Top Secret Technology Demonstrator Aircraft That Are Now Declassified

(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Dreamland Resort )

Known as technology demonstrators, these pioneering stealth aircraft remained top secret for years after their final flights before being declassified.  Categorised as black projects and operating from the secret Groom Lake test site in Nevada, popularly known as Area 51, the three groundbreaking designs below tested low observable technologies and proved that stealth aircraft could operate deep behind enemy lines with a high degree of survivability.  Together, they helped return the element of surprise to air warfare.

Lockheed Have Blue

(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)

From 1977 to 1979, the revolutionary Lockheed Have Blue tested a new form of low observable technology known as faceting.  Rather than smooth aerodynamic lines, Have Blue adopted an angular, faceted shape to deflect electromagnetic waves and lower its radar signature.  Aided by a fly-by-wire control system to rectify its aerodynamic instability, Have Blue paved the way for an aircraft that changed the face of modern warfare – the F-117A Nighthawk, known as the Stealth Fighter.

(Image: left & right by U.S. Federal Government, public domain)

Despite the exotic technologies they seek to perfect, technology demonstrators are often relatively cheap to manufacture.  Built by Lockheed’s shadowy Skunk Works, Have Blue utilised off-the-shelf components including an adapted F-16 fly-by-wire system.  Two demonstrators were built, XST-1 and XST-2, both of which crashed during development with their pilot’s ejecting.  Even so, the programme was considered a resounding success.

(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)

As is often the case with top secret technology demonstrators, the wreckage of the two Have Blue aircraft was buried within the Nellis Test Range.  One was reportedly buried at the Groom Lake site just south of the hangar complex.  Lockheed engineers have since searched for the buried Have Blue with a view to restoring it for display purposes, but despite their best efforts have been unable to locate the wrecked aircraft.


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