Lockheed Martin Skunk Works unveiled a never-before-seen tailless unmanned air vehicle (UAV) dubbed the X-44A at the Los Angeles County Air Show in California on March 24.
Lockheed, which transported the diminutive swept wing UAV to the airshow at Gen. William J Fox airfield from its nearby Skunk Works facility at the U.S. Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, says the aircraft first flew in 2001 as part of a “family” of vehicles but declines to offer further details.
Lockheed opted to take the wraps off the formerly classified demonstrator as part of a campaign to boost broader awareness of its long-running UAV experience as well as to help mark celebrations surrounding the 75th anniversary of the Skunk Works. The move comes as Lockheed Martin enters the closing stages of a key contest against Boeing and General Atomics for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling carrier-based aircraft requirement–a decision expected as early as August. The UAV’s unexpected public appearance follows the disclosure of the X-44A’s existence last month in TheWarZone.com, a defense-focused website.
The aircraft shares a clear lineage with a series of Lockheed flying wing designs ranging from the RQ-170 stealthy surveillance UAV to the Sea Ghost concept proposed for the Navy’s now-abandoned Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike program.