It was found that the application of the RAM was rather tricky, and that ground crews had to be careful to seal all joints thoroughly before each flight. RAM came in linoleum-like sheets which was cut to shape and bonded to the skin to cover large areas. Doors and access panels had to be carefully checked and adjusted for a tight fit between flights and all gaps had to be filled in with conductive tape and then covered over with RAM. Paint-type RAM was available, but it had to be built up by hand, coat by coat. Even the gaps around the canopy and the fuel-filler door had to be filled with paint-type RAM before each flight. Ground crews had to even make sure that all surface screws were completely tight, since even one loose screw for an access panel could make the aircraft show up like a “barn door coming over the horizon” during radar signature tests. Reports say that there were problems inherent with a prototype aircraft-such as a section of RAM lining the inside of an air intake being sucked into an engine, causing it to immediately loose power.
20 July 1978
Have Blue 1002 arrived at Groom Lake shortly after the loss of number 1001. It took to the air for the first time July 20 1978, with Lt. Col. Ken Dyson being at the controls.
Col. John “Jack” Twigg, former HAVE BLUE program manager, wrote that HB1002 completed 52 sorties. There were 10 for functional checkout and performance evaluation, and 42 for low observables testing.
The Have Blue prototype 1002 proved to be essentially undetectable by all airborne radars except the Boeing E-3 AWACS, which could only acquire the aircraft at short ranges. Most ground-based missile tracking radars could detect the Have Blue only after it was well inside the minimum range for the surface-to-air missiles with which they were associated. Neither ground-based radars nor air-to-air missile guidance radars could lock onto the aircraft. It was found that the best tactic to avoid radar detection was to approach the radar site head on, presenting the Have Blue’s small nose-on signature.
11 July 1979
On July 11, 1979,the Have Blue 1002 had completed 52 sorties. United States Air Force test pilot LTC Norman K. “Ken” Dyson (later chief test pilot for the Northrop B-2) took the aircraft up for some tests against the US Air Force’s best fighter radar,the air to air radar on the F-15. Above the northern part of the Nellis range, a weld in a hydraulic line cracked, spraying fluid onto the hot section of one of its J85 engines. The fluid ignited and the blaze became uncontrollable.
Ken Dyson recalled the crash in a TV interview years later:
"(It) happened in rather rapid succession. I had a fire light, pull the power back, the fire light stayed on, and almost immediately, just a few seconds, (I) shut the baby down. I still had one engine taking me back home. Then I began to loose hydraulic system number 2. I expected a rough ride, but I did not know what rough ment until the airplane began to pitch down very violently to somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-7 g's, stopped, quickly then pitched back up. (In otherwards the aircraft was following a rollercoaster up and down motion.) My arms in the negative S cycles went from up like this (Raising hands up above his head), and positive down like this (Arms between his legs). We had a stencil seat in the airplane with (a) between the legs ring, which my hands were able to get to and pull. I found myself soon went up the rails, with a couple of pops, the rocket motor firing, the canopy going, the chute coming open immediately. It really felt good to be hanging in that chute, looking down."
The aircraft crashed close to the Tonopah Test Range (35 miles NW of Groom) in an area mainly used for checking the drop characteristics of nuclear shapes. The pillar of smoke attracted the attention of some workers at Tonopah, who boarded trucks and raced for the crash site.
The F-15 pilot knew that the Tonopah people had no business seeing the wreckage of a top secret aircraft. He took his Eagle down to the deck and headed toward the oncoming trucks at over 600 knots. One of the trucks ran off the road as the F-15 went by, and the drivers took the hint that whatever was out there was not something that they needed to know about. The trucks turned around and a rescue helicopter picked up Dyson walking, carrying his chute. According to P. G. Kaminsky (former undersecretary of Defense, acquisition and technology), the program was within “two or three sorties of planned completion” when HB1002 crashed.