America has developed a secret stealth drone
The lower-flying stealthy drone model became known as “Dark Star.” Boeing and Lockheed Martin teamed up to produce the prototype, which took off on its debut flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California in March 1996. On its second flight in April, the Dark Star drone malfunctioned and crashed. Boeing and Lockheed built several more copies, but in 1999 the Pentagon cancelled the effort.
Except not really. The Dark Star concept and some of the technology survived in modified form. Lockheed quietly assembled the stealthy drone’s high-tech successor in total secrecy. No outsiders would know anything about it until eight years later.
At first the only clue — and an oblique one at that — was a patent for an unmanned aircraft filed in 1997 by the Texas plane-maker. A sketch included with the patent showed a single-engine, swept-wing robot with a bulbous body and the sharp wing edges associated with stealth designs.
Very few knew it, but by 2002 the stealth drone was almost ready for combat. It would greatly expand the reach of America’s robotic strike force in Iraq and across the globe, laying the groundwork for future robotic warfare and, by extension, the shadowy wars that would follow America’s disastrous ground campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assigned to spy on Iraq in 2002, the new UAV was never officially acknowledged. But it was seen.