According to The Warzone, the sophisticated US stealth plane Model 401 with “odd markings” on its fuselage made another test flight. The mystery aircraft, developed by Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites, flew over the Mojave Desert in the southwestern US and was escorted by NASA F-15D fighter jet.
The experimental Model 401’s have new overall gray coating and large discolored diamond-like shapes below the cockpit and on its lower tail section”.
“It is unclear what exactly these patches are for, but it seems like the Model 401s may be participating in a test that at least has something to do with their signatures, which can include radar, electronic, infrared, and visual”, he noted.
The Model 401’s Mojave Desert flyover can be seen as sort of a coating test that was conducted amid efforts to reduce the plane’s infrared signature, which is “becoming more and more important as infrared search and track (IRST) systems are increasing in their capabilities and pose a real threat to stealthy aircraft”.
The latest Model 401 flight test was part of US efforts to “prove” the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, including Boeing’s “Loyal Wingman” combat drone.
Shortly after the Model 401 made its maiden flight in October 2017, Scaled Composites said in a press release the company had built two such planes in order “to demonstrate their advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government”.
The Scaled Composites 401 is an American experimental aircraft, designed and produced by Scaled Composites of Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, California.
The Model 401 features a cantilever low-wing, a single-seat enclosed pressurized cockpit under a bubble canopy, retractable tricycle landing gear, and a single jet engine.
The aircraft is made from composite material. It has a 38 ft (11.6 m) span wing and a fuselage also of 38 ft (11.6 m) in length. Empty weight is 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) and gross take-off weight is 8,000 lb (3,629 kg). The engine used is a single Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5D powerplant, producing 3,045 lb (1,381 kg) of thrust.
The prototype has stealth aircraft characteristics and shaping. Air intake is aft of the cockpit, two narrow S-duct inlets preventing radar waves from reaching the engine fan blades. V-tail configuration is like that of the YF-23 (Northrop Grumman is the parent company of Scaled Composites). The prototype has a similar configuration to the General Atomics Avenger.