Stealth technology used on aircrafts and its began is a matter for debate. Given the classified nature of developing new military equipment, follow stealth back to its roots can be a tricky process.
Still, as far as the US military cannon goes, the legendary F-117 Nighthawk marked a major turn in stealth warfare. Unveiled in 1988, the F-117 attack aircraft was developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division.
But it was not publicly known that over two decades before the Nighthawk took to the skies, Boeing was secretly chipping away at its own stealth fighter. Officially it was deemed as Model 853, but nicknamed “Quiet Bird”. The first prototype was tested during 1962 and 1963, and in a different world, could have been the US military’s first stealth aircraft.
Undergoing radar cross-section tests in the company’s headquarters facility in Wichita, Kansas Model 853 was originally developed as an ordinary scout plane for the US Army. While it performed remarkably well in those tests, the Quiet Bird never get a chance to enter US military service.
“The tests reportedly achieved excellent results in reduced radar cross section, but it was a bit ahead of its time and did not generate interest from the military,” Boeing noted, according to Ars Technica.
Still, while Model 853 known as Quiet Bird was never appreciated by the Pentagon, its development did contribute to other aerial objects in further development.
“The lessons learned on Quiet Bird probably did influence the design of the Boeing AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile,” reads the company’s photo description, adding that the “effort eventually lead to the use of increasingly larger and more complex composite structures in Boeing aircraft.”
In a partnership with another worldwide known company, Lockheed Martin, Boeing is currently competing for a US Air Force contract. Their main opponent is Northrop Grumman. The winner will develop the Pentagon’s next-generation stealth bomber project to replace the aging B-2. Though after the expensive – and faulty – production of the F-35, the bomber project is already facing heated criticism.