June 1, 1995
DoD Unveils Tier III Minus "DarkStar" UAV
The Department of Defense (DoD) unveiled the low observable Tier III Minus unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) today in a ceremony hosted by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif. Never before seen in public, the Tier III Minus UAV, known by the nickname DarkStar, is one of two high altitude endurance UAVs being developed for the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) joint UAV program office.
ARPA is the executing agent for Tier III Minus development, with both DARO and ARPA providing funds.
A Lockheed/Boeing team is leading the development of the Tier III Minus (DarkStar) system. Each company is responsible for approximately 50 percent of the development program. Boeing is responsible for the wing and wing subsystem development and testing, and Lockheed is responsible for the design and development of the body and its subsystems, final assembly, integration and system test. A single turbo-fan engine, supplied by Williams International, will provide power for the vehicle.
DarkStar is a low observable tactical reconnaissance UAV that will operate within the current military force structure and with existing command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) equipment. At a planned $10 million a copy (FY94 dollars), the DarkStar UAV will provide affordable, near real time, continuous, all weather, wide area surveillance in support of tactical commanders. The result will be timely information that the tactical commander can immediately exploit for accurate situational awareness and to perform precision strikes and other high priority intelligence and reconnaissance tasks.
As one of the DoD's Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations, the Tier III Minus program is bringing together military users and the technologists early in the development process. Through demonstrations being conducted by the Services, military utility and the concept of operations for the vehicle will be refined before a production decision is made. Service demonstrations will begin in 1996.
The Tier III Minus program is the first project to be executed under the "Section 845 Authority" granted to ARPA for prototype weapons development projects. This authority has paved the way for unprecedented government-industry collaboration by removing the burden of specialized Defense procurement regulations and statutes. The program represents a new way of doing business -- one that is based on teamwork and mutual trust, fostered by open dialogue on all issues. Integrated product and process teams have been empowered to successfully accomplish the Tier III Minus development. Extensive use of commercial items and methods are contributing to meeting program cost goals.
Optimized for low observables, DarkStar's operational goal is to be highly survivable while penetrating high threat environments. Complementing the Tier III Minus is the Tier II Plus, which will be optimized for long range and endurance in a low-to-moderate threat environment. Both vehicles will be capable of fully autonomous take-off, flight and recovery; be capable of dynamic retasking while in flight; and will operate in the same force structure.
First flight of the DarkStar system is expected before the end of the year with initial flight testing completed in mid-1996. These initial flights will be followed by integrated exercises with the military services.
Additional information on the program can be found through the Internet on the World Wide Web at: http://www.arpa.mil/asto/tier3.html.