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Meet the "Real" counterpart of Top Gun : Maverick "Dark Star"

jhungary

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Oct 24, 2012
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So, 2 weeks ago, a little movie sequel call Top Gun : Maverick was released and it pick up the story 36 years from the Original Top Gun. I watched Top Gun when I was a wee lad (I was 7 when I watch it on original release) and while it feature a lot of actual aircraft, with only one exception, the Dark Star

aircraft-maverick-is-flying-in-top-gun-maverick-trailer.jpg


Now, eagle eye viewer will probably jump on to say "Wait a minute, wasn't Dark Star just SR-72?"

SR-72 (1).jpg


Well, it can be, I don't know as both Dark Star and SR-72 currently did not exist (Or they do exist and we just don't have enough clearance to know) anyway, before Top Gun Maverick, there are already an aircraft, well, a drone, called Dark Star being developed in the 90s, and this "Dark Star" is actually a lot closer than the Dark Star that was used in Top Gun Maverick. So, let's take a look



Darkstar-display_WL.jpg


Like the one in the movie (Or SR-72) RQ-3 Darkstar are designed form ground up to serve as a High Altitude Reconnaissance Drone, the designation of RQ (R for Reconnaissance, Q for unmanned Platform) means these drone are designed to fly over the enemy territories in stealth and map or recon enemy deposition behind enemy line. As such, this package comes with stealth flying wing feature, high resolution camera, and at time very advance AI Autonomous System (as in XQ-28 Ghost Bat) which allow the drone to fly, take off, do their recce run and then return without any human input.

With a reported range of 570 mile, it also would be in the class of long endurance drone like RQ-4 Global Hawk, and it was meant to run alongside Global Hawk to compliment the usage.

So in 1996, the first version of RQ-3 Darkstar was born. That is not without any problem. The first test flight went okay and the second flight test crashed not long after take off. 2 more Prototype was built to an improved version (system software package and aerodynamic) and another 6 flight have started before the program was cancelled due to cost and the inherit problem with both Aerodynamic and immaturity of AI technology.

1200px-Dark_Star_USAF.jpg


3 Survived example was turn into museum, but source have been leak that after the program cancelled in 1999, the drone was still used in recon and technological evaluation until late 2000s, rumour has it was used for a high altitude recon ops in Iraq.

1200px-RQ-3A_Darkstar.jpg


While Darkstar is cancelled, its legacy can be seen in various later drone, namely RQ-9,RQ-170, MQ-180, MCAV, MQ-28 and MQ-58. This is probably one of the most prominent "What if" moment in aviation history, Which make you wonder, what changes this drone could made to defence technology or in battle had this been a success, it may just be a few years of budget away to make it happen, and make it worth while.
 

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