overholser. Ovcrholser had joined the Skunk Works from Boeing in 1964 and recalls, “When Dick Scherrer asked me, ‘How do we shape something to make it invisible to radar?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s simple, you just make it out of flat surfaces, and you tilt those flat surfaces over, sweeping the edges away from the radar view angle, and that way you basically cause the energy to reflect aw’ay from the radar, thus limiting the magni­tude of the return.’” Such radical thinking had its origins in a discussion Overholser had had with his then boss,

Bill Schroedcr some years earlier, concerning the mathe-

Top left This early model of Have Blue already depicts several of the type’s characteristics: highly facetted, intakes above the wing, inboard cantered tails and highly swept leading edge.

(Lockheed Martin)

Left Covered in foil, this wooden model is undergoing RCS tests in Lockheed’s anechoic chamber at Rye Canyon.

(Lockheed Martin)

Above Phase I of the XST programme culminated in RCS eval­uations between the two contending designs at the Air Force’s Radar Target Scatter (RATSCAT), test range, located at White Sands, New Mexico. (Lockheed Martin)

matics and physics of optical scattering. The two had concluded that detectable signatures could be minimised utilising a shape composed of the smallest number of properly orientated flat panels. In addition, Schroeder believed that it was possible to develop and resolve a mathematical equation capable of calculating the reflection from a triangular flat panel; this in turn he hypothesised could be applied in a calculation relating to RCS. As a result, Overholser hired his ex-boss out of retirement and as Schroeder’s mathematical computations became avail­able, Overholser and his team of two engineers were able to use these to write the computer programme that could evaluate the RCS of prospective design submissions nominated by Dick Scherrer and his group of preliminary design engineers. Denys and his team worked night and day and in just five weeks produced an RCS prediction programme known as ‘Echo Г. As tests proceeded, it was determined that the edge contributions calculated by Echo 1 weren’t exactly correct, due to a phenomenon known as diffraction. However, shortly after developing Echo 1, Denys became aware of a publication entitled Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction, published in an unclassified technical paper in the Soviet Union in 1962 by Pyotr Ufimtsev, Chief Scientist at the Moscow Institute of Radio Engineering. The paper had been translated by Air Force Systems Command’s Foreign Technology Division in 1971, and Denys was able to incorporate elements of its theory into a refined version of the Echo 1 programme. The resultant model was a facetted delta wing design which drew a healthy share of scepticism from within the Skunk Works, some in aerodynamics referring to the shape as “The Hopeless Diamond”. However, with S25,000 procured from the Lockheed board, two, one-third scale, wooden models of the Hopeless Diamond were built, one was used by the aerodynamists, the other to measure RCS values in Lockheed’s anechoic chamber. The first series of tests, conducted in June 1975, demonstrated that its RCS ‘spikes’ matched precisely those predicted by Echo 1. The model was then moved outdoors to a radar test range near Palmdale, in the Mojave Desert. Yet again, test results conformed well with Echo 1 predictions, creating greater levels of confidence in both the computer programme and the facetted design concept.

Lockheed submitted two proposals to DARPA, one included the predicted and measured signature data for the Hopeless Diamond, the other provided the predicted data for an air vehicle of flyable configuration. This came about in response to DARPA issuing proposals to the three competitors for what was to become known as the Experimental Survivable Testbed (XST) programme, which was informally requested in the late summer of 1975.

Senior Year

By the middle of 1963 only 21 out of the original 55 U-2’s remained, most having been lost over the years to various accidents. Mindful of the U-2’s performance degradation, brought about by heavier payloads and the inability of engine improvements to compensate, Kelly Johnson embarked upon an investigation into ways of re-establishing the aircraft’s performance. These began on 2 February 1965 and were referred to variously as the VU-2C or U-2N; in-house however, they were known as the CL-351. The emerging aircraft was one third larger than its predecessors and eventually became the U-2R.

On 19 September 1966, the Air Force approved the construction of eight aircraft, placing a further order for four additional U-2Rs, four months later.

Final assembly took place in Building 309/310 at Burbank, after which Article 051 (the prototype) was trucked to Edwards North Base, for its first flight, an event that took place on 28 August 1967 – at the controls was Lockheed Test Pilot, Bill Park.

By February 1968, the second U-2R was dispatched to North Base, where it was received by a CIA unit desig­nated Det G. By December 1968, all twelve aircraft had been delivered and equally split between the ‘Agency’ and the Air Force. In keeping with other Air Force projects, the ‘Senior’ codename given to the U-2R programme was Senior Year.

Throughout the 1970s, U-2Rs were put to work moni­toring the Middle East and Cuba. In Southeast Asia,

Senior Year

Senior Year
Above and below Following extensive flight testing the P&W J75 engine has at last been replaced on the U-2 fleet by the General Electric FI I8-GE-I0I. All aircraft have accordingly been redesignated U-2S. The new engine is 1.300 lbs lighter and 16 per cent more fuel efficient, enabling the aircraft to gain another 3,500 ft in altitude and increase its range by l,220n miles (or alternatively increase its boiler time). (Lockheed Martin)

OL-20 moved in July 1970 from Bien Hoa to U-Tapao, Thailand. Here a Melpur Commit sensor and datalink from the Sperry company was integrated into a U-2R, giving rise to the Senior Book, Siglnt programme. These missions were flown mainly at night in racetrack orbits high above the Gulf of Tonkin, from where the U-2 eavesdropped on Vietnamese national and air defence communications, transmitting the data, in real time, to a ground station at Nakhon, Phanom, on the Thai border. These flights provided simultaneous communication relay facilities to other US aircraft in the region. By January 1973, operations increased to round-the-clock and OL-20 was redesignated the 99th SRS. Siglnt coverage contin­ued to improve and expand, giving rise to Senior Spear – this entailed antennas being moved from the fuselage into specially adapted pods faired into the wing. Then came Senior Stretch, where siglnt data collected by the U-2 was relayed from the ground station up to satellites and onward to the National Security Agency (NSA), Maryland. As the war in Vietnam drew to a close, followed by the inevitable cuts in defence spending, U-2s of the 100 SRW were, in July 1976, consolidated into the 1 SRW, at Beale AFB, California.

In August 1976, U-2R 68-10336 deployed to RAF Mildenhall, sporting two super pods. The pods housed spiral antennas for Elint collection, in a programme code­named Senior Ruby. As the decade drew to a close, the growing disparity between the size of Soviet and NATO conventional forces in Europe worried many western political and military leaders. It was thought that little could be done on a conventional battlefield to halt a Blitzkrieg type of attack carried out by the Warsaw Pact. The only counter to this would be a NATO pre-emptive strike, directed at such forces as they massed for attack. But this would require accurate all weather surveillance, extending well beyond the East-West border, which could then be made available to field commanders in near-real time. The hi-tech answer was to co-locate a system called Precision Location Strike System (PLSS), which identi­
fied air defence radar and communications sites by homing in on their emissions, with a long-range, high resolution radar, being developed by Hughes, known as ASARS-2 – Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar System (ASARS-1 was deployed on the SR-71). All of this digi­tised information could then be downloaded as required. With its additional capacity, high-altitude capability and proven long loiter time, the U-2R was the natural plat­form choice in which to site all of these ‘black boxes’. Furthermore, in a move designed to shake off the ‘spy – plane’ tag once and for all, it was agreed that the aircraft would be renamed the TR-1, for Tactical Reconnaissance. But as Kelly Johnson’s successor, Ben Rich, later remarked, “The press simply called it the TR-1 spvplane instead!”.

Twenty-five TR-ls were ordered in the FY 1979 budget, at a cost of about S550 million, including sensors and ground support equipment. In addition, a further ten aircraft were ordered ‘in the black’, these would retain their U-2R designation and supplement those surviving from the earlier build.

The first Air Force TR-1, 80-1066, was publicly rolled out at site 7, Palmdale, on 15 July 1981 and was flown for the first time by Lockheed Test Pilot Ken Weir on 1 August. In-flight development of ASARS-2 had been conducted utilising U-2R, 68-10336 and early test results were remarkable.

Precision Location Strike System operation required three TR-ls to operate as a team. Loitering at high alti­tude with Elint sensors which were data-linked to a ground station they enabled threat emitters to be

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Senior Year

Below The U-2R/S together with the RC-135 (depicted is an RC-I35U, Combat Sent aircraft, used for technical ELINT collection, complete with bogus serial numbers applied to the nose and tail) are without doubt the most sophisticated air breathing intelligence gathering platforms in the western world. (Paul Cnckmore Collection)


pinpointed immediately by triangulation. This method side-stepped the problems of emitters shutting down before the direction-finding process, conducted by Wild W’easel aircraft, could be completed. A similar system, known as the Advanced Location and Strike System (ALSS), had been installed together with datalinks on all seven remaining Air Force U-2Cs, back in 1972; however, it was plagued with problems and cancelled. The sophis­tication of PLSS brought with it similar difficulties and after a series of delays, it too was cancelled, in the late 1980s.

The Competition

Northrop’s XST entry was similar in appearance to that of Lockheed’s; its design had been developed from a computer programme called GENSCAT. This also had its origins in mathematical equations associated with the physics of optics. McDonnell Douglas had been the first to determine what the RCS thresholds for the competi­tion were likely to be, however they were unable to design an aircraft that could achieve anything like those

goals. With RCS results from both Lockheed and Northrop verging on the revolutionary, DARPA deter­mined that the program should be developed into a two-phase, full-scale, flight test demonstration. Phase 1 would culminate in a ground RCS evaluation of large scale models, following which one contractor would be selected to proceed with phase two: the construction and flight testing of two demonstration vehicles. The estimat­ed cost for the XST programme was 536,000,000 and this would be split between the successful contractor, the Air Force and DARPA. On 1 November 1975, Lockheed and Northrop were each awarded contracts of SI.5 million to conduct phase one of the XST programme.

In early April 1976, Lockheed received word that they had officially’ won that phase of the competition. However the outstanding results also achieved by the Northrop team caused DARPA to urge them to remain together. Shortly thereafter Northrop successfully submitted studies for a Battlefield Surveillance Aircraft, Experimental (BSAX) which became Tacit Blue – the highly successful flight demonstration programme that provided vital data for the subsequent B-2 bomber program.

Phase two of the XST programme was code-named Have Blue, and was initiated on 26 April 1976, when the Skunk Works were authorised to proceed with the design, construction and flight testing of two technology demon­strator aircraft.

Have Blue had three objectives:

1. Validate, in flight, the four low observability- signatures identified earlier in the programme, (radar, infrared, acoustic and visual).

2. Demonstrate acceptable performance and flying qualities.

3. Demonstrate modelling capabilities that accurately predict low observable characteristics of an aircraft in flight.

.Manufacturing was placed under the direction of Bob Murphy and the entire Engineering, Fabrication and Assembly of Have Blue was carried out in legendary Building 82 (birthplace of the F-104, U-2 and A-12).

Above left Lockheed chief test pilot, Bill Park (in flight suit), was first to fly the Have Blue prototype HB1001. (Lockheed Martin)

Above Maj Norman ‘Ken’ Dyson was recruited into the Have Blue program whilst serving as Director of the F-IS Joint Test Force. (Lockheed Martin) below НВІ00І received this ingenious three colour-three tone camouflage pattern to hide the facetting from uncleared ‘onlookers’. (Lockheed Martin)

Just three assembly tools were used on the project; wing, forward fuselage and aft fuselage. The sub assem­blies were all made on a tooling plate left over from where the main frames for the C-5 Galaxy had been machined. On the morning of Wednesday 16 November the prototype Have Blue (HB1001) was flown by C-5 from Burbank to Area 51, where it was reassembled and readied for a final series of pre-flight tests. On 1 December 1977, Bill Park completed HBlOOl’s maiden flight.

The first five sorties in aircraft number one were completed by Bill, who was chased on each occasion by Air Force Test Pilot Ken Dyson in a T-38. On 17 January 1978, Ken completed his first flight in the Have Blue prototype. All was proceeding well and on 4 May 1978, Bill had conducted 24 flights on HB1001 and Ken, twelve. However, whilst returning to Area 51 that day,

Bill was involved in a landing incident which damaged one of the aircraft’s main undercarriage legs. Retracting the gear and going-around for another landing attempt Bill discovered that the damaged leg would only half extend. Despite several attempts to free the jam by pounding the other main wheel on the runway, it stead­fastly refused to budge. As fuel depleted, the decision was made to climb the aircraft to 10,000ft and for Bill to eject. However, on the climb, the aircraft ran out of gas and Bill was forced to eject, during the course of which he hit his head and was knocked out. Still unconscious when he hit the ground, he sustained back and leg injuries that forced an early retirement from test flying.

It would take a further six months to prepare HB1002 for its maiden flight; an event which took place early on the morning of the 20 July 1978. Ken Dyson recalls, “We

flew three flights to check the aeroplane out, then on 9 August 1978, we began to take the first airborne RCS measurements. І Пси against a ground based facility and on these first series of tests, they wanted to check-out the cross-section of the aeroplane nose-on, that’s with a look angle of zero. To achieve this, I climbed to a predeter­mined altitude and maintained a heading that would take me right over the radar test site. When I reached the test point, I configured the aeroplane in a decent, making sure my speed, angle of attack and rate of decent was exactly correct. I had to keep control movements to a minimum in order to provide accurate test data, so 1 switched in the autopilot. Well, as soon as I did that, the nose went right and the wing rolled slightly left. I later learned that Ben Rich, who was watching the test in the radar control room went crazy, asking, ‘What does that goddamn Air Force pilot think he is doing! Is he deliberately side-slip­ping the aeroplane to screw-up our test results?’ I decided to switch-off the autopilot and fly manually, something we’d planned not to do, because the test engineers didn’t think the necessary tight parameters could he achieved manually. Well it seemed to work pretty good, and after that, 1 flew all the tests manually – we never did resolve the problem with the autopilot. Virtually every flight in aeroplane two was associated with RCS measurements and if we weren’t measuring radar returns, we would be flying the aeroplane against operational systems to see if they could see us. To my knowledge, none did.”

On 29 June 1979, Dyson air aborted HB1002 shortly after take off, following a fluctuating hydraulic pressure reading. He continues, “On 10 July, we flew again and the aeroplane was OK. The next day I got airborne and had the chase aeroplane look me over, everything was OK, so I flew outbound to get to a point to run against an F-15 Eagle, to see how it performed against us. I was

Above HBI002 was the RCS test vehicle and was flown throughout its life by Ken Dyson. Its external appearance differed from the prototype: gone is the instrumented nose – boom and the drag ‘chute receptacle. (Lockheed Martin)

Below HBI002 accumulated 52 test sorties before being lost on 20 July 1978. (Lockheed Martin)

just short of the designated turn point, when 1 noticed the same hydraulic system begin to oscillate, again in the downward direction. 1 thought well, that’s the end of this flight and turned back. I started to tell test control about my problem, when I got a fire light. After pulling the pow’er back, and telling them of my troubles, I shut the engine down. All this was in short order. I had the aeroplane pointed towards home plate and configured at the right speed for single engine operation (it was not a

Above Despite initial skepticism over the ‘Hopeless Diamond’ concept, Dick Cantrell and his team of aerodynamicists worked tirelessly to ensure that the F-l 17 retained the smallest RCS and remained aerodynamically viable. (Lockheed Martin)

Below As president of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Ben Rich was the driver behind the stealth concept; he passed away on 5 January 1995. (Lockheed Martin)

good performer on a single engine, not much thrust, and a lot of drag). I was coming home somewhere between 20 and 25,000 ft. Shortly after that, the remaining hydraulic system began to oscillate in a downward direction and I knew that was not good for our unstable machine. Just about the time the remaining hydraulic system went to zero, the plane pitched violently down, something like 7 negative ‘g’s, it then pitched up, the pitch rates were just eye watering, something only an unstable machine could do. I was somewhere around 225 knots and above 20,000ft and the aeroplane was tossing me up and down and actually got near vertical nose down and near vertical nose up. I began to try and reach for the ejection seat ring that was between my legs. I got my hand on it and pulled. The canopy blew off, the seat went out and I found myself floating under a ’chute at about 20,000 ft.” As Ken slowly descended by ’chute, the pilot of the F – 15 with whom he had planned to conduct further tests began orbiting above. Col Norm Suits, the Director of the F-l 5 Joint Test Force, saw the stricken Have Blue aircraft impact the ground and shortly afterwards, spotted two unauthorised cross country vehicles heading towards the crash site. Although the vehicle’s occupants were probably intent on performing their public duty and offering help and assistance to any survivors, the highly classified nature of the program and the materials used in its design couldn’t be compromised. Acting on his own


Left Unstable in all three axes – pitch, roll and yaw – it is essen­tial that this fly-by-wire platform receives accurate air data at all times. Therefore this unique four probe system was devel­oped. (Paul Crickmore)

Below Although ice encrustation was not an issue on the Have Blue research vehicles, much time, thought and effort was devoted to the problem on the F-117, before this simple wiper blade was developed. (Paul Crickmore)

Left The F-l 17 is at its most stealthy head-on, 25 degrees look – down and 25 degrees look-up. Note suck-in doors located above the intakes to supplement air flow at low engine oper­ating speeds. (Lockheed Martin)

initiative, Norm began a series of extremely low passes at the vehicles to deter their drivers from closing in on the wreckage. Just how low these passes were, can only be judged from the fact that he succeeded in his objective!

Ken continues, “I had noted my take off time, and while hanging in my ’chute I noted that ten minutes had elapsed from take-off. I watched the unstable machine flip flop slowly it seemed, as it descended vertically below me and I saw it hit the ground and erupt into a ball of fire, it still had a lot of gas on board. It took me quite a while to make my parachute descent down to the desert floor, after landing (that was my first and only jump to date), I again noted the time, I had been in the parachute for ten minutes”.

The cause of the crash was determined to be an engine exhaust clamp, which had become loose, allowing hot exhaust gases to enter the right engine compartment.

This had triggered the fire warning light, and as the temperature built up, first the left and then the right hydraulic lines failed, which in turn caused a complete loss of control.

Fortunately the program was within two or three sorties of its planned completion, which officially ended in December 1979. Having achieved all its test objectives, the Have Blue programme can be categorised as a stun­ning success.

UK Operations

With ad hoc deployments to RAF Mildenhall of both the U-2R and SR-71 having been made during the late 1970s, Det 4 of the 9th SRW was established at the base in April 1979 with a single U-2R. Its mission was purely Siglnt, however, as the year came to an end, 68-10338 was replaced by 68-10339. This latter aircraft was equipped with both Senior Ruby and Senior Spear, there­by combining both Elinr and Siglnt on a single airframe. Det 4 continued to fly the Siglnt mission, codenamed Creak Spectre until February 1982, after which the role was taken on by TR-lAs of the newly activated 17th Reconnaissance Wing, at RAF Alconbury. In March 1985, the 17th RW received three more TR-lAs together with the ASARS-2 capability. A major milestone was achieved by Lt Col John Sander on 9 July 1985, when he flew the first operational ASARS-2 sortie, marking a new begin­ning in battlefield reconnaissance. The wing was eventually assigned twelve TR-lAs before being deactivat­ed in June 1991.

Senior Trend

In June 1977 the Air Force set up a special project office in the Pentagon; its objective, to exploit low observable technology then being demonstrated in phase one of the

XST program, and in addition, to initiate conceptual studies into a manned strike aircraft program, referred to as the Advanced Technology Aircraft (ATA) program.

Two sets of preliminary requirements for the ATA were developed: ATA ‘A’, a single scat attack aircraft, with a

5,0 lb payload and 400 n mile range; and ATA ‘B’, a two-seat bomber with a 10,000 lb payload and 1,000 n mile range.

An SI 1.1 million concept definition contract was awarded to the Skunk Works on 10 October 1977, for a one year study, based on these two sets of requirements.

As assimilation of the two proposals continued, it became increasingly apparent that ATA ‘B’ (despite being strongly favoured by Strategic Air Command, following cancellation by the Carter administration of the B-1A), w’as in the upper right corner of what was at that time considered realistically achievable.

Consequently in the summer of 1978, Air Force officials decided to terminate further studies involving ATA ‘B’ and instead, opted to proceed with ATA ‘A’ into full scale development (FSD).

Covert funds were established, and key individuals serving on various government committees were briefed on the programme. On 1 November 1978, production was authorised, the programme accorded the code name ‘Senior Trend’ and Lockheed were awarded a S340 million contract to cover the cost of building five full – scale development aircraft, plus, provide spares, support and flight testing (this amount did not include the cost of purchasing the aircraft’s General Electric engines).

The production timescales for this revolutionary aircraft program were tight; its first flight was planned for July 1980 – hence the last three digits of the prototype’s serial number, 780. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was to be achieved in March 1982, with a planned production run of twenty aircraft. Construction of FSD1, the prototype F-l 17A, (Aircraft 780) commenced at Burbank in November 1979.

Technical Specifications

The F-117A Nighthawk is a survivable interdictor; the determinant in achieving this goal has been the develop­ment of Very Low Observable (VLO) techniques. To confound the principal detection medium – radar – design focused upon producing a low radar cross section (RCS). The reduction of an aircraft’s RCS to levels that would provide an explicit operational advantage had been the ‘holy grail’ for many military aircraft designers since the latter stages of World War Two.

Over subsequent years, development work had, by and large, been focused on producing materials capable of absorbing incident radiation to varying degrees. Although the use of Radar Absorbing Materials (RAM) certainly achieved a reduction in RCS, this was not enough to gain ‘an explicit operational advantage’; that could only be achieved when designers were able to build a shape both capable of performing an operational mission and produc­ing an RCS lower by several orders of magnitude than any current conventional aircraft. It was here that the odds were definitely stacked against the designers, as perfectly demonstrated by the radar equation which basi­cally states that, ‘detection range is proportional to the fourth root of the radar cross section’. That is to say, in order to reduce detection range by a factor of ten, it is necessarv to reduce the target aircraft’s RCS by a factor of 10,000, or 40 dBs.

Having established the required RCS signature levels from various look angles, together with the overall shape required to meet those goals, it then becomes necessary to consider other aspects of the aircraft’s design that will impact on RCS values. For a conventional jet aircraft, these include the air-intake and exhaust cavities, the aircraft’s cockpit, etc. Thus to prevent radar energy

Above All sixty F-l l7As were constructed within the Skunk Works facilities at Burbank. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/owThe F-l 17 is powered by two General Electric F404-GE – FID2 engines. (Lockheed Martin)

reflecting back from numerous corner reflectors inside the cockpit, the F-117A’s cockpit windows are metallised, much like metallised sunglasses; allowing the pilot to see out, but to all other intents, performing as a facetted panel in relation to electromagnetic radiation, reflecting energy away from its source.

The RAM coating applied over the rest of the aircraft was originally made up of 8 feet by 2 feet sheets (desig­nated BX210), which were glued onto the aircraft’s surface like linoleum tiles. The process was extremely

time consuming and expensive, costing S750,000 dollars just in labour to apply the material. As a result, a computer controlled spray coating was developed, which is environmentally safe, bonds satisfactorily to the aircraft and preserves the required radar attenuation characteris­tics. The original compound was known as BX199, but its durability and maintainability was improved upon and it evolved

In addition to producing a low RCS, the F-117A designers also paid good attention to reducing electromag­netic emissions and infrared radiation from the aircraft’s hot parts. An important feature regarding design for low observability is that in general, the design of an aircraft does not have to be compromised to negate the different ‘observables’. For example, if something is good for reducing radar returns, it can generally be made good for reducing infrared returns and vice versa. It was therefore appropriate to shield the exhaust nozzle for both radar and infrared reasons.

Range specifications of ATA ‘A’ dictated planning for the aircraft to be in theatre, which immediately identified the principal radar types to be deceived in order to significantly enhance survivability. These were airborne intercept and SAM radars, which typically operate on a wave length of between 3 and 10 centimetres. It was soon determined that flying at supersonic speed didn’t enhance survivability. Indeed, flying at high subsonic speeds actu-


Above Taken during a training sortie in the flight simulator, the cockpit layout is pre-OCIP phase 3. (Lockheed Martin)

Below The current, post-OCIP phase 3 cockpit includes an active liquid crystal display, incorporated in the Heads-Up Display (HUD). (Lockheed Martin)

ally increased survivability by reducing a defender’s abili­ty of detecting, and tracking the aircraft using infrared systems. It was therefore decided that the platform would be powered by non afterburning engines, which also reduced airframe temperatures, further lowering its IR signature.

Optimum weapon effectiveness was achieved by placing the aircraft at medium altitude, which, for a subsonic aircraft, touting a modest performance envelope, would be utter suicide – were it not for stealth. The aspect which presents a defender with the greatest chance of a success­ful intercept is the frontal zone. If the threshold of detection, by radars using wavelengths of between 3 and 10 cm, can be foiled to a point where the aircraft is just one minute flying time (about ten miles), from the radar head, then there is a good chance of avoiding a successful intercept. Pulling all the strands together therefore, an F – 117A, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet and 500 knots, will achieve that one minute detection goal parameter by being at its most ‘stealthy’, head on, 25 degrees look down, and 25 degrees look up.

Powered by two General Electric F404-GE F1D2 two shaft, low-bvpass-ratio turbofans the F-l 17A Nighthawk

Right Target acquisition is achieved using this Forward Looking Infra red (FLIR) turret. As the ‘look-angle’ increases, the target is ‘handed-off’ to the Downward Looking Infra red (DLIR) turret, located within the aircraft’s underside, for final target tracking. Together, the two units are referred to as the Infrared Acquisition and Detection System (IRADS). (Paul Crickmore)

Below The F-1 17 is capable of hauling a wide variety of hard­ware, including the B61 nuclear weapon. (Lockheed Martin)

has a maximum sea level thrust rating of 10,8001bs. The engine gearbox drives the main fuel pump, the oil pump assembly, the engine alternator and the PTO shaft, which powers the Airframe Mounted Accessory Drive (AM AD). Total fuel capacitv is approximately 19,000 lbs or 2,800 US gallons of JP-8.

Senior Trend’s original avionics package was based around three Delco M362 F computers with 32k words of 16 bit core memory, as used in the F-16. However, in 1984, its avionics architecture was the subject of a three phase Offensive Capability Improvement Program (OCIP). Phase 1, the Weapon System Computational Subsystem (WSCS) upgrade program was initiated to replace the Delco M362F’s with IBM ЛР-102 MIL-STD-1750A computers. These new units boosted the capability of 1 million instructions per second, 16 bit CPU with 128k words of 16 bit memory expandable to 256k.

Phase II of OCIP, afforded greater situational aware­ness, and reduced pilot workload, by allowing a 4D Flight Management System to fly complex profiles auto­matically, providing speed and time over target (TOT) control. Also included in this phase was the installation of Colour Multi functional Display Indicators and a Digital Tactical Situation Display or moving map; a new Data Entry Panel, a Display Processor, an Auto Throttle System and a Pilot Activated Automatic Recovery System (PAARS).

OCIP phase III saw the replacement of the ageing SPN-GEANS, INS system, with a new Honeywell H – 423/Е Ring Laser Gyro (RLG). The original acronym for this programme was to have been RNIP, which stands for Ring Laser Gryro, Navigation Improvement Programme. However, the system was supplemented with a Rockwell – Collins Global Positioning System (GPS) thereby giving rise to the title RNIP plus. The new INS vastly reduces
alignment time from 43 minutes for SPN-GEANS, to just 9 minutes and considerably enhances overall reliabili­ty, increasing the mean time between failure from 400 to

2,0 hours. In itself, the H-423 may not boost enhanced accuracy (still believed to be 0.12 n m/h), however, when used in association with GPS, the system represents a significant advance in navigational accuracy.

Desert Shield and Desert Storm

Just fifteen days after Iraq invaded Kuwait, two U-2s arrived at King Fahad Royal Saudi Air Base (RSAB).

One aircraft, 80-1070, was equipped with Senior Span – a system for uplinking data from the Siglnt collection systems to satellites, which then relayed the data across the globe. The other aircraft was equipped with SYERS –

Above and below The dorsal mounted pod houses a small dish antenna, enabling data to be transmitted to virtually any spot on earth, thanks to satellite relay. During the recent Balkan Wars, this development, known as Senior Span, integrated with Senior Glass (a combination of Senior Spear and Senior Ruby) enabled effective use to be made of all communications intelli­gence to a hitherto unattainable level. (Lockheed Martin)

Desert Shield and Desert Storm

the Senior Year Electro-optical Relay System. This system, developed by Itek, utilises a long focal length camera of 110 inches, with Cassegrain or folding optics technology, to focus an image on a 10,240 clement, Charged Couple Device (CCD). This digitised image, like ASARS, is then downloaded, in near-real time, to a ground station. On 19 August, both aircraft conducted their first operational missions near the Kuwait border. Four days later, two TR-ls arrived at King Fahad RSAB, from RAF Alconbury and on 29 August the first ASARS mission was flown. The new operating location at King Fahad was initially known as Location CH (Camel Hump), this was later redesignated 1704th Reconnaissance Squadron (Provisional) and was a component part of the 1700th Strategic Wing (Provisional). Ground stations for SYERS – codenamed Senior Blade, and for ASARS – know’n as TADMS – TR-1 ASARS Data Manipulation System, were located in a compound of the US Training Mission at Riyadh, where they were joined by stations to support RC-135 Rivet Joint Elint aircraft and J-STARS.

A fifth U-2R (another SYERS equipped aircraft) arrived

on 11 October, having been despatched from Osan AFB, South Korea.

From mid September, Iraq began launching MiG-25s in response to the U-2 border flights and henceforth they were provided with an F-15 MiG-Сар. The high level of systems integration derived from SYERS and ASARS ensured that within 10 minutes of a target being imaged by either system, its co-ordinate were available to the Theatre Air Control Centre. Indeed the system worked so well that when coalition attacks began, the nine U-2s (which soon became twelve) were virtually high altitude Forward Air Control (FAC) platforms detecting the posi­tions of SA-2, SA-3 and AAA sites as well as ‘Scud’ missiles.

When the ground war began on 24 February, a TR-1 provided an hour-by-hour image ‘commentary’ of precise Iraqi front-line armour and troop movements, thereby contributing directly to the speed of the coalition advance. In all, the 1704th RS flew 260 missions, totalling over

2,0 hours. It was calculated that they had provided 50 per cent of all imagery intelligence and a staggering 90 per cent of the Army’s targeting requirement.

Flight Testing

In 1977, Lt Col Dave Ferguson commanded the 6513th Test Squadron, a unit which had its administrative head­quarters together with a small number of F-4s and T-38s at Edwards Air Force Base. However, the 6513th had a black side, seven of its other aircraft were involved in a highly classified programme known as ‘Red Hat’, these aircraft were MiG-17s and MiG-2 Is based up at Area 51. It was whilst carrying out his duties at ‘a remote test site’, that Dave met Bill Park. At that time, Bill was the Director of Flight Operations for the Skunk Works, but he hadn’t flown military7 jets since his involvement in Project Tagboard, the M-21/D-21 drone evaluations that had taken place nearly ten years earlier. Bill was gearing up to fly Have Blue and Dave was asked to get him re­qualified. This was achieved in a T-38 and through this initial contact, Dave flew the occasional T-38 chase sortie during the Have Blue programme. In 1978, Bill offered Dave a job on the Senior Trend Programme, which he accepted following his retirement from the Air Force in 1979. Earlier that same year Bill Park hired Harold ‘Hal’

Below Having been delivered by C-5 Galaxy from Burbank to Area 51, the F-1 17A prototype (FSDI) is undergoing final assembly. (Lockheed Martin)

Above The prototype’s serial – 780 – would prove to represent an over-optimistic first flight target date, with FSDI completing that task on 18 June 1981. (Lockheed Martin)

Farley in as the projects chief pilot, having poached him from Grumman. Tom Morgenfeld became the third pilot recruited, having worked prior with the YF-18 project development team.

In addition to contractor pilots, it had been decided that developmental together with category I and II, opera­tional test and evaluation (OT&E) of the F-117A, would be conducted by a Joint Test Force. Tactical Air Command (TAC), controlled testing and initially provided three pilots and two analysts. The third party involved in this ‘tripartite’ force, was Air Force Systems Command. They provided three pilots, four engineers and approxi­mately forty aircraft maintenance personnel.

To prepare themselves for the first series of flights in the F-117A, the team contacted Calspan, and asked them to provide a flight simulation programme based on aerodynamic data acquired through wind tunnel tests and Have Blue. As the programme was so highly classified, the data was delivered to Rogers Smith of Calspan by Hal, Dave, Tom and Bob Loschke, in a restaurant out at Newhall. During that meeting they detailed their require­ments from Calspan, without telling Smith what he would be simulating; all he had to work from was a set of aerodynamic data of the predicted flight characteristics of the aircraft in the landing pattern. Rogers Smith took the information with him to Buffalo, New York, to create a simulation which would be programmed into the Lockheed/Calspan NT-33A.

This aircraft enabled the predicted stability and control aspects of different aircraft to be simulated, allowing pilots to familiarise themselves with the likely characteris­tics to be encountered prior to their first real flights. In keeping with earlier Skunk Works, blackworld, aircraft development projects, flight testing would be conducted at the now legendary Area 51. On 1 January 1979,

Be/ow Chief test pilot Hal Farley, prepares to vacate the cock­pit upon successfully completing the F-117’s first flight.

(Lockheed Martin)

preparations at the remote site got underway to receive the latest guest.

Back at Burbank, the first production engine arrived in April 1980 and on 2 September, the first engine run was conducted. The complex design and engineering of the exhaust nozzle caused more than a few headaches and on 22 December, the team suffered the first of several nozzle failures. This led to further delays with to first flight. However, on 12 February 1981, an improv. d nozzle was fitted, which helped to eradicate at least some of the problems.

On 16 January 1981, a C-5 from Burbank touched down at Groom Lake, onboard was Aircraft 780, FSD 1 – the combined test team at last had an aircraft. It wasn’t until 18 June 1981 that Hal Farley was finally able to

take Aircraft 780 on its first flight, an event cut short due, yet again, to a temperature build-up in the exhaust section. However, the significance of this event was such that film footage shot during the sortie was edited at the test area into a one-minute sequence. It was then flown by special courier aircraft to Andrews AFB, and then taken to the White House, where it was viewed by President Reagan.

The second FSD aircraft, ’781, was flown for the first time by Dave Ferguson, on 24 September 1981. After completing just four sorties however, it underwent considerable rework, which included retro fitting larger interim tail units and a ‘production’ nose section, which,. after further tests, housed the Infrared Acquisition and Designation System (IRADS) units. In addition, an asymmetric, four-probe, production configured air data system was added.

It was decided to qualify the aircraft for air refuelling (A/R), early in the programme; the first such sortie being flown by AFSC test pilot Skip Anderson, on 17 November 1981. Once A/R qualified, the test program further accelerated, as evidenced by a flight completed by Hal in ‘780, just two days latter, which lasted 2.8hrs. The first night flight of an F-117A was completed by Roger Moseley flying Aircraft ’782 on the 22 March 1982; he flew the same aircraft on the 19 April 1982, successfully conducting the first night air refuelling.

Low Observability airborne testing of the F-117A was exhaustive. For ’783’s fourth flight, TAC pilot Tom Abel went airborne on 15 July 1982 to conduct IR tests of Senior Trend with the help on an NKC-135, an exercise repeated the next day by Pete Barnes. Four flights were then flown against an F-4 to evaluate the IR threat from air-launched heat seeking missiles. By 13 January 1983, Air Force pilots had flown ’783 on no less than 21 RCS

Above After ten flights, FSD I was grounded for over ten months, while larger tail units were fitted to improve direc­tional stability. The earlier desert-camouflage paint pattern was also removed and replaced by an overall, low-visibility grey scheme. (Lockheed Martin)

Below For a month FSD I had wing leading edge extensions added during an evaluation of its handling qualities. (Lockheed Martin)

and IR sorties. These included cued and uncued tests against the best US detection systems available, in addi­tion to ‘Special Category’ tests, flown against Soviet-made equipment ‘acquired’ through various means by the United States. One particular test, flown by John Beesley on a December 1982, included taking RCS measurements while the aircraft’s right bomb-bav door was open – a period when the aircraft is at its most vulnerable.

Aircraft ’783 continued to be the ‘fleet’s’ RCS work­horse throughout 1984, with analysis of the air-air threat continuing. On 24 April, an F-16 made four radar passes against the aircraft, two days later, thirteen radar passes were made by the Fighting Falcon.

By late July, F-15s, F-14s and an EF-111 had conduct­ed similar threat tests against ’783. Thereafter, it was utilised alternately between low observability tests and evaluations, and the integration of improvements made to the navigation and weapons delivery systems.

Aircraft ’784, FSD 5, was the dedicated IRADS test and evaluation ship, consequently its first 106 flights were made in pursuit of this task; after which on 23 September 1983, it was placed in temporary storage.

At the end of November 1984, the aircraft was disman­tled and moved, via C-5, from Area 51 back to Burbank. The operational limitations of an infrared targeting

Right and below Having qualified the F-117 for air refuelling from а КС-135 on 17 November 1981, Senior Trend was cleared to tank from КС-10 Extenders on 8 September 1983. (Lockheed Martin)

Above FSD5, serial ’784, the final developmental aircraft, completed its first flight on 10 April 1982. It is seen here drop­ping a 2,0001b GBU-27 practice bomb during separation trials.

(Lockheed Martin)

Left Initially equipped with the GBU-10, the Paveway II guidance unit corrected the weapons trajectory using full deflection commands to the canards. This had a negative impact on the weapon’s performance. (Lockheed Martin)

Be/ow The GBU-27 featured an improved Paveway III guidance section and when dropped for the first time by Jim Dunn, from 783, the inert weapon scored a direct hit on the 55 gallon barrel target, splitting it in half! (Lockheed Martin)

system with which to aim weapons (however accurately), was already fully appreciated. Consequently, Aircraft 784 underwent modifications to install a low observable radar system to conduct both ground mapping and target acquisition.

It was returned to Area 51 and from September 1985, until the end of the year 34 sorties totalling 45.5hrs were flown, during which time all aspects of the radar mapping and targeting system in ‘784 were evaluated: RCS of the antenna and radome; the ability of the system to perform the ground mapping task; threat evaluation during system
operation; system resolution including four sorties which were flown by 4450th TFG pilot, Maj William Aten (Bandit 164), enabling the system to be evaluated from a front line pilot’s perspective. Those involved in this evaluation have stated that the system was remarkable and incredibly stealthy.

However, it wras not deployed operationally for reasons of cost and on the basis that, to date, Senior Trend as a concept, had not been tested under actual combat condi­tions, something of a Catch 22 – stealth still had its ‘doubting Thomases’.

After a three year programme to improve the aircraft’s RAM coating, a compound known as BX185 was developed. A one – quarter scale model is seen being made ready for RCS evaluations at Lockheed’s Helendale test range. (Lockheed Martin)

When the test detachment at Area 51 changed command on 14 December 1983, John Beesley completed a fly-by in ‘782 patriotically adorned. (USAF)


Formed on 15 October 1979, designated the 4450th Tactical Group, and referred to as А-unit, the Air Force’s first operational F-117 unit was commanded by Col Robert “Burner” Jackson and would be located at the Tonopah Test Range, located northwest of Nellis AFB, Nevada. A security cover story for the blackworld unit was provided by twenty Ling Tempo Vaught A-7Ds and a small number of two seat A-7K. S. These were based at Nellis AFB and referred to as P-Unit. The 4450th Test Squadron (established on the 11 June 1981), was referred to as І-Unit and Detachment 1 of А-Unit, based at Tonopah, was Q-Unit. In addition to providing the ‘avionics testing’ cover story, the A-7s were used to main­tain pilot proficiency until F-117As became available and were also used as chase aircraft.

Supplemental to overseeing the construction program, Col Bob Jackson also set about recruiting the initial cadre of pilots, as A1 Whitley, at that time a Major, recalls:

“My interview occurred in late 1980 at the Nellis AFB, Visiting Officers Quarters. When the time came for the interview, I proceeded to the designated meeting place – Colonel Jackson’s room. When I knocked on the door, it opened slightly and Colonel Jackson asked to see my identification card. I produced it, the door closed, and a few seconds later he opened the door and said ‘Yes, y ou’re Whitley, come in’. In the next few minutes.

Colonel Jackson told me very little about a program

which would involve significant family separation, yet the opportunity to not only remain at Nellis AFB for another full assignment, but also the chance to fly the A-7 again. He didn’t say much more, other than I would have no opportunity to discuss it with my wife and that I had five minutes to make up my mind. With no hesitation, I said, ‘Sign me up’. Colonel Jackson said he’d be contacting me in the future on specifics. That was the end of the inter­view.” In the spring of 1981, Lt Colonel Jerry Fleming the Squadron Commander called Whitley and a couple of the new members of the unit to a remote, secure location in Area 11 (or Lake Mead Base) of the Nellis AFB complex. There, for the first time, they were shown photos of what they would be flying. Whitley remembers: “I was genuinely excited and honoured to be part of something that was on the ‘leading edge’ of technology.

I quickly added a new word to my vocabulary that would have a significant impact on the rest of my Air Force career – ‘stealth’.”

The original plan was that the unit should achieve initial operational capability (IOC), forty months after aircraft ’780’s first flight, which was scheduled for July 1980. Therefore Q-Unit, nicknamed the ‘Goatsuckers’, were expected to assume a limited operational role in November 1982. This was not achieved owing to various design and manufacturing obstacles. In fact, the first production aircraft, number ’785, didn’t attempt its first flight until 20 April 1982. As with the previous FSD aircraft, aeroplane number one, from Lot 2, had been completed at Burbank and flown via C-5 Galaxy to Area 51. There it had been re-assembled and following various ground checks, Lockheed test pilot Bob Riendenauer

In March 1991, the combined test force put this formation together; it depicts ‘781, 782, 783 and ‘831.780 had already been retired. (Lockheed Martin)

The first home for F-117 operations was Tonopah. Note the ‘drive-through’ barns, grouped in blocks of six. (Lockheed Martin)

advanced the throttles and began his take-off* run. The aircraft rotated as planned, hut immediately after lift off everything went horribly wrong. 1’he nose yawed violently, it then pitched up and completed a snap roll which left it on its back before impacting the ground. It was nothing short of a miracle that Bob survived, not so though aircraft ’785, which was totally wrecked. A post accident investigation established that the pitch and yaw rate gy ro input to the flight control computer had been cross wired.

In September, detachment 1 of the 4450th was designated the 4452nd Test Squadron and it was while the unit had a complement of just two aircraft that another milestone was achieved. On the night of Friday

15 October, Major A1 W hitley conducted his first Senior Trend flight and in so doing, also became the first operational pilot to fly the aircraft.

The sporadic nature of the delivery schedule continued and by the end of 1982, the unit still only boasted seven aircraft. Col James S. Allen had assumed command of the 4450th, from Col Bob Jackson on 17 May 1982 and by 28 October 1983, Senior Trend was deemed to have achieved Limited Initial Operational Capability (LIOC). As the potential of Senior Trend became increasingly more apparent to those cleared into the program, the procurement plan was increased to a total of 57 aircraft (the final total was 59). The impact of this decision creat­ed the need for two additional squadrons, consequently in July 1983, І-Unit “Nightstalkers”, was activated, to be followed in October 1985 by Z-Unit, “Grim Reapers” (later redesignated the 4450th Test Squadron and the 4453rd Test and Evaluation Squadron respectively).