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P-175 Polecat

Polecat was a Lockheed-funded research program that began in March 2003, with the flying-wing UAV flying secretly towards the end of 2005. The Lockheed Martin P-175 Polecat was a 4100kg (9000lb) flying wing. It was designed to carry a payload. The bat-wing-shaped Polecat has a 90-foot wingspan. It is designed to cruise at 65,000 feet. It is powered by twin Williams FJ-44-3E engines that generate 13.3-kN / 6,000 pounds of thrust and allow it to carry up to 1,000 pounds / 450-kg payload.

The one-of-a-kind, $27 million prototype was destroyed in a crash in December 2004 when a ground equipment failure triggered the platform's flight termination system. The company released a photograph of the Polecat high altitude unmanned aerial demonstrator flying over "a remote desert location" on July 19 at the Farnborough International Airshow 2006. The Polecat UAV is a blended wingbody aircraft that appears to be a miniaturised version of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

By early 2005 Lockheed Martin was considering building a replacement for its P-175 Polecat private-venture unmanned air vehicle demonstrator which crashed. "Nothing has been firmly decided, but it is certainly being discussed," says the company's Skunk Works advanced development organisation. Company officials say they did manage to validate some flight-control and handling work with Polecat. On 19 July 2006 Lockheed Martin unveiled the existence of a new high altitude, unmanned aerial demonstrator to reporters attending the Farnborough International Air Show. The announcement was part of a review of several Skunk Works(R) projects highlighting technologies the company is exploring to enable technology for the future. "This UAV is an effort to better understand the flight dynamics of a tailless unmanned air system in support of our ongoing research and development work for the U.S. Air Force's future Long Range Strike Program as well as to field the next generation of structural composite concepts," explained Frank Cappuccio, executive vice president and general manager of Advanced Development Programs and Strategic Planning.

Developed in only 18 months, using internal funding, unmanned system P-175, nicknamed "Polecat" -- aligned with the well-known Skunk Works(R) name -- represents the key tenets for which the Skunk Works(R) is known. "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. "In addition, the company investment and the resulting successful flights are proof positive of our commitment to developing the next inflection point in unmanned systems." Cappuccio said the company is also exploring technologies to enable low boom, supersonic flight over land and global reach.

Janes says of the Polecat that it featured a "Tail-less flying-wing configuration, of advanced laminar flow aerofoil section, blending high aerodynamic efficiency with a very low radar cross-section. It is described as consisting of fewer than 200 parts, being of 98 per cent bonded composites construction, and fabricated using a new, low-temperature manufacturing process. Normally, composites are autoclaved and cured in temperatures of 177C (350F), but in the case of the Polecat they were cured at only 66C (150F) and post-cured later. The wing is said to have been shaped for low-observables (LO), but not treated (coated) for LO. The aircraft has a fully retractable tricycle landing gear."

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:50:34 ZULU