Researcher and long-time collaborator Terry Mahon has passed on some observations regarding that other stealthy UAV, the one spotted at Kandahar recently. In fact, Mahon notes, this could be something that Aviation Week's been covering for some years.
As Dave Fulghum and Amy Butler reported in September 2005:
Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, perceived as lagging rivals Boeing and Northrop Grumman in the unmanned aerial vehicle field, is secretly developing a stealthy, long-endurance unmanned aircraft for penetrating deep inside hostile airspace to collect intelligence. By early next year at the latest, the company is expected to announce that - with the U.S. Air Force’s backing - it is building one or more demonstrators of what the Pentagon has newly designated an unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
This might have been Polecat, but that aircraft was strictly a private venture, and more of an aerodynamics technology demonstrator than an operational system. Then, in February 2006, the Washington Outlook column stated that:
The Pentagon is taking another look at an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft design that it rejected more than 10 years ago in favor of Northrop Grumman's popular Global Hawk. Planners are back looking at concepts similar to the two-engine, 125-ft. wingspan, low-signature B-2-like design offered for the competition. It was to fly at 70,000-80,000 ft. and pull from an inventory of two dozen classified engines in storage.
This could have referred to a Lockheed Martin proposal for the Global Hawk contest, or to the Frontier Systems/Loral offering. The engines would have been GE J97s from the late-1960s Compass Arrow program - tested and qualified for flight above 80,000 feet. (The existence of a NASA-held stockpile of these engines was confirmed in early 2006.)
Black-project researcher Peter Merlin is of the view that the Kandahar aircraft may be associated with the Desert Prowler program patch, which has circulated widely since last year. It has been suggested that Desert Prowler is a UAV that has been flying since 2005, in which case it pre-dates the split of the Joint UCAS program, which took place at the end of the year.
Mahon adds: "Recall that under General Jumper (CoS 2001-2005), the AF consistently sought to position J-UCAS first and foremost as a SEAD/IW/DEW platform."
It could be, therefore, that the Kandahar UAV - which cannot be particularly sensitive, or it would not have been seen in plain sight - is a four-year-old demonstrator, pressed into service in an information-operations role to meet an urgent requirement.