Tier III

Who would have thought that the abolition of Aars everything ended, it remains obviously taken aback. The game is entered politics. Program Aars was still too large and employed too many potential voters to be able to just canceled. New administration of President Bill Clinton conducted a review of military spending, while much attention has been devoted mainly unmanned systems, since this area is that for operational deployment in a row a lot of service achieved. Commission under John Deutch created a new classification system for unmanned aerial vehicles. Escalating conflict in Yugoslavia has created the need for two categories immediate deployable unmanned machine type of minor, both were descendants of the means of Leading Systems Amber. First became smaller Gnat 750, developed under the auspices of the CIA and assigned to the category of Tier I. A slightly larger machine, now known as RQ-1 Predator, fell into the category of Tier II. The abolition of Aars not disappeared, however, the practical need for UAVs with low technology type zistie\u013enosti HALE. For this purpose, a defined category of Tier III. basically had one of the smaller truncated version of the PUF machine, which has been optimized only for its main mission type and its construction would disappear all the expensive exotic materials and technology. It should be noted, however, that still was a top secret program, largely controlled by, or at least influenced by them and the authorities ARSP.

Unmanned machine Tier III should serve primarily operating officer in regional conflicts and to ensure long-term monitoring of the important objectives in an environment of moderate enemy anti-aircraft defense. This has disappeared from the definition of the strategic nature of deployment and the only potential beneficiaries would be the U.S. Air Force. Kier David, last Aars program manager, had to prepare several alternative proposals scale and rationalized with the wing span of about 45 meters and simplified sensor equipment, but even so the unit price has fluctuated from 150 to 400 million dollars, so even if realized, would be in a row services received only about five (!) pieces. Under conditions of drastic budget cuts, it was basically the battle lost in advance. Although there was still necessary resources that would be able to fulfill the specific type of mission, characteristics of the aircraft in the Tier III category were still too costly and risky to approve someone dared to start development work in full scale. And despite the large amount of money already invested in the program Aars. But on the other hand, electoral votes, and jobs are nutritious means of political propaganda, so the Ministry of Defence has been under constant pressure from some senators, led by Norm Dicks, D work to keep going. No Dicks had not sufficient power to prove a means to promote development in accordance with the specifications of the original Tier III category.

Most consideration of the proposal emerged again from Lockheed. Its engineers have concluded that the original platform of the Aars too altered to fit the type of mission, and therefore began with a proposal from the beginning again. Gradually created more than fifty diverse studies, which were tested on computer simulations. of them emerged as the optimal platform bivalve central part of the hull and dimensional thin wing aircraft design taken from Enchantment. The unique shape of the machine Lockheed Tier III requirements have been derived from the radar reflection of the typical operational mission. Unlike fighters or bombers, the configuration of the hull with a long wing with a slight negative \u0161�povitos\u0165ou minimize radar reflections from the sides. Thus one could oblietava\u0165 means the target area in a circle at right angles to the prospective enemy anti-aircraft defense. Large straight wing, while creating a slight radar reflections from the front and back, but they are given appropriate adaptations to minimize the route.

Tier-3 “Q”

Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System

The two-month old Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) is
expected to field this"stealthy UAV that could stay up for [days]
without refueling... to assist the overhead [satellite] assets." a
senior defense officail said. The relatively slow UAV is"more advanced
than Raptor," the Ballistic Defense Oraganization's (BMDO) UAV
programs, and should be operational within "three to five years, he

-- Aviation Week & Space Technology, January 17 1994, pg 44

On January 26th, 1990, after an impeccable 24 year career of service the Air Force SR-71 Blackbird force was retired from duty. With the retirement of the Blackbird came a huge gap in US strategic and tactical intelligence collection that was to be filled by expanding U-2 operations and National Reconnaissance Office space-based assets. At the time of the SR-71 retirement there was no system on the horizon to replace it. A number of studies pointed to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as a replacement and the Aurora demonstrator program was off-schedule and well over budget. As the Spring of 1990 turned into Summer Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney ordered several SR-71 airframes and their associated support systems to be placed in"warm storage" for use in a future conflicts as an interim measure until a dedicated replacement platform was in service. A month later Iraq invaded the sovereign nation of Kuwait and the US found itself preparing for war.

The success of the air campaign in the Gulf War was not without its failings. Commanders found it difficult to prepare missions due to the lack of accurate, timely intelligence- an often heard complaint since the beginnings of warfare, but one seldom heard coming from the officers of the silicon-powered United States Air Force. Satellite coverage was far less than what was required, and a number of high-value targets such as chemical weapons facilities were adjusting their own schedules to hide activities from satellite passes. U-2 aircraft operated in Desert Storm, though far from the front lines. The Dragon Lady is quite vulnerable even to older SAM systems and thus used long range sensors to aid the coalition intelligence organizations. As a result of these and other factors, many targets were overlooked entirely. Despite several searches the US intelligence community failed to locate the gigantic Iraqi"supergun" designed by Canadian Gerald Bull- not until after the war did a United Nations team discover it. Notable successes in tactical intelligence during Desert Storm were several small UAVs used by US forces to direct artillery and naval gunfire as well as collect information on enemy movements. In one case a group of Iraqi soldiers attempted to surrender to a UAV and were later picked up by coalition forces.

In light of the Desert Storm campaign the Department of Defense and Office of the Director of Central Intelligence reconisdered the state of US intelligence collection in the post- Cold War world. Studies focusing on systems to replace the capabilites of the SR-71 were given higher prioity and additional funding, and with that the aerospace industry came forward - a number of unsolicited proposals in hand. Northrop and E-Systems developed a solution based, predictably, on the B-2 bomber. The RB-2, as the design was called, had a redesigned weapons bay configured to carry a number of recon payloads. Their “hook” was the great degree of common systesm with the B-2, reducing development and support costs. Major modifications were requirted to fit the necessary recon systems into the existing B-2- bringing the RB-2’s price well above that of the Spirit. McDonnell Douglas proposed a resurrection of concept pitched to the air Force and intelligence community in the early 1980s with a ballistic hypersonic waverider reentry vehicle. While an interesting design, it was impractical for the developing mission requirements and would have limited utility in a time of conflict.

The following is reprinted from the Department of Defense Authorization for Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1994 and The Future Years Defense Program, Hearings before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate, Part 7, Nuclear Deterrence, Arms Control and Defense Intelligence, May 11, 19, 25, 26, June 9, 10, 15, 29, 1993. Courtesy of Dwayne Allen Day

Senator Exon: Thank you very much, Senator Glenn. As a follow-up to
that question, gentlemen, I was very much aware of the opposition of
Senator Glenn to the SR-71. Let me ask this question to try and put
this in perspective. If we have the satellite intelligence that you
collectively would like us to have, would that type of system
eliminate he need for an SR-71, as Senator Glenn has referenced? Or
even if we had this blanket up there that you would like in
satellites, do we still need an SR-71?

Admiral Macke: Senator, I will start on this, and then I am sure that
both of my colleagues can add to it. From the operator's perspective,
what I need is something that will not give me just a spot in time but
will give me a track of what is happening. When we are trying to find
out if the Serbs are taking arms, moving tanks or artillery into
Bosnia, we can get a picture of them stacked up on the Serbian side of
the bridge. We do not know whether they then went on to move across
that bridge. We need the [deleted] that a tactical, an SR-71, a U-2,
or an unmanned vehicle of some sort, will give us, in addition to, not
in replacement of the ability of the satellites to go around and check
not only that spot but a lot of other spots around the world for us.
It is the integration of strategic and tactical.

Senator Exon: So we do need both.

Admiral Macke: Yes, sir, we definitely do.

Senator Exon: How come we dropped the SR-71?

Admiral Macke: I was not around.

Mr. Hall: I suppose I could claim I was not around. I was up on the
Hill supporting Senator Glenn at the time, but let me take a stab at
that. What you basically found in the SR-71 case, I think, is the
belief that, given the time delay associated with mounting a mission,
conducting a reconnaissance, retrieving the data, processing it, and
getting it out to a field commander, that you had a problem in
timeliness that was not going to meet the tactical requirements on the
modern battlefield. And the determination was that if one could take
advantage of technology and develop a system that could get that data
back real time [deleted] that that would be able to meet the unique
requirements of the tactical commander. There was a system conceived
to do the job called the Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System,
which was going to be an unmanned UAV which we have recently
determined would meet the requirement but is not affordable because it
carried a price tag of in the neighborhood [deleted]. Those are the
two major shortfalls, and we are looking at alternative means of doing
that that would cost [deleted] which is the system solution that was
developed as a replacement to the SR-71.

Lockheed dusted off its design for the Advanced Technology Bomber competition and began modifying it for the mission requirements being drafted by the Director of Central Intelligence. Lockheed had a long history of breathing new life into old designs and making them shine- the U-2 is case in point. The original U-2 proposal was based on the F-104 Starfighter. By the Spring of 1992 several agencies were funding the Lockheed work under the name Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System and a contract seemed near. Lockheed’s ATB design was much like Northrop’s winning B-2 as it was originally concieved, though smaller. The Lockheed ATB was a flying wing with a single sawtooth trailing edge (the original Northrop design also had a single sawtooth, the additional two were added as part of a major redesign at the Air Force’s request in 1983) and a wingspan of roughtly 85 feet.

Computer Rendering of Lockheed/Boeing Tier 3

For the Tier 3 the Lockheed ATB was almost completely redesigned with more modern tools, inculdung Lockheed’s Stealth Designer’s Workshop for Silicon Graphics and Sun workstations. Weapons bays were changed to better fit recon systems and their associated apertures, and a host of new populsion and low observables features were added. Prior efforts by the Skunk Works on STOVL fighter concepts were worked into the propulsion system to give the Tier 3 dramatically improved low speed manueverability for extended sensor coverage and time over target. For the first time Lockheed incorporated “active stealth” features. Active stealth isn’t jamming, but methods of deceiving or spoofing enemy sensors over a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Instead of merely absorbing or redirecting radar as previous low observable aircraft had done, the Tier 3 was capable of intercepting the signal and sending back a “phase conjugate pulse” injected with noise - essentially cancelling out the enemy radar system and burying the signature of the Tier 3 in normal background noise. The Advanced Airborne Reconanaissance System was not limited to signature reduction in the radar bands of the EM spectrum, however. Another first was the use of “smart skins”. An “image” could be painted along cells on the aircrafts surface much as pixels paint across the screen of the computer you are reading this on. Though this smart skin was nowhere near fast enough for the aircraft to be “invisble” in the visual or infrared spectrum at cruise speed, it did make the aircraft much harder to detect and track, especially at the fairly low speeds at which the aircraft would be at greatest risk- while the Tier 3 loiters over enemy territory collecting intelligence.

Loral, Boeing, and General Electric signed on as team members before work began on subscale demonstrator aircraft in the Summer of 1992. By 1993 a manned prototype aircraft had been completed and was in test on the restricted ranges of the Southwest. A manned version was used to reduce the risk involved- the prototype was at the time the most advanced stealth aircraft flying, and as a result was one of the most expensive aircraft ever built. Program managers insisted on having a man in the loop after learning from experience with other UAV programs that unmanned vehicles are prone to software bugs and tend to crash and burn. A number of observers reported seeing large boomerrang-shaped aircraft, often flying at"near walking speed". A “star-camo” pattern on the aircraft’s underside was also observed, which combined with the slow ground speed made the aircraft very difficult to resolve in the night sky. The Tier 3 is undoubted responsible for more than its share of UFO reports and there is evidence suggesting that the prototype has been demonstrated for military audiences on the other side of the Atlantic.

By mid-1994 the flight test program had progressed well and many milestones had been achieved- though the cost of the production version was much more than the customers were willing to pay. Many sources within the Air Force and intelligence community reffered to the Tier 3 as the most advanced aircraft ever produced- so advanced that if one was to crash over hostile territory the US would have to “bomb that country back into the stone age” to protect the technology used in the Tier 3. This is not without precedent, as in 1993 a Tomahawk cruise missile en route to a Iraqi nuclear weapons facility crashed in Iran- the Iranian recovery of the missile has given them a valuable bargaining chip with other rogue states and perhaps a lead in development of indigenous cruise missile systems. After much debate within the intelligence agaencies and recently formed DARO, the Tier 3 program was judged to be too expensive and high risk, and studies for replacements were begun. The CIA Gnat 750 program was restructered and brought out of the black to provide an interim theatre recon capability in the form of several Gnats and the Predator, while requests for proposals for two new aircraft were let out to industry. The Tier 2+ was to be a high-endurance UAV with little low observable to reduce cost and fill in for the gap in coverage capability left by the cancellation of the Tier 3. Loral’s competitor for the Tier 2+ contract was a cheaper version of the Tier 3, entered without the permission of the other Tier 3 team memebrs, causing an uproar in the black aircraft community. The Tier 3- was designed as a low observable aircraft with less range and endurance than the Tier 2+ and Tier 3, while still allowing commanders to have eyes over heavily defended airspace. The delayed first flight of the Tier 3- DarkStar UAV was primarily caused by the reuse of Tier 3 flight control and guidance software for the DarkStar- more changes in the Tier 3 code were required than originally thought. The Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System prototype(s) are curently in storage at the Groom Lake facility and are periodically called upon as testbed for recon systems destined for the DarkStar and GlobalHawk programs.

(pg 153) The new administration conducted a \u201cBottom-Up Review\u201d of military programs in 1993…. John Deutch came up with yet another nomenclature for rationalizing UAV development with the \u201cTier\u201d system.

(pg 154/155) Although AARS had been cancelled in late 1992, Deutch considered a smaller, less capable AARS as Tier III, for it was the only platform that fully satisfied the JROC mission need statement of 1990. David Keir, who stayed with the program after its cancellation, revised his pitch for the big bird…. Tier III could be a survivable theatre asset…. Unlike satellites, Tier III would not have \u201cnational\u201d intelligence tasking that got in the way…. Tier III provided a \u201cstaring eye\u201d….. Kier developed several scaled-down versions…. Even these reportedly varied from $150 to $400 million per copy at which price the military reportedly might buy only four or five \u201csilver bullet\u201d models (Ref 349)…. Since his bird had not yet entered flight testing, Keir fought an uphill battle. Although a 1993 Defence Science Board summer study commissioned by Deutch was directed to consider the big UAV, insiders say it was a foregone conclusion it would not be funded in its Tier III format (Ref 350)

(Ref 349 pg 155) For a 4 aircraft buy, production costs would be $600 million to $1.6 billion. These models were apparently scaled down to about 150 foot wingspan versions with limited sensor payloads….

(Ref 350 pg 155) \u2026. The characterization of the summer study as being loaded against Tier III comes from two anonymous interviews, neither individual having vested interest in the Tier III program….

[mr_london_247: discussion of the political ramifications of trying to cancel Tier III here]

(pg 156)…. Tier III did not go away gently. Congressman Norm Dicks from Washington State and other concerned lawmakers put serious pressure on DoD officials to keep the program alive….Even before Kier transformed the program into Tier III, ARSP officials teamed Boeing with Lockheed on the AARS program just as Boeing’s grandiose Condor UAV program was terminated after development by DARPA (Ref 352)…. Dicks and other interested lawmakers pushed hard for the revival of AARS as Tier III…. An official close to the situation remembered, \u201cWe felt all along Tier III was a non-starter, but there was lots of scrambling to accommodate congressional pressure\u201d…. That scrambling resulted in yet another shrunken incarnation of AARS in order to placate Dicks.

(Ref 352 pg 156) Boeing was one of the companies who vied for the AARS contract in the early 1980’s and had worked on their own version of AARS up to the point of their consolidation with Lockheed around 1990. Condor was essentially a technology demonstrator for Boeing’s composite wing and body construction techniques, digital flight control and mission planning aspects of their AARS design….

(pg 157) Rather than reject Tier III outright…. Deutch and his advanced technology chief Larry Lynn…. opted to split the Tier III requirement in two, using the remaining AARS development money as a launching pad. They proposed a competition to for a non-stealthy high altitude, long-loiter aircraft called \u201cTier II plus\u201d…. [Global Hawk]…. and a severely chopped-down version of Tier III called \u201cTier III minus\u201d…. [DarkStar] (Ref 354)…. The sole-source contract for \u201cTier III minus\u201d went to the Lockheed Skunk Works and Boeing team, who were not to compete for Tier II plus. Both programs…. with a stringent cost goal of 10 million per air vehicle.

(Ref 354 pg 157) Tier III was still a very secret project, probably still under the control of ARSP and the strict BYEMAN compartmented classification system of the NRO. The open use of the nomenclature \u201cTier II plus\u201d and \u201cTier III minus\u201d begged the question: What was Tier III?

(pg 157/158/159) \u2026. AARS backers immediately attempted to drive the program back to the preferred Tier III format. A campaign waged by congressional and industry advocates focused on eliminating the non-stealthy Tier II plus program and folding it into one program unofficially called \u201cTier IV\u201d. They wanted an open competition for Tier IV, one that the Boeing/Lockheed team felt confident of winning…. A DARPA official supporting the split program and obviously referring to AARS, said, \u201cIt has been shown over the last decade that a highly stealthy long endurance UAV with multi-mission requirements is not affordable.\u201d Despite the pressure, Deutch and Lynn prevailed in keeping Tier II plus and Tier III minus…. The $100 million sole-source contract for Tier III minus served as a consolidation prize to mollify the powerful Dick coalition…. The transfer of Tier III minus management from the NRO to DARPA meant the days of the black, open ended UAV development that characterized the Cold War were over.

(pg 553) The requirement for stealthy, long-dwell reconnaissance is still on the books, and acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters, in a statement not weeks after DarkStar’s cancellation [1999], stated that a classified Air Force project could \u201cfill the niche\u201d proposed for DarkStar.


Primary Contractors:

Lockheed ADP and LMSC, Boeing, Loral, General Electric for propulsion system development


Office of the Director of Central Intelligence and Defense Support Program Office

Approxiamte Dimensions (subscale prototype):

Span 95-115 feet

Length 60-70 feet

Height 15 feet


Cruise 425 kts