Unusual High-Altitude Spy Plane Appears at Special Operations Exercise

The involvement of E-Systems could only have fueled conspiracy theories and the belief that the EGRETT’s official job description was a cover for something else. The Greenville, Texas-based electronics company had previously worked on a number of secretive Air Force programs in the 1960s and 1970s, including the NC/AC-123K Black Spot “gunship.” In addition, the word “Senior” is reserved for Headquarters, Air Force projects and is widely associated with spy planes and associated equipment, such as the “Senior Year” U-2 and the “Senior Crown” SR-71 Blackbird.

Grob and the rest of the team ultimately built total of five aircraft in various versions, starting with the prototype D 450 EGRETT, followed two more D 500 EGRETT II aircraft. The contractors then modified the D 500s into the final G 520 configuration before building a third of these pre-production planes. Finally, Grob produced a two-seat G 520T trainer version.

Whatever, the original impetus, the aircraft with its composite airframe did boast impressive performance characteristics. It was able to carry more than 2,000 pounds of sensors and equipment in any of 12 separate, modular bays, five of which lined the bottom of the fuselage. There was enough room there for turreted day- and night-vision cameras, as well as synthetic aperture radars and other gear, similar to what we see on the aircraft at North Vernon Municipal Airport and on Bear Defense’s stock picture of their NYX ISR.

The G 520 could fly this equipment to an altitude of 50,000 feet. This can’t match the service ceiling of the Dragon Lady, but begins to approach that of the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone. The aircraft has a very narrow cord wing with a span of just more than 108 feet – close in overall length to that of a 737 airliner – another feature it shares with the Global Hawk. Depending on the exact load out and flight profile, the plane reportedly could have a range of more than 1,500 miles or loiter over a particular area…

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