Taking Back the Night
In the late 1960's at the height of the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense and U.S. Army identified the need for stealthy observation aircraft that could operate in combat theaters at night. This included operation at low altitude with reduced engine and propeller noise signatures, extended loiter time and the ability to carry a pilot and observer with advanced avionics for intelligence-gathering operations. Lockheed won a contract to develop and produce two aircraft to meet the specification in secret and ship them to trained operational crews in Southeast Asia for deployment.
The Navy had already impressed the 2-32 into service as a pure sailplane and designated it the X-26A "Frigate" where it was utilized as a training platform for pilots at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School. It was used to teach the conditions of yaw/roll coupling, due to the lower wing loading and slower flight speeds of a sailplane in which the Navy deemed it safer than using jet aircraft. It was these same two X-26A's that were shipped to Northern California to secretly begin the process of being converted to QT (Quiet Thrust) aircraft in the new DoD/Lockheed program.
Development from the QT-2PC continued with the QT-2PCII and later greater modifications to the Schweizer 2-32 airframes resulted in the YO-3A. After the end of the Vietnam War, The YO-3As were used by the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries and Federal Bureau of Investigation in law enforcement and NASA for scientific research.
Thanks largely to Dale Ross Stith who operates the Quiet Aircraft Association as president, historian and webmaster, you may learn more about these secret military aircraft and the men and missions by visiting the following websites.
The Pima Air and Space Museum is restoring YO-3A 69-18006 for display with their SR-71 Blackbird at their facility in Arizona.
The Schweizer SGS 2-32 is still in service in large numbers and often seen by the public at fields offering glider rides. Its an elegant design with high aspect wing, zoomy and tough-looking fighter jet styling. We offer a kit of the 2-32 at 1:6 scale and wingspan of 119" (2.9m) for 5 channel RC (Rudder, Elevator, Dive Brakes, Aileron and Tow Release) (not yet on these web pages).
Two kits have shipped, one was bashed into a QT-2PC by the Quiet Aircraft Association for display at the museum in Texas. Dale worked on the aircraft in Vietnam and his organization is dedicated to remembering the aircraft and the engineers, mechanics and pilots that were involved in the highly secret program of that era. Please support them by visiting their web pages and the museums that are dedicated to restoring and displaying these historic aircraft.