Northrop Tacit Blue
Published January 26, 2016
Built in the early 1980s in great secrecy, the revolutionary Tacit Blue aircraft tested advanced radar sensors and new ideas in stealth technology.
Tacit Blue proved that a stealthy aircraft could have curved surfaces -- unlike the faceted surfaces of the F-117 Nighthawk -- which greatly influenced later aircraft like the B-2. Tacit Blue’s design also minimized the heat signature emitted from the engines, further masking its presence. Tacit Blue was aerodynamically unstable, but it had a digital fly-by-wire system to help control it.
With its low, “all-aspect” radar signature, Tacit Blue demonstrated that such an aircraft could loiter over -- and behind -- the battlefield without fear of being discovered by enemy radar. Using advanced sensors, it could also continuously monitor enemy forces (even through clouds) and provide timely information through data links to a ground command center. Moreover, these sensors functioned without giving away the location of the aircraft.
The Tacit Blue aircraft flew 135 times before the program ended in 1985. The aircraft was declassified and placed on display at the museum in 1996.
A plaque mounted in the cockpit recognizes these Tacit Blue pilots:
Mr. Richard Thomas
Col. (Select) Don Cornell
Lt. Col. Russ Easter
Lt. Col. Ken Dyson
Maj. Dan Vanderhorst
Engines: Two Garrett ATF3-6 high-bypass turbofan engines
Design operational speed: 287 mph/250 knots
Operating altitude: 25-30,000 feet
Weight: 30,000 lbs.
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