Airborne Awesomosity

“Arguably the Most Unstable Aircraft Man Had Ever Flown”

And possibly the ugliest, to boot. Looking more like an origami beluga whale than an aircraft, Tacit Blue was one of the most bizarre technology demonstrators ever to take flight, but proved the technologies it pioneered.

As part of the larger Assault Breaker technology development program, which sought to demonstrate technologies that would allow standoff weapons like smart bombs and air-to-ground missiles to take out enemy armor, Tacit Blue’s role was twofold: first, to demonstrate low radar reflectivity in curved airframe sections, and to field-test a dual purpose X-band radar. The radar was used both to track ground targets, and as a high-speed, covert datalink. The idea was to have Tacit Blue loiter near the front, gathering data on enemy armor, and then to transmit it quickly to a friendly tracking station, all while keeping the aircraft from getting blown out of the sky by anti-aircraft munitions. A high-bypass turbofan gave long loiter times, and quadruple-redundant fly-by-wire systems added a survivability margin, as well as stabilizing the aircraft, which would otherwise be basically un-flyable.

Developed in the early 1980s, Tacit Blue wasn’t revealed to the public until the 1990s. Nicknamed “the Whale” by its pilots and handlers, some of its high-technology sensor equipment made its way into the Northrop E-8C command-and-control aircraft. And I’m no airspace engineer, but it seems like some of the radar cross-section data made it into the Boeing X-45A, right?

Sources: Wikipedia, National Museum of the Air Force

  • PowerTryp

    I think I took a whale watching tour on something that looked like that. In all seriousness it looks like it should be submerged under water, not flying over head. Now, if they could get it to do both….

    *Dreams of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

  • I made one of these before. In middle school. There was even a contest. I was beat by everyone. It was awesome.

  • B72

    Looks like someone made it in their spare time out of fiberglass shower stalls.

  • Deartháir

    The fact that the POTUS uses a 747, instead of this wicked beast, is the reason America is in the condition it's in.

  • It's like the engineers that designed it said, "Eff convention. We don't need no pointy nose or sleek profile. Let's make it look like a coffin with wings." I'm sure they knew how unstable it was and if the quadruple redundant computer systems all crapped out it would be a coffin.

    Oh, and I'm sure the stealth data collected from this made its way into the X-45 and even the F-22.

  • Alff

    This just in – Jet Blue has ordered 20 of these for their commercial fleet.

    • highmileage_v1

      The bad news? You are still going to pay a fuel surcharge and there won't be enough legroom. The good news? ATC can't see it on radar so your Captain will rat-race around the skies in order to save time and fuel.