The Lockheed Have Blue was the code name for Lockheed’s “proof of concept” (i.e., prototype) stealth aircraft that preceded the F-117 Nighthawk production stealth aircraft program. Have Blue was designed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works division, and tested at the top-secret Groom Lake base, Nevada. The Have Blue was the first fixed-wing aircraft designed from an electrical engineering (rather than an aerospace engineering) perspective. The aircraft’s plate-like, faceted shape was designed to deflect electromagnetic waves, greatly reducing its radar signature.
Two Have Blue prototypes were built to test both the flight dynamics and radar returns of the stealth concept. These prototypes flew at Groom Lake, Nevada, between 1977 and 1979. While they appear similar to the later F-117, the Have Blue prototypes were smaller aircraft, about 60% scale, with greater wing sweep and inward-canted vertical tails. The nose of Have Blue prototypes was also sharper and offered a slightly higher degree of stealth compared to production F-117s, which had to have a flat windshield to incorporate the head-up display (HUD).
During testing of the design, the aircraft was flown about 100 miles (160 km) near an army radar system, followed at some significant distance by a spotter plane; over a pre-planned flight path. The cover story for the technology was that a black box in the nose of the aircraft was able to deflect the radar; whereas obviously the shape of the aircraft did all the real work. Radar only managed to detect the spotter plane; a soldier placed on the ground directly under the flight path had to witness the oddly shaped plane to verify that the flight had occurred.
The design was inherently unstable about all three axes, control being fly-by-wire adapted from the F-16 Fighting Falcon’s single-axis fly-by-wire system. Both aircraft were ultimately lost in the course of testing, the first from a hard landing incident which resulted in the gear being jammed in a semi-retracted position and the pilot ultimately being ordered to eject after attempts to enable the gear to lower and lock proved unsuccessful. The second was the result of an engine fire which severed hydraulic lines, forcing the pilot to eject. The debris from both aircraft were secretly buried somewhere within the Nellis complex.
Ben Rich, director of Lockheed’s Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991, said of the program:
"Even though the test site was in a remote location, our airplane was kept under wraps inside its hangar most of the time. Soviet satellites made regular passes, and every time our airplane was rolled out everyone on the base who wasn't cleared for Have Blue had to go into the windowless mess hall and have a cup of coffee until we took off."
Wing Span 22 ft 6 in
Length overall 47 ft 3 in
Height overall 7 ft 6.25 in
Wing Area 386 sq ft
Wing Sweep 72.50 degrees
Tail Cant 30 degrees
Tail Sweep 35 degrees
WEIGHTS AND LOADINGS:
Weight (Empty) 8,950 lbs
Max T-O weight 12,500 lbs
Max Fuel Load 3,500 lbs
Max Payload None
Power Plant (#) GE J85-GE-4A (2)
Power Plant Source T-2B Buckeye (no modifications made)
Thrust About 2,950 lbs
Specific Fuel Consumption About 0.98
Max speed .8 Mach (600 mph) @ sea level
Landing Speed 160 knots (296 km/h; 184 mph)
Max Range/Endurance 1 hour