Seven new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) specifically designed to conduct reconnaissance in areas with restricted and prohibiting access and manoeuvre (A2/AD) have entered service at the US Air Force (USAF), Aviation Week reports.
Dubbed the RQ-180, the advanced UAV became fully operational with the recently reformed 427th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base in California, according to Aviation Week. The USAF declined to comment on the status of its drone programme.
With the RQ-180’s performance characteristics currently classified, the magazine suggested that the new 10-metre-long drone may have a wingspan of 40 metres and that it is capable of staying in the air for 24 hours at an altitude of up to 18 kilometres.
The drone is believed to be part of the secret J-UCAS project, which has been pursued by the US Navy and the USAF since the early 2000s. The goal was to create a single unmanned platform that could be in line with the needs of both the navy and the air force.
The RQ-180 is thought to look like the US heavy strategic bomber B-2 Spirit and is equipped with stealth technology which helps the warplane to evade radar.
Aviation Week said that the drone resembles a flying wing with a “simple trailing edge” and with antennas built into the skin of the wings.
The drone’s development started in 2005, with its maiden flight in 2010 year with tests beginning four year later.
Media reports claim that the RQ-180 flew over Area 51 and the North Pole during tests in 2017. Area 51 is a US Air Force facility in Nevada which has been the centre of theories surrounding aliens and alien technology due to its top secret and high security status.