img pdf


Aars (Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System)

Following the appointment of Ronald Reagan as U.S. president in 1980 created favorable conditions for the supply of sufficient quantities of money into the arms industry. The Working Group on evaluation of military reconnaissance and spying programs concluded that the United States have serious problems in obtaining necessary information, while long-term air monitoring was an area with the greatest lack of capacity. The final report of the secret group led by Bill Middendorf was the recommendation that the budget NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) increased by at least 1.5 billion USD annually to review the development of aircraft with high availability and long-lasting type HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance ). Why the NRA? National Reconnaissance Office was super-secret U.S. authorities, who had during the “Cold War” in charge of gathering strategic reconnaissance information, especially from spy satellites. Until 1989, penetrated the public, even his name. In the sixties, soon after the office was formed of four departments: A, B, C and D. Department “Program D” should be in charge of aerial survey, which was under his patronage Lightning Bug program of unmanned reconnaissance planes Ryan Model 147B. In 1974, however, went all the aviation assets under the auspices of the USAF and the NRO Office is to only focus on the development and operation of satellites.

President R. Regan was in August 1981 decided to lead the NRA to appoint Edward C. Aldridge Jr., Which also became the Deputy Defence Minister and later Minister of Defense himself. From this position can simultaneously manage the black budget USAF and NRO, as it greatly simplifies the task. One of his first activities was to just fill the gaps in long-term airspace monitoring mainly mobile targets. Thus the foundations of Aars (Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System). Office of the NRA raised its initial separation D and once again began to deal with the aerial reconnaissance means. Initial studies, conducted under the Aars suggested that efforts should focus on several components of the system. They divided among themselves the various institutions as follows: DARPA development of platform-type cover HALE for the Navy, from which it originated Boeing Condor and the development of tactical UAVs Amber. USAF focused on high-speed manned component, which is on the Internet known as the Aurora and many unsubstantiated rumors shrouded. NRA Office in cooperation with the USAF and CIA project remained advanced unmanned aircraft type hall with maximum emphasis on the low probability of detection by enemy anti-aircraft defenses.

In 1984, shortly after the release of secret specifications for a new reconnaissance means, NRO and Air Force have received offers from seven U.S. companies. It was just after Regan gave his famous speech on the Strategic Defense Initiative “Star Wars”. Several months to introduce the Soviets their mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles SS-25 rail and SS-24 variant, which was the final impetus to suddenly provide an almost unlimited supply of funds and support from the official sites for the initiation of development. NATO has never invented a sufficiently effective strategy for the permanent threat missiles SS-20 and now had to deal with even more mobile and more dangerous types of SS-24 and SS-25. So there was a need for long-term air monitoring their movement and radio emission, which was a task beyond the capabilities of machines U-2, SR-71 and space satellites. Moreover, as it happens directly in Soviet airspace, violates nearly twenty years old declared U.S. commitment not made flights over the Soviet Union. For this risk is clearly worth it.

To complicate things further, a means had to be able to operate a nuclear detonation in the environment arising from these electromagnetic pulses, starting from remote bases in the continental United States territory, yet still be able to remain in the operational deployment of tens of hours to operate autonomously without the intervention of land operators and transmit data via satellite in real time in order to transmit information about the nature and location of upcoming targets the B-2. Since most typical mission should take place directly over the territory of the enemy aircraft should be optimized for minimum probability of detection in all bands of radar waves, and all modes of observable manifestations of the aircraft, while the level of stealth technology should significantly exceed the standards fighters ATF F-22 bomber and the ATB B-2 . And despite the use of powerful high-resolution sensor and a whole series of various antennas. Requirements for the range and availability of required use of wing with great range and sufficient lift, and propulsion engines should cater to several (probably four). Cost and technical problems to satisfy each of these requirements alone are enormous, but even now it still required them together into one functional and powerful whole. According to several people who were involved in the project, they were one of the biggest challenges in aviation history and one of the most ambitious projects of the “Cold War”.

Page 144: The odd shape of AARS and DarkStar was derived from its unique radar reflectivity characteristics and mission. Unlike the B-2, this particular design minimizes returns from the side, allowing the aircraft to loiter at right angles to a threat. It probably produces some radar returns to the front and back (mainly due to the huge straight wing), but mission planning could minimize the time spent in that orientation to enemy radar systems.

Page 151: Manned alternatives to AARS emerged. One proposal would put a sophisticated target aquisition system on the B-2 stealth bomber - the so-called RB-2 configuration. The proposal had value as a terminal tracking system, but the RB-2 lacked a method of off-board cueing to direct it to a search area.

(Ref 301, pg 138) There is some anecdotal evidence the the Air Force began working on a stealthy loitering system in the late 1970’s (perhaps as an extension of COMPASS COPE), but no supporting documentary evidence was found. Donald C. Latham, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control and Communications, and Intelligence from 1981-1988 thought AARS may have dated back to the late 1970’s. Donald C. Latham, interview, 9 April 1999.

(pg 139)…. Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge, Jr. began the preliminary design explorations on such a UAV soon after taking office in August 1981 (Ref 304). That UAV program became AARS. As John McLucas said, “Pete Aldridge brought aircraft back [into the NRO]. He obviously didn’t think, as I did, that we should divest NRO of airborne assets”. (Ref 305)

(Ref 304, pg 139) Aldridge was in a position to manage both NRO and USAF “black” projects in his position as NRO Director and Undersecretary (later Secretary) of the Air Force…

(Ref 305, pg 139) McLucas interview. It is entirely possible that, in addition to AARS, the USAF/NRO/CIA airborne reconaissance investments included at least one supersonic, manned SR-71 replacement project.

(pg 139/140)…. and after several studies investigating the concept, the Air Force accepted design proposals from seven US aerospace companies for the big, covert surveillance UAV (Ref 306).

(Ref 306, pg 140) A 1995 report on the stealthy DarkStar UAV, a direct descendant of AARS, said “Most of the design was developed in technology work conducted over the last decade or more.” Michael A. Dornheim, “Mission of Tier 3- Reflected in Design.” Aviation Week & Space Technology 19 June 1995.

[mr_london_247: discussion of the initial intended AARS mission takes place here: to specifically loiter and track SS-24 & SS-25 rail and road-mobile missiles]

(Ref 307, pg 140) SDI spawned a number of UAV projects that overlapped AARS. SDI contractors proposed long-dwell UAVs as a possible platform for carrying the airborne optical adjunct (AOA) for tracking warheads in flight. Early designs for AOA UAVs were very high altitude, large (240 foot wingspan) airplanes with long loiter capability. A fleet of 20 air vehicles was projected to cost $10 Billion. Frederick Seitz. et al., “Report of the Technical Panel on Missile Defense in the 1990’s,” Washington, DC: George C. Marshall Institute….

(pg 141)…. in the end the Air Force/NRO/CIA consortium opted for a leap-ahead system and awarded competitive UAV contracts to aerospace giants Lockheed and Boeing, probably in late 1984 or early 1985.

(Ref 306, pg 141)…. It is possible that AARS had a much higher standard of stealth than either the F-117 or B2….

(pg 142)…. As one CIA engineer said in an anonymous interview, this project was “the cat’s pyjamas,” and “the single most fun project I ever worked on” becuase it stretched every conceivable technology area. The Soviet mobile missile threat loomed large and the Reagan administration kept the black money flowing. The big UAV had different codenames that still remain secret, but the characteristically bland cover name for it was the Advanced Airborne Reconaissance System (AARS). (Ref 312).

(Ref 312, pg 142) Aerospace reporter John Boatman was told by unnamed government officials that the name for the AARS started with the letter “Q.” the letter insiders used as the shorthand name for the program. Boatman’s report remains the best single open-source account of the AARS program although it made no splash at the time. John Boatman, “USA Planned Stealthy UAV to Replace SR-71,” Jane’s Defence Weekly 17 December 1994: 1. AARS may have been associated with the codename TEAL CAMEO, reportedly a highly secret program to replace the U-2. “Eyes in the Sky,” Newsweek 17 November 1986.

(pg 144) …. AARS was, indeed, planned to be the ultimate surveillance UAV, one of the most ambitious Cold War aircraft programs ever. In an exclusive interview for this study, the last AARS program manager emerged from the shadows…. David Kier, now the deputy director of the NRO, disclosed that the large, stealthy high altitude reconassiance bird resembles a substantially scaled-up version of DARPA’s DarkStar…. Kier acknowledged that AARS had a long history dating to the early 1980s, “maybe even the 1970s, ”…. “ There was one do-all platform that was very, very expensive, then another scaled-down version that only did a few things,” he said. In fact, a Lockheed engineer disclosed in 1995 that over 50 shapes were analyzed for AARS, with the eventual shape, the very odd “flying clam,” always showing better stealth characteristics for the high altitude loiter mission.

(pg 145) When Congress directed unified management of conventional Department of Defense (DOD) UAV projects in late 1987, they also ordered centralized control of secret, “national” airborne reconaissance projects through a new agency called the Airborne Reconnaissance Support Program (ARSP) in the National Reconnaissance Office. ARSP was essentially a resurrection of the NRO’s “Program D,” which had been disbanded in 1974.

(Ref 323 pg 145)…. Kier’s dates [circa 1987] are confirmed by reports of the Air Force’s interest in an SR-71 replacement at that time. The Air Force was apparently looking at various manned platforms for that mission - this article mentions the manned Lockheed Aurora project as one possible competitor. Studying the various competitors for AARS probably ate up valuable time, ultimately making it more vulnerable when the post-Cold War budget cuts came in 1992. Jane Callen. “Air Force Battle Brews Over Using Unmanned Vehicles for Coveted Spy Mission,” Inside the Pentagon 9 June 1989.

(pg 147)…. ARSP considered three UAVs for the SR-71 replacement role, two DARPA UAVs called AMBER and CONDOR, and a “Lockheed candidate,” which was undoubtedly AARS. As previously mentioned, the underlying reason for the Air Force’s interest in the AARS program was the mobile missile threat, but it also helped them justify how the very expensive and controversial B-2 stealth bomber might hold those missiles at risk. The B-2 could not find those missiles by itself and satellites did not provide constant surveillance.

(Ref 331, pg 148)…. “Kier’s Bird,” as some called it, lacked a quality called “time-to-station,” or sheer intercontinental speed in the event of a crisis. A military official interviewed in 1994 said another very fast alternative to AARS was dropped in the 1980s, possibly the enigmatic Aurora. Boatman, “USA Planned Stealthy UAV”.

(pg 149)…. Kier said the large version of AARS, which according to some reports had a wingspan of 250 feet, cost less than a B-2, but more than $1 billion a copy. Reportedly, the production plan called for only eight vehicles at a cost of $10 billion, each of the vehicles capable of an amazing 40 hours on station after flying to the area of interest. Air Force officials were so leery of the UAV’s autonomous flight concept (no pilot had moment-to-moment control) that they reportedly insisted the flying prototype carry a pilot in order to handle in-flight anomalies, and that the final design include a modular, two-place cockpit insert to make it optionally piloted.

(pg 151)…. Kier mentioned that several other concepts for manned alternatives to AARS popped up in the early 1990s, including a minimalist design called the TR-3 that he derisively called a “Cessna 172 compared to a 747 [AARS].” (Ref 341)

(Ref 341 pg 151) A likely candidate for a program fitting Kier’s description was a moderately stealthy (all-composite) high altitude German airframe called Egrett…. Egrett was an optionally piloted 55,000 foot loitering aircraft that went by the codename SENIOR GUARDIAN….

(pg 152)…. the State Department dealt AARS a mortal blow. In the latter half of 1991 they ruled that AARS would not get overflight clearance until hostilities were imminent (Ref 344)

(Ref 344 pg 152) anonymous source.

(pg 152)…. AARS was kept alive by other agencies until finally terminated by intelligence community executives in mid-December 1992….,511.0/all.html


Re: AARS, Lockheed QUARTZ, Tier III, Frontier Systems W570, Arrow, Shadow

« Reply #68 on: May 08, 2010, 08:43:42 am »

Got my copy today, and thankfully I’m blessed with a high reading rate ;)

Most of the information is about the program rather than the vehicle(s), and so it may not be of interest to everyone on the forum. The closest it comes to describing the “final” vehicle configuration for QUARTZ is the “flying clam” scaled up DarkStar. He does mention, however, that Lockheed alone went through over 50 iterations (as mr_london_247 quotes in his post). Several of those you have seen in various forms here :)

There are a couple of important things that were missed though. AARS is often used to describe the QUARTZ and/or Tier III vehicle (or requirement!), but AARS was just like the “Tier” UAVs - a system of systems. AARS grew from TEAL CAMEO, which unfortunately is only mentioned in a footnote in the paper. TEAL CAMEO was a DARPA effort to develop HALE UAVs (HAPP(?) RPVs at the time). DARPA found that the Navy had a mission for such a platform, and the intelligence community did as well. Long story short, DARPA ended up funding Boeing’s Condor for the Navy mission (which the Navy was not in love with), and the intelligence community and STRATCOM ran with AARS.

One of the missions AARS was to handle was the Strategic Relocatable Targets mission. This is mentioned quite a bit in the paper, and during the 80s and 90s there was a LOT of investment in that area. Test and training ranges, simulation facilities, everything. Some of this was to support a slow, long loiter vehicle, some not. The B-2 was always intended to take data from offboard platforms in order to find moble missiles. Other assets would narrow the haystack a B-2 would use its SAR to search for targets.

Some analysts have proposed that LACROSSE would be used for this, which may be true for rail based missiles, but did not quite work for road mobile missiles.

One point brought up in the paper was that QUARTZ would have to be prepositioned before a crisis to be effective. In SIOP terms, this would mean that QUARTZ aircraft would have to be moved close to the USSR before the start of hostilities in order to get in ahead of the B-2 and find targets. Needless to say, there were some flaws with this plan. At least in the late 1980s, there was a high speed component to AARS that was to dash in ahead of the B-2s.

So AARS comprised:

HALE UAV: QUARTZ (Called, interchangably, AARS, QUARTZ, and Tier III, though Tier III was a different design for the same requirements) High Speed Long Range: There was a term for this, which I have since forgotten. AWST mentioned it a few times in the late 90s. In the late 70s an air launched boost glide vehicle was looked at for essentially the same mission but discarded. Endurance UAV: AMBER/Gnat

While AARS was in its death throes during 1992-1993, CIA, NRO, STRATCOM, USAF, and SDIO all had their fingers in the pie. Not a recipe for success!

THE CURRENT PROGRAMS HAD their start in a competition between Lockheed and Boeing for the National Reconnaissance Office’s advanced airborne reconnaissance system (AARS). With intercontinental range and a 200-ft. wingspan that approached the size of a B-2 bomber, the UAVs would have cost an estimated $500 million each. Lockheed’s offering in the competition with Boeing was code-named “Quartz.” Quartz won, and Lockheed’s Skunk Works and Boeing then competed for work share with the former winning sensors and fuselage and the latter taking on wings and flight controls.

Quartz was never completed, but a fuselage and one wing were built for testing, Air Force officials said. It was designed with alternative payload pods. One was a pilot’s capsule so the aircraft could be flown by a crew, probably for long-range ferry flights and testing. The other was a reconnaissance pod for more dangerous unmanned reconnaissance missions.

But as the Cold War wound down and defense budgets started to shrink, defense planners continually demanded redesign of the program until the price of the AARS had been reduced to $200 million per copy. To reduce costs, stealth, sensor and materials technology had been inserted from General Dynamics/McDonnell-Douglas' A-12 Navy strike aircraft program which was canceled in January 1991.

But even with a 60% reduction in cost, the program was considered too rich for a post-Cold War world. According to congressional figures, about $1 billion had been spent on the project by late 1992 when it, along with most of the military’s tactical reconnaissance programs, was finally canceled. A scaled-down, $150-million-a-copy version of Quartz, now named the Tier 3 UAV, was designed to loiter over a battlefield for days. But the services still didn’t think they could afford the aircraft.

Finally, the program was divided into two parts. Projected aircraft price goals were set at $10 million each and development was begun in the unclassified world as Darpa’s big-payload Tier 2+ and stealthy Tier 3- UAV programs.