A photo posted recently on Instagram captured an unidentified jet in the sky near Edwards Air Force Base, California, sparking a lively discussion among social media users.
According to the publication Aviation Week & Space Technology, the plane flew at an altitude of just over 6, 000 meters. According to one of Instagram users Rob Kolinsky, the plane resembles the B-21 strategic bomber from Northrop Grumman, which should replace the outdated B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit. However, the first prototype, according to official information, will be ready no earlier than 2022.
In that case, what kind of apparatus flew in the sky of California? According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, it is very reminiscent of the RQ-180 twin-engine unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, created using the "flying wing" scheme and using stealth technology.
UAV RQ-4 Global Hawk
Currently in service with the US Air Force are the RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drones, which are very vulnerable to air defense systems. In June 2019, Iranian air defenses shot down such a drone over the Strait of Hormuz, which became an alarming signal for the Pentagon leadership.
To this day, the Air Force command has not publicly acknowledged the existence of the RQ-180. At the beginning of 2020, it became known that it is seeking an early write-off of more than 2/3 of the 35 RQ-4 Global Hawk in service. The solution is more than strange, since they have been in operation for less than 10 years.
In 2019, AW&ST announced that the RQ-180 was already at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California. To date, only some of the characteristics of the RQ-180 are known, in particular, its wingspan is 52.4 m, which is more than that of the Boeing-737 (35.6 m).