1st production aircraft which remained in the USA for testing by US Army. Current location: Fort Rucker Museum, Alabama not on display Annex bldg. 2 TO6009
Vietnam operations 1970-72. Purchased by Mr. Bruce Elliot, Skagit. Washington. On loan to the Hiller Museum California. On display
Vietnam operations 1970-72 crash landed at Long Thanh November 1970
Vietnam operations 1970-72 sold to an aviation school. Reg allocated N52695 (1973) Later obtained by Mr. Richard Osborne reg. N123LT as of 14 Feb1977 currently stored awaiting restoration
Vietnam operations 1970-72 crashed near Bien Boa SVN 6 June 1971 both crew members killed CW2 M. Loving and CW2 C. Borchers 73rd SAC
Vietnam operations 1970-72 sold to an aviation school. Reg allocated N62295/N64495 to Mr. Richard Osborne 1973.(is still officially registered in the FAA data base). Fuselage acquired by Mr. Harold Hansen/Vic Hansen of Seattle, WA. Rebuilt using spare parts Exchanged for another aircraft. Long story. Later reg as a Lockheed Hansen YO-3A as N33YQ, serial no 5 which was derived from the military serial no 69-18005. Currently owned by Mr. Bruce Elliot of Skagit Wa.
Info concerning N numbers/tail nos. N62295 and N64495 both allocated by the FAA in 1973. N64277 was allocated in 1975. Paperwork still not completed at FAA ???
Vietnam operations 1970-72 Current location, Pima Aerospace AZ. Formally N14425 Louisana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries, later FBI.
Vietnam operations 1970-72 Formally N14426 Louisana Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries, later FBI. The Western Museum of Flight , Hawthorne CA obtained from the US Navy’s Point Mugu Weapons Testing Centre. Currently at Cable Airport CA for restoration to flying condition (Commerative Air Force CAF.)
Destroyed in Crash in South Vietnam. Pilot and Observer survived.
YO-3A 69-18009 crasshed near Hunter Ligget AAF/Ft. Ord in 1070. Two USAF personel aboard. One significantly injured.
Vietnam operations 1970-72 sold to an aviation school reg as N37778. Acquired by NASA in 1978. As NASA 718 reg as N718NA Ames Research Center, Mountain View Moffett Field CA. Later used at Edwards AFB for various noise measurement testings. XV-15A plus NASA SR-71amongst other project. Transferred to Dryden in December 1997. As of Jan 2004 stored at Dryden in flyable conditiën. It has been allocated N818NA which is a Dryden registration series. Not actaully painted on. Still as N718NA NASA PR people informed me on these facts.
LMSC Group Photo 1970--CTRL and Click on Photo for Names
Dale Stith, Thomas Jefferson, "Blue"
Quiet Aircraft: 1965 to 2004.
Dale Ross Stith
This is a first in a series of articles that will describe the development of the Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. (LMSC) Quiet Aircraft. LMSC, the "Home of Low-Speed/Low- Altitude Stealth" and referred to as Skunk-Works North, with respect to Kelly Johnson, no longer exists and has become part of Lockheed Martin Corporation (L-M or lmco).
This material has been gathered from personal memorabilia, the work of other writers and photographers, LMSC and military documents, and contributions from historians and my Quiet Aircraft associates.
The articles will be presented in chronological format. They are intended to be living documents, to which material will be added, deleted, and corrected as needed. Persons familiar with the place and time of the section being described will provide some of the material. My function in those sections will be restricted to coordinating, corroborating, and editing to keep the format of this document consistent.
Your comments, new material, corrections and objections, if any, are welcome and requested. I shall be responsible for the accuracy of the material presented..
Dale Ross Stith Jan. 2004
My leaders and mentors:
LMSC: Starr Colby, Barbara Cutrer, Wilbur N. Curtis, Stanley A. Hall, Dave Paul III*, Bill Parks, George F. Roberts, and Frank David Schnebly*.
Military: USA: BGen. (Ret) George S. Walker, (fmr) CW2 Dick Osborne, and (fmr) SP5 Kurt Olney. USN: Capt. (ret) Leslie J. Horn. Other: (fmr) FBI Special Agent Vance Duffy. Author and Historian, Roger Warner.
All of the above and Schweizer Aircraft, Doug E. Smith*-- and many others that I have plagiarized. (Excuse please.) I will identify as many of them as possible as the story unfolds.
1965: Lockheed Aircraft Corp (LAC) Chairman directive: "Do something to affect the fighting in Viet Nam".
The U. S. Army (USA) established requirements for a quiet reconnaissance platform with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Requirements: Mission durations Greater Than or Equal to (GTE) 4 hours and no human acoustical detection GTE 1200 AGL.
DARPA's Senior Field Representative in Southeast Asia and Military Assistance Command-Viet Nam (MAC-V) Science Advisor, Dr. William G. McMillan (Dr. Mac) was assigned technical oversight on program.
The U.S. Navy (USN) proposed a quiet surveillance aircraft (X-26) to support Market Time and Game warden Missions. Cmdr. Leslie J. Horn (Les), a senior pilot and graduate physicist on TDY to NARDU-V, had authored a technical paper on the physics of sound and noise generated by an aircraft and so, was drafted/reassigned to DARPA reporting to Len Sullivan who reported to Dr. Mac.
LMSC's Advanced Concept Group commenced study on Viet Nam military operations with respect to enemy nighttime infiltration and attempts to thwart them.
Findings: · In the geographical area of interest: the Republic of Viet Nam (RVN), the Viet Namese Communists (Viet Cong) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) enemy's primary sensors were the five senses, with sight and hearing being the most important. Use of Radio Detection and Range (RADAR) by the enemy was not an issue and, since our mission was to defeat them at night, a dark, unlit, quiet operating aerial observation platform was selected.
· Existing sensor (especially Night Optical Device (NOD) and Low-Light-Level-Television (LLTV)) sensitivity and resolution coupled with the Field-Of-View (FOV) limited the maximum range at which a target could be detected and identified.
· Human detection of noise generated by conventional aircraft occurs in time/distance before existing sensors detects and resolves the human as a target. That is to say that the human on the ground hears, and perhaps sees, a conventional approaching aircraft and hides before the airborne observer/sensor detects and identifies the human as a target. (Note: Aircraft propulsion power, weight, and airspeed are proportional to acoustic noise generated.)
1966: Quiet Thruster (QT-1):
LMSC's Don Galbraith and Jack Baumann conceived QT-1 Aircraft: A low-speed, low-altitude aircraft of minimum weight and high-lift low-drag aerodynamic configuration requiring minimum propulsion power.
This one seat Schweizer I -26 Glider Airframe design with a 55 Horsepower (HP) air-cooled Volkswagen automobile engine and a propeller speed reduction system was rejected by DARPA in favor of a two-man crew and a conventional certified aircraft engine.
LMSC proposed a feasibility test program based on a 2-place Schweizer 2-32 Glider.
DARPA awarded a contract to LMSC for two experimental Quiet Thruster (QT-2) Aircraft. Requirements: Covertly build and test two aircraft in six months for $100K.
Stanley A. Hall (a glider enthusiast and designer/producer) was reassigned from Manager in Agena Satellite Programs to the Quiet Thruster (QT) Program.
LMSC organized a covert "Skunk-Works" type organization with the "White World" cover name San Jose Geophysical Inc. It was separated in most ways from the LMSC culture, and physically located in a secure area at the Lockheed Aircraft Service (LAS) Executive Transport Service Hanger at the San Jose (CA) Municipal Airport.
Important features of the development program were: Commercial/TSO parts allowed. Stringent drawing requirements and inspections waived. Local commercial vendors and shops allowed. Lockheed Aircraft Service (LAS) Mechanics and Technicians utilized. (Note: Development programs are sometimes referred to as "Greenhouse Programs".)
· FAA Experimental License/Designation. · 2 - Place: Pilot forward and passenger/observer aft. · O-200 Continental Aircraft 100 HP Engine with automobile muffler. · Front pylon mounted 4-Blade 100" diameter (Ole Fahlin) wood propeller. · V-Belt propeller and drive shaft 3:1 speed reduction system. · Commercial avionics: AM VHF Transceiver and Radar Altimeter.
Organizational Maintenance Handbook April 1970
Proof that only 11 YO-3As were built
Corrections to Army Times YO-3A Article.
Good Morning Mr. Dorr,
My name is Sidney H. Morrow, Col USA FA Retired.As luck would have it, I was visiting my daughter at Ft. Stewart, GA and saw the 23 December Army Times with the YO-3A article.I would like to make a couple of corrections for you.
I was the YO-3A project officer at Ft. Ord, CA for deployment to RVN and then the YO-3A operations office at Long Thanh North until the program was terminated.Therefore, I think I have some of the background to correct your errors.
First, we never ever lost a plane to enemy fire.Matter of fact, I can never recall a single plane ever receiving enemy ground fire.We did get shot at from time to time, but no hits. The plane you mention going down was from a fuel vapor lock which happened in that plane several times.Due to the heat generated in the engine and the low fuel transfer position and pump, at low fuel levels you sometimes got a vapor lock.CWO Borcher (SIC) stalled the plane early in the AM and impacted in a flat manner with the plane only moving some 10 inches after hitting the ground.They were both dead on impact.The front seat observer was an MI chief from the 73rd SAC on his first flight in the YO-3A.This chief was not assigned to the YO-3A and it was an accident that he was on the mission.I landed the same plane engine out with the same condition months earlier and we could never figure out how to correct the problem.
According to the article we were with the 1st Army Security Agency Company at Long Binh.Actually, we were assigned and resided at the 73rd Surv Aircraft Company, 1st Aviation Brig.Rows of OV-1 A, B, and Cs with the YO-3As all in revetments in a row.All of our intel reports were filed through the MI section of the 73rd.
We also lost one plane due to an oil line problem and a run away prop at Long Thanh North which crashed shortly after take off.We also lost the first one in CA due to an Air Force pilot forgetting to close the spoilers on a test flight.That, by the way, was the last involvement the AF had with the program.
In the picture, you have the fixed pitch 36 degree props which we initially had and it took the entire 5000 feet to get off the ground.Later we got a 3 bladed, variable pitch, constant speed prop which went from 28 degrees to 50 degrees and as the article stated, we could then pull the prop back for cruise and mission configuration flight.
Also, we did not have any assigned commissioned officers as observers, they were all enlisted. However, from time to time we took commissioned officers up for demonstrations, dog and pony shows etc.There were no assigned warrant officers as front seat observers.Sometimes, we pilots took the front seat on certain flights to learn the areas we flew on later missions.We also used the one Bird Dog we had assigned to the unit to learn the area we were to fly later that night.
I will be back home the first part of Jan and my e-mail address there is firstname.lastname@example.org.Should you desire an earlier response, I will be at my daughters e-mail email@example.com.I appreciate your interest in this bird because it was a large part of my life and very few folks know about the missions we performed, the positive results, and the contributions we made to the war effort.
Origins of the Designation “Quiet Star”
New finding (2009) Lockheed in house magazine "Lockheed Log" dated November 1969 identifies the YO-3A as "Quiet Star."
While I was in Vietnam, I never remember the YO-3A called “Quiet Star.” We got affectionately called YOs, YO-YOs, and Bat Plane.
It appears that the first time the YO-3A was called “Quiet Star” was in the magazine AirProgress, January 1970.The title of the article was “ Lockheed YO-3A “Quiet Star""The byline is “Army to Buy Quiet YO-3A.”(I thought this plane was supposed to be top secret! -Kurt)
The article states,”The plane carries a two-man crew, pilot, and observer, the latter employing night vision devices to spot enemy locations.The crew is entirely dependent for safety on the plane’s ability to avoid detection, for it is unarmed, carries no armor protection, and its airframe is extremely vulnerable even to small-arms ground fire."
Also, “The army will employ the YO-3A as a night observation craft, capable of flying silently at low level to detect enemy activity without revealing its’ own presence.An earlier version, designated QT-3, has already been tested in Vietnam.”
The next time I find the YO called “Quiet Star” is in Air Progress, June 1981, “Quiet Star. We Fly Lockheed’s Bargain-Basement Spy Plane.” By Bill Lamberton.This is an excellent article on YO-3A 005 restored by Harold J. Hansen, Seattle Washington. The article states, “Lockheed built only elevenYO-3As, al for the U.S. Army…This particular example (005), registered as a Lockheed-Hansen, was rebuilt by Harold J. Hansen of Seattle, and is one of six still flying.Three other are owned by the F.B.I., one by NASA., and another is in private hands.The rebuilding took five years, using parts found all over the U.S.The basic airframe and engine setup is original, but the cockpits have been stripped and modified somewhat.”
While Lockheed may not have officially called YO-3A “Quiet Star,” the nickname is a matter of journalistic history.
Lamberton’s article is excellent and I will have a copy of it at the reunion.If you would like a copy of the article before, send a self addressed envelope with two stamps on it and one dollar to cover copying cost.E-mail me for my address firstname.lastname@example.org
Kurt Olney (Webmaster)
Update: 10-20-05 Lockheed produced a 2:45 promotional VHS tape early 80's. The YO-3A is repeatedly referred to as the "Quiet Star" throughout this production.
The following pages were found in the documents with the YO-3A 007 now at Cable Airport. There is no indication who the author is. I have a lot more pages--with a lot of pages missing. The author claims to be in possession of Final Reports-Operational Evaluation in Vietnam July 70-April 71, QT-2 Pilots Manual, FAA Documents for 006 and 007, Combat Area Reports, Letters etc from ex-crew, Crash and Mishap Official Reports, R&D Documents, Lockheed Drawings, 20 slides of the crashed 004 and 30 photos of same, Pre and post crash on 008, assorted photographs and slides of QTs and R&D slides. If you are the author, know the author please contact me. Kurt email@example.com
6 Blade Propeller
Aircraft Assy Complete
Exhaust System Installation
NOTE FROM SONNY MORROW ON NUMBER OF PLANES AND MISSIONS.
I recall that in the beginning, an AF LTC crashed one of theYO-3A at Hunter Legit but to the degree of destruction I do not know. He was part of the initial government testing and the spoilers got stuck open and it went down. It was also one of the prime reasons the AF did not want to play in this arena and got out of the program. This was prior to the Army starting the training program. That could be a key to one of the missing aircraft. When the aircraft initially came out, recall that the spoilers were on top and bottom of the wings. Full actuation of the entire spoiler system caused the plane to absolutely come out of the sky. That is why the spoilers were cut in half.
There were approximately 1164 missions flown plus or minus.
This article appeared in Aviation History, July 96
Lockheed combined a sailplane and slow-turning propeller in an effort to steal the night back from the Viet Cong.
By Ronald R. Gilliam
Night in Vietnam mostly belonged to the Viet Cong. Despite the South Vietnamese army's well-known abhorrence of night operations, the Saigon government insisted on maintaining outposts--little triangular, mud-walled, brick-towered forts built by the French--in areas dominated by the Viet Cong (VC). In 1962, these unsupported outposts were frequently overrun during VC night assaults. The United States had 222 aircraft in Vietnam by the end of that year, including 149 helicopters. Many of the helicopters were armed gunships, but they proved to be of little help in night operations because their noise always warned the guerrillas.
In frustration, the U.S. Department of Defense turned to its scientific and technical arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA handed the problem to the Lockheed Missiles & Space Company in Sunnyvale, Calif., in 1966. The company was already working on counterguerrilla problems and could call on aeronautical expertise within its parent corporation.
Lockheed Aircraft Company decided that what was needed was audio stealth--a quiet airplane. The number one source of noise, the engine, would have to be small, well muffled, and slow running, with a large, multibladed propeller. The airframe would consequently have to be light--and should be acoustically "clean"--with long wings for plenty of low-speed lift. To be successful, it would have to be an aircraft that, once over the target area, almost did not need an engine. A powered sailplane was the solution.
Lockheed selected the Schweizer model SGS 2-32, a large (two-place, 57-foot wingspan), well-tested design. For power, a Continental 57-hp 4-cylinder engine was selected, fitted with a reduction gear to keep propeller rpm low. A large automobile exhaust muffler was deemed sufficient to reduce engine noise to a "reasonable" level at low rpm--at least if the aircraft stayed 1,000 feet above the ground. To minimize costly structural changes, Lockheed located the engine at the plane's center of gravity, just aft of the cockpit, and designed a long propeller-shaft extension to run over the top of the cockpit to a pylon mounted on the nose. The initial design, dubbed QT-1 (for "Quiet Thruster," first model), would never have won a beauty contest and was never built, but it was the progenitor of three quiet-airplane designs that were.
While the concept design satisfied DARPA, that agency had to solicit participation by the armed services in order to proceed. The Air Force declined active participation, sensing a possible competitor to its reduced-noise Pave Eagle (the Beech Debonair Aircraft QU-22)
for night reconnaissance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail infiltration routes. The Army was more enthusiastic, but insisted on a two-man crew (pilot and observer). The Navy also was supportive, envisioning Marine Corps use, and agreed to loan DARPA two SGS 2-32s they had originally ordered for test-pilot training.
Lockheed converted the two sailplanes after the Army delivered them to California. The QT-1 design was followed except for the engine, which had to be larger because of the added aircrew weight. The 4-cylinder, 100-hp air-cooled Continental O-200-A was installed and an oversized automotive muffler fitted. That power plant provided a 75-mph cruising speed and 115-mph top speed. Finally, a part-time maker of wooden propellers--one of the few in the world and coincidentally already on the Lockheed payroll--carved a four-bladed propeller. Designated QT-2s, the converted aircraft were the first quiet airplanes actually built.
The two QT-2s underwent flight tests at a secret base in the Mojave Desert in August 1967. The consensus was that they flew well. At the Navy's riverine warfare training station in the Sacramento River delta, the larger engine was just audible--if one listened for it. Neither the Navy nor DARPA knew how the Mekong Delta's ambient night noise level--a steady hum of insects and perhaps a dull roar of frogs--compared with that of the Sacramento Delta. They would soon find out.
The DARPA contract called for a field trial, dubbed Operation Prize Crew, to be conducted in Vietnam. After the initial flight tests, Lockheed shipped the QT-2s to Bien Hoa, a special operations air base northeast of Saigon. The Navy furnished the aircrew; the Army provided ground services and also a couple of small starlight scopes--electronic image intensifiers intended as night-weapons sights--for use as hand-held viewers.
The aircraft arrived in January 1968. On the 31st, the Communists took advantage of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year holiday, to launch a massive surprise offensive against installations in cities and towns throughout the South. Every asset was needed in the often desperate fighting, and the quiet airplane test director repeatedly had to reject requests for daylight reconnaissance missions in order to maintain the secrecy of the concept. For the first several weeks, the QT-2s took off every night, sometimes during rocket or mortar bombardment of the airfield. To every-one's immense relief, the guerrillas, completely absorbed in their activities, took no notice of the quiet airplanes only 1,000 feet above their heads. As for targets and intelligence, the QT-2 observers reported more than could possibly be dealt with. Their greatest coup was a sight that at first made the aircrews rub their eyes in disbelief: fleets of supply sampans making their way along the Mekong Delta's network of channels and canals from VC sanctuaries upriver in Cambodia. The nightly sightings confirmed other intelligence that indicated the Tet Offensive was aimed at Saigon. While Prize Crew was testing and refining its operation, Lockheed bought another Schweizer sailplane and another Continental engine and made some badly needed aeronautical improvements--including a 7-square-feet larger empennage (tail surfaces), stronger wing spars, thicker skin, and conventional landing gear with brakes and a steerable tail wheel to replace the sailplane's tandem wheels. Following the corporate penchant for celestial names, the company called its own quiet airplane the Q-Star. Nine different propeller designs were tried out before Lockheed settled on a six-bladed, fixed-pitch version. The company tested a 185-hp Wankel rotary engine, using an automobile radiator for the liquid cooling--the first-ever aeronautical application of that engine type. For maintenance and support reasons, however, conventional Continental engines were chosen for the production aircraft.
The propeller and engine tests presented no great difficulties, but another experiment almost ended the Q-Star's brief life. The Department of Defense had secretly developed a family of unattended sensors--acoustic, seismic, magnetic and human effluence ("people sniffers")--for its Ho Chi Minh Trail interdiction campaign, and for political reasons DARPA asked Lockheed to consider them for the quiet airplane's payload. Those sensors, which were intended to be airdropped and radio monitored, could detect activity only within a few tens of feet. If the quiet airplane were to deploy them and still stay high enough not to be heard, it would have to tow them in an aerial pod.
Lockheed designed an aerial pod and agreed to use the Q-Star for a trial because the QT-2s were still in Vietnam. A somewhat skeptical company pilot took up the plane, fitted with a power reel, more than 1,000 feet of cable and a dummy pod, and reeled out his payload 1,000 feet above the Sacramento Delta. When the pilot made a 180-degree turn, the pod didn't--and nearly yanked the frail craft out of the sky. The terrified pilot dropped the pod in order to regain flying speed and flatly refused to consider taking it up again. To the pilot's--and Lockheed's--great relief, DARPA quietly dropped that idea.
Freed of the restrictions on structural modifications, Lockheed reconfigured the Schweizer airframe into a surprisingly smart-looking production aircraft. With low-mounted wings, nose-mounted engine (which eliminated the ungainly propeller-shaft extension over the pilot's head), and conventional retractable landing gear (wheels folding inward into wing roots widened for the purpose), the YO-3A, as it was designated by the government, resembled a small, prop-driven fighter plane.
Other improvements included a trailing-edge extension over the inner half of the 57-foot wingspan, adding 25 square feet of lifting surface to the original 180 square feet, and a large, one-piece canopy-windshield for better visibility. The pilot sat in the rear cockpit, with the observer in front.
The payload carried by the YO-3A consisted of the night-vision system--a horizon-stabilized image-intensifier unit with a wide-angle objective lens mounted in a turret in the bottom of the fuselage. The viewing scope was located in the observer's cockpit. Since no suitable night-observation system was available "off the shelf," a Lockheed engineer designed one for subcontract fabrication.
All of those changes boosted the YO-3A's empty weight to 3,129 pounds (almost twice the QT-2's), so Lockheed once again went to a larger engine: the 210-hp air-cooled, 6-cylinder Continental IO-360D. That power plant gave a top speed of 138 mph and a cruising speed of 110--or as slow as 70 mph for maximum noise reduction. Endurance was six hours of flight time. The company used a constant-speed three-bladed propeller because it was found to be nearly as quiet at slow cruise as the six-bladed unit, but much more efficient at higher speeds.
A final question was whether the plane could be armed. For a while, gravity-dropping a load of flechettes seemed feasible, but the laws of physics and probability combined to decree that the YO-3A would go to war without a weapon.
Lockheed anticipated an initial multiservice production contract for at least 50 aircraft when DARPA pronounced Prize Crew a success. However, time had already begun to run out for American involvement in Vietnam. Tet had been the turning point. Lockheed received its initial--and final--production contract in late 1968, a $2 million order for 14 aircraft for the U.S. Army.
The YO-3As passed their acceptance tests in the fall of 1969, and the Army immediately shipped 13 of them to the 1st Army Security Agency (ASA) Company in Vietnam. (The Army Aviation Agency at Fort Rucker, Ala., got the remaining airplane for advanced testing.) Based at Long Binh, a few miles northeast of Saigon, the YO-3As proved valuable for night reconnaissance of enemy troop movements during the next two years. But on April 30, 1972, as part of its phased withdrawal from Vietnam, the Army deactivated the 1st ASA Company and returned the aircraft to the United States.
Earlier, DARPA had returned the QT-2s (redesignated the X-26A/Bs) to the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md. The Navy cannibalized one to provide spares for the other, and eventually sent the surviving aircraft to the ArmyAviationMuseum at FortRucker. Lockheed donated the Q-Star to the privately owned FlyingLadyMuseum at Morgan Hill, Calif. Of the 14 YO-3As built in 1969, only six could still be accounted for 11 years later. Four had gone to law enforcement agencies (a market that Lockheed tried without success to exploit): two each to the FBI field office in Oxnard, Calif., and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A fifth was registered to a private owner in Connecticut. In 1980, the sixth plane was serving as an airborne microphone platform in a helicopter rotor-blade research program at the NASAAmesResearchCenter at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, Calif.--just across the field from its builder, the Lockheed Missiles & Space Company.