In 1994, Boeing teamed with Lockheed Martin to design and build a stealthy unmanned reconnaissance plane called DarkStar for the U.S. Department of Defense Tier III Minus program. Boeing applied its expertise in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), gained over three decades of UAV experience, to develop the DarkStar’s wings and integrated avionics.
On March 29, 1996, DarkStar made its first flight. It reached an altitude of 5,000 feet (1.5 kilometers) and successfully executed a fully automated flight from takeoff to landing using the global positioning system. It operated at ranges greater than 500 nautical miles (926 kilometers) and was able to stay on station for more than eight hours at altitudes greater than 45,000 feet (13.7 kilometers).
In late January 1999, the Defense Department announced that the DarkStar UAV program had been terminated. Click here to learn more.