DarkStar takes off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for its first flight.
The Tier III Minus, or DarkStar, unmanned air vehicle takes off from the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for its first flight on March 29, 1996. During the 20-minute flight, the vehicle achieved an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet and completed pre-programmed basic flight maneuvers. The system successfully executed a fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing utilizing the differential Global Positioning System (dGPS). The DarkStar system is a high-altitude, high endurance, unmanned air vehicle optimized for reconnaissance in highly defended areas. It will operate within the current military force structure, and with existing command, control, communications, computer and intelligence equipment. The DarkStar can operate at a range of 500 nautical miles from the launch site and will be able to loiter over the target area longer than eight hours at an altitude of more than 45,000 feet, carrying either an electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar sensor payload.