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Spotted: Skunk Works’ Mystery Drone

by John Reed on June 18, 2012

So the guys over at OSGEOINT appear to have found an old mystery drone sitting on a ramp at Lockheed Martin’s super secret Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, Calif. Why do I say old when we’re likely looking at a stealthy drone? Well, its highly unlikely that the drone sitting under the tarp shown above is one of Lockheed’s RQ-170 Sentinels that are currently used to spy on countries like Iran and Pakistan — even that design is a few years old. It’s just not a good idea to leave one of the Pentagon’s most secretive pieces of equipement sitting outside under a tarp (the aircraft shown above also appears to have a larger wingspan than the RQ-170). We’re likely looking at a mock up, or perhaps an actual airframe, of one the the Sentinal’s precursors, perhaps the P.420, as the DEW Line Points out.

Click through the jump to read Lockheed’s patent application for the stealthy drone design.

Feel free to write us or sound off in the comments if you know more about this mystery plane.

Lockheed Stealth Drone Patent

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

blight_ June 18, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Surprised they did it. Thought the Have Blue prototypes were kept indoors pretty much all the time to avoid Soviet spysats. If they left it outside, it was probably no longer interesting?


durin June 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm



blight_ June 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Have Blue was during the '80s. Back when you kept your prototypes hidden from overhead recon. Then again, it might be disinformation or an old shape left out to confuse people.


dfor June 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

We still hide aircraft from satellites known to pass overhead. Take a look at Area 51 on Google.


Lance June 18, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Looks like a RQ-170 on steroids. Bigger longer range.


Michael June 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm

With that fat fuselage I'd say it even resembles the German Komet….a little. But what's under the tarp is probably the aircraft documented in the patent app.


dingldorf June 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

probably just a decoy to get the russkies and chines all worked up


yankeefifth June 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm

look at the tail in the photo and in the schematic – clearly different, the photo is more of a swallowtail configuration. also, the tarp is a little too rigid. someone is effin with the spysats.


Meph June 19, 2012 at 1:59 am

The top down picture looks just like a QF-16 to me. I read something that they started convtering old F-16's into drones, probably for target practice.


Praetorian June 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Might not be A QF-16, Boeing is doing the work on the QF’s.


@4FingrsOfBurbon June 19, 2012 at 3:06 am

Def and F-16 there. haha


JackBlack June 19, 2012 at 8:29 am

Higher rez image: http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2012

it was windy and the tarp has bubbly edges, so therefore the "sharpness" of both sides is inconsistent.


PolicyWonk June 19, 2012 at 9:58 am

They couldn't afford a larger tarp to protect this thing from prying eyes?


Mark June 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

I say it's a flying saucer with wings and a tarp added to camouflage it. ;)


Cthel June 19, 2012 at 11:10 am

From the shadow offset, it looks like the wing height is pretty close to the wing height of the F16 parked next to it, so it must be a pretty sizable airframe if it is real


SnowGator June 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Maybe that's not a tarp… maybe it's a balloon. They've been playing with lighter-than-air craft… :)


Chuck June 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Might be the second prototype of the one that they (CIA) crashed (on purpose) into Iran to mess with the Iranians.


Praetorian June 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Polecat UAV ?? Although thier demo unit crashed in december 2006. Lockheed was working on contrial supression with the Polecat, which has been a problem with the U-2 for decades. Polecat demo. had a 90 ft. wingspan.


Beno June 20, 2012 at 9:19 am

Yep, think your right. Right shape, place and scale.


Tribulation time June 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm

I delete my self, to not overload the administrator, hello censure Man


Tribulationtime June 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Thats can be anything. Looking the weird "reversed" F-16 at the side I put my money in Chunk to test Designs or Radars. By the way thats, in the corner is a wooden box.


Tribulationtime June 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Chunk!!, Between the garbage and the F16 there is a fence


crazy June 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Not uncommon for structural test articles to be shrink-wrapped and stored outside when their inside storage spot is needed for something more important.


Chris June 20, 2012 at 10:25 am

The “wings” aren’t symmetrical, and aren’t attached to the center at the same angle. Why is it assumed this is an aircraft at all? It looks like they set up a tent for the base picnic. Would you want to stand out in that sun?


Matt June 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I do not think this is the drone that they are making if we look back to the sr-71 making they put out random shapes to fool the soviets and it might be the same case here but for China maybe?


Woody June 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Of course its a decoy….stop playing like your all so darn smart….


joe June 19, 2012 at 3:07 am

I can imagine people working there having a slightly twisted sense of humour for precisely that reason. I'd be very tempted to make a silouhette outline of an x-wing, viper or deathglider or something and leave it out under a tarp…


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