A new U.S. stealth drone is in the works, and could be fully operational by 2015.
The drone, dubbed the RQ-180, was discovered by Aviation Week and Space Technology even though its existence is highly classified.
The Air Force and Northrop Grumman, the company that’s building the new drone, both wouldn’t comment.
RQ-180 is similar in size to the Global Hawk, a previous drone, which weighs 32,250 pounds and can stay in the hour for 24 hours straight.
According to Aviation Week, “A key feature of the RQ-180’s design is an improvement in all-aspect, broadband radar cross-section reduction over Lockheed Martin’s F-117, F-22 and F-35. This is optimized to provide protection from low- and high-frequency threat emitters from all directions. The design also merges stealth with superior aerodynamic efficiency for increased altitude, range and time on station.”
Amy Butler, one of the authors of the Aviation Week story, told CNN that “This aircraft will be able to penetrate that border and conduct operations in and around an enemy airspace without being targeted.”
The drone is being developed at Area 51, it is believed.
The RQ-180 features a range of improved technology which helps it maintain extreme stealth, such as cutting-edge design and radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and passive electronic surveillance measures. AESA emits a series of radio waves that makes it hard to detect ships and aircraft.
“This aircraft is designed to evade both those thermal sensor, those radar sensors, and other sensors that look for aircraft,” Butler said. ” So it might not be invisible to radar, but you might not be able to target it and shoot it down.”