Dark Star e Black Bird m21 no The Flight Museum

Dark Star e Black Bird no The Flight Museum
The Lockheed Martin RQ-3A Dark Star in flight Image
Location: Great Gallery
Click on image to enlarge +

Aircraft Details

  • Manufacturer:

    Lockheed Martin

    Model:

    RQ-3A Darkstar

    Year:

    1996

    Power Plant:

    One Williams-Rolls FJ44-1A engine, with 1,900 lbs thrust

    On Loan From:

    National Museum of the United States Air Force

    Span:

    69ft

    Length:

    15ft

    Height:

    4ft

    Gross Weight:

    8,500lbs

    Cruise Speed:

    288mph

    Range:

    575miles

    Metric System
    Span:

    21.03m

    Length:

    4.57m

    Height:

    1.07m

    Gross Weight:

    3855.60kg

    Cruise Speed:

    463.39km/h

    Range:

    925.17km

Lockheed Martin RQ-3A Dark Star

During the 1990s, the United States Air Force showed renewed interest in UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). These airplanes could fly high over defended areas, observe and record information, and even locate and mark targets — without endangering a pilot. Two versions of “High-Altitude Endurance” UAV were created, the Darkstar first flying in March 26, 1996.

With a fuselage built by Lockheed Martin and wings built by Boeing, the RQ-3A incorporated stealth technology to keep it difficult to detect as it cruised along at 45,000 feet. Carrying either a radar or optical sensor, the UAV could immediately send digital information to a satellite, allowing data to be examined even before the Darkstar returned home.

The first Darkstar crashed on its second flight and a modified, more stable design first flew in June of 1998. Two additional RQ-3As were built, but they never flew. In 1999, the Department of Defense terminated the Darkstar program due to budget cuts.

Pilot-less Flying

The Darkstar was fully autonomous — meaning it could take off, fly to the target, operate its sensors, transmit information, return, and land all without human intervention. If the battlefield situation changed while the Darkstar was airborne, operators could change the UAV’s flight plan and redirect its sensors via radio or, if the plane was out of range, through commands relayed through satellite links.

This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The Museum's Lockheed M-21 Blackbird on display in the Great Gallery Image 

Location: Great Gallery
Click on image to view gallery +

Aircraft Details

  • Manufacturer:

    Lockheed

    Model:

    M-21 Blackbird

    Year:

    1963

    Power Plant:

    Two Pratt & Whitney J58 engines

    Registration:

    60-6940

    On Loan From:

    National Museum of the United States Air Force

    Length:

    102ft

    Height:

    19ft

    Wing Area:

    1,795ft²

    Empty Weight:

    52,000lbs

    Gross Weight:

    117,000lbs

    Maximum Speed:

    2,211mph

    Cruise Speed:

    2,211mph

    Range:

    2,955miles

    Metric System
    Length:

    31.17m

    Height:

    5.64m

    Wing Area:

    166.76m²

    Empty Weight:

    23587.20kg

    Gross Weight:

    53071.20kg

    Maximum Speed:

    3557.50km/h

    Cruise Speed:

    3557.50km/h

    Range:

    4753.79km

Lockheed M-21 Blackbird Image
Lockheed M-21 Blackbird Image
Lockheed M-21 Blackbird Image

Lockheed M-21 Blackbird

The Blackbird family of aircraft cruise at speeds of more than Mach 3 and fly over 85,000 feet (25,500 m) in altitude. Conceived nearly 50 years ago, Blackbirds remain the fastest and highest flying air-breathing production aircraft ever built.

This M-21 is a unique variant of the A-12, the earliest Blackbird type. Built for a CIA program code-named “Tagboard,” the M-21 carried unpiloted vehicles for intelligence gathering. These drones were intended for launch from the M-21 “mother ship” for flights over hostile territories. Design features of the M-21 include the second seat for the Launch Control Officer and the launch pylon on which the drone is mounted.

The Museum’s M-21 was built in 1963, and is the sole surviving example of its type.

Help us preserve this historic artifact for future generations. Click here to find out about the Museum’s Adopt-A-Plane program.

This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

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