WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) --The Tier III DarkStar Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) successfully completed its first flight March 29.
Taking off from the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., at 6:25 a.m. (PST), DarkStar achieved an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet and completed pre-programmed, basic flight maneuvers, according to Maj. Mark Mattoon, flight test director. "It was flawless...picture-perfect," he said. "The system successfully executed a fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing, using the differential Global Positioning System."
DarkStar has a short, disk-shaped body and 69-foot wingspan. It is capable of flying 500 nautical miles from its base at altitudes as high as 45,000 feet, and to loiter above highly-defended, reconnaissance sites and most airborne radars for more than eight hours. With its wings off, the craft can be carried aboard a C-130 transport.
"Designed to take American fighting forces out of harm's way while giving them more accurate battlefield data via three different types of sensors that can transmit data real-time, DarkStar will operate within the current military force structure, and with existing command, control, communications, computer and intelligence equipment," said UAV SPO director Lt. Col. Thomas J. DiNino. "Once this flight test program is completed, DarkStar will join its companion program, the Tier II PLus Global Hawk, as a critical part of the Air Force's future vision for improved tactical reconnaissance."
DarkStar's flight test program is geared to evaluate basic system performance, including a Synthetic Aperture Radar and electro-optical payloads. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Center, also located at Edwards, is conducting DarkStar's test flights, which are scheduled to continue through September l997. Once the tests are completed, DarkStar will undergo technical demonstrations for military applications.
The UAV program is managed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on behalf of the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, and due to transition to the Air Force's Joint Endurance UAV System Program Office at Aeronautical Systems Center here. (Courtesy of AFMC News Service and Aeronautical Systems Center Public Affairs)