Military Factory logo
Icon of a dollar sign
Icon of military officer saluting
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of AK-47 assault rifle
Icon of navy warships

Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3 DarkStar

High-Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV

Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3 DarkStar

High-Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV

OVERVIEW
SPECIFICATIONS
ARMAMENT
VARIANTS
HISTORY
MEDIA
OVERVIEW



The initial Lockheed DarkStar prototype of 1996 crashed on its second flight leading to its termination in a 1999 review.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1996
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed Martin - Boeing Company - USA
PRODUCTION: 3
OPERATORS: United States
SPECIFICATIONS



Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3A DarkStar model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 0
LENGTH: 15.09 feet (4.6 meters)
WIDTH: 69.88 feet (21.3 meters)
HEIGHT: 3.61 feet (1.1 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 4,409 pounds (2,000 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 8,510 pounds (3,860 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Engine delivering unknown output.
SPEED (MAX): 295 miles-per-hour (475 kilometers-per-hour; 256 knots)
RANGE: 578 miles (930 kilometers; 502 nautical miles)
CEILING: 44,291 feet (13,500 meters; 8.39 miles)




ARMAMENT



None.
VARIANTS



Series Model Variants
• RQ-3 "DarkStar" - Base Series Designation.
• RQ-3A - Slightly revised prototype following crash of original model; three completed in all.


HISTORY



Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3 DarkStar High-Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.  Entry last updated on 7/6/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
DarkStar origins were found in a 1983 initiative that saw the United States Air Force (USAF), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) begin a new competition to fulfill a requirement for a reconnaissance-minded, high-altitude Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The competition involved both defense powerhouses Lockheed Martin and Boeing with the product assigned the nickname of "Quartz". The system was intended to penetrate deep into Soviet airspace and loiter over territory for periods reaching forty hours while utilizing onboard intelligence-gathering equipment. This initiative begat the Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System (AARS) program designation.

However, in December of 1992, the AARS program was terminated after a budget review and also hampered along the way by the eventual collapse of the Soviet Empire. The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that many spy-type programs were either curtailed or cancelled outright. Despite this, the program continued along a more low-key, less ambitious route under the "Tier III" name.




Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3 DarkStar (Cont'd)

High-Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV

Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3 DarkStar (Cont'd)

High-Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) UAV



The Tier III program was itself eventually divided in two distinct directions - the first to produce a non-stealth, long-range, high-altitude UAV and the second to become a high-altitude, stealth-minded alternative. The former went on to become the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 "Global Hawk" while the latter evolved to become the Lockheed/Boeing RQ-3 "DarkStar" system. The DarkStar was created under the "DARPA" label, the "Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency".

Externally, DarkStar was given a rather unique shape as aircraft go. It featured a disc-like fuselage that was well-contoured and very squat in profile. At its aft sides, the main wing assemblies were attached, these as straight-wing appendages. Moving wing surfaces were identified along the trailing edge while wing tips were clipped. The fuselage housed the powerplant which was aspirated from the front and exhausted through a small opening at the rear. The undercarriage was wholly retractable. There were no vertical wing surfaces of any kind and its payload was held internally, consisting of intelligence-gathering equipment and similar. A probe was attached to the forward edge of the fuselage shape. Overall dimensions of the aircraft included a length of 15 feet, a wingspan of 69 feet and a height of 3 feet, 6 inches. Empty weight was listed at around 4,360lbs with a loaded weight of 8,500lbs. Cruising speed was approximately 288 miles per hour. Range was 575 miles with a service ceiling up to 45,000 feet.

The RQ-3 DarkStar prototype went airborne for the first time on March 29th, 1996. However, the vehicle crashed on its second flight in April. Slight revisions to the design begat the "RQ-3A" designation and a further two RQ-3A prototypes were completed but these were never to fly for the program was terminated (due to fears of its stability on top of budget cuts) on January 28th, 1999.

All three existing examples were then relegated for display as museums showpieces. They can currently (January 2014) be found at the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio, the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum of Washington D.C.




MEDIA









Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (295mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LDN
LDN
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MSK
MSK
 
  TKY
TKY
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Lockheed / Boeing RQ-3A DarkStar's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
3
3

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
A2A
Interception
UAV
Ground Attack
CAS
Training
ASW
Anti-Ship
AEW
MEDEVAC
EW
Maritime/Navy
SAR
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
VIP
Passenger
Business
Recon
SPECOPS
X-Plane/Development
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.