Northrop's secret RQ-180 drone will replace the strategic RQ-4 Global Hawk and the iconic U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft
Last year, the US Air Force announced a desire to retire all RQ-4B Global Hawk strategic drones by 2027. It has recently become known that by 2026 the US Air Force will have no U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft in service. They will be replaced by secret RQ-180 drones.
Here's What We Know
Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about the drone developed by the US company Northrop Grumman. The RQ-180 is a next-generation drone focused on operations in areas with advanced air defences. It is being developed as part of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems programme.
It is expected to have a range of 22,000 km and a maximum flight time of 24 hours. It won't differ much from the RQ-4B Global Hawk in this respect, but it will significantly outperform Lockheed Martin's RQ-170 Sentinel with an endurance of about 6 hours. Externally, the RQ-180 resembles the X-47B drone (pictured below), which is also designed by Northrop Grumman.
Since we are dealing with a classified project, it is still not known for sure whether the drone has been officially adopted for service. What we do know is that it made its first flight 10 years ago. In 2013, the drone was photographed in the skies above Area 51 in Nevada.