Skunk Works Flies High With Experimental UAV
Last week at Farnborough, one of the unidentified flying objects
plaguing the California desert got identified. Lockheed's Skunk
Works revealed a high altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that
is a technology demonstrator for new technologies. These have the
potential to replace manned high-altitude intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms such as the
A photo of the technology demonstrator was displayed at a press
conference as "part of a review of several Skunk Works projects,
highlighting technologies the company is exploring to enable
technology for the future," Lockheed Martin said in a press
The aircraft is known as the P-175 'Polecat' high altitude
unmanned aerial demonstrator. LMT revealed few details of the
craft, and did not even describe the operating location or
locations where it has been tested. The photo that accompanies this
story was described as the P-175 'Polecat' High Altitude Unmanned
Aerial Demonstrator in flight over "a remote desert location."
The single photo released shows a tailless, twin-engine aircraft
from a rear aspect. The aircraft appears to have swept wings and
some dihedral. Beyond that, it's hard to tell much from the
Frank Cappuccio, executive vice president and general manager of
Advanced Development Programs and Strategic Planning for Lockheed
Martin -- in other words, the head of the Skunk Works -- said,
"This UAV is an effort to better understand the flight dynamics of
a tailless unmanned air system... as well as to field the next
generation of structural composite concepts." He said the "Polecat"
was flying "in support of our ongoing research and development work
for the US Air Force's future Long Range Strike Program."
"It was specifically designed to verify three things: new, cost
effective rapid prototyping and manufacturing techniques of
composite materials; projected aerodynamic performance required for
sustained high altitude operations; and flight autonomy
attributes," said Cappuccio.
The "Polecat" -- the name is a sly reference to the craft's
birthplace, the Skunk Works -- was developed in only 18 months,
using the company's own money. "[T]he company investment and the
resulting successful flights are proof positive of our commitment
to developing the next inflection point in unmanned systems,"
Other technologies that Cappuccio said the company was examining
via the program are meant to achieve "low boom, supersonic flight
over land," and "global reach".
Cappucio continued, "The Skunk Works is all about advancing the
art of the possible. It may sound nebulous to some, but we thrive
on ideas and innovation."
Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Projects, based in
Palmdale, CA, a subsidiary of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Company, was the home of such remarkable programs as the U-2
high-altitude reconnaissance plane, and the A-12/SR-71/YF-12 series
of Mach 3+ reconnaissance and intelligence collection aircraft.