Dark Star UAV:
Range 500 Miles,
45,000 Feet - 8 Plus Hours
From Don Carros
DarkStar Tier III Minus
The Tier III Minus UAV, known by the nickname DarkStar, is one of two high altitude endurance UAVs being developed for the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) joint UAV program office. At a planned $10 million a copy (FY94 dollars), the DarkStar UAV will provide affordable, near real time, continuous, all weather, wide area surveillance in support of tactical commanders. The result will be timely information that the tactical commander can immediately exploit for accurate situational awareness and to perform precision strikes and other high priority intelligence and reconnaissance tasks.
The DarkStar system is a high-altitude, endurance unmanned air vehicle optimized for reconnaissance in highly defended areas. Optimized for low observables, DarkStar's operational goal is to be highly survivable while penetrating high threat environments. Complementing the Tier III Minus is the Tier II Plus, which will be optimized for long range and endurance in a low-to-moderate threat environment. Both vehicles will be capable of fully autonomous take-off, flight and recovery; be capable of dynamic retasking while in flight
It will operate within the current military force structure, and with existing command, control, communications, computer and intelligence equipment. It can operate at a range of 500 nautical miles from the launch site and will be able to loiter over the target area longer that eight hours at an altitude of more than 45,000 feet, carrying either an electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar sensor payload.
The sensor system is similar to the Global Hawk, except there is less bandwidth in terms of the communications links because of the low observable installation of the antennas. In addition DarkStar carries either the radar or the EO payload on this aircraft, whereas Global Hawk can carry both payloads simultaneously. The radar payload has the same capability as the Global Hawk radar, with the exception of not having a GMTI mode. The EO system is a little bit degraded in terms of the NIIRS it can provide, but per hour it provides the same level of area coverage capability or the same number of spots per hour as provided with the Global Hawk system.
When Dark Star missions are allocated to Army commanders, or an Army officer is the JTF commander, the Enhanced Tactical Radar Correlator (ETRAC) and Modernized Imagery Exploitation System (MIES) (or successor processors) will process the imagery. If the U.S. Air Force is the "lead" Service, the processor would be the Contingency Airborne Reconnaissance System (CARS); if the Navy and Marines go in first, the Joint Services Imagery Processing System-Navy (JSIPS-N) would process the imagery. The Common Ground Station (CGS) will display the imagery no matter which system processed it.

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