Rare Spyplane Debuts in Museum Gallery March 13

Vietnam-era Lockheed Quiet Star added to permanent collection

SEATTLE, – On March 13, one of only 11 Lockheed Quiet Star reconnaissance aircraft will be on permanent display in the Museum’s Great Gallery. This unusual Lockheed YO-3A spyplane served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972. The United States Army used the ultra-quiet, propeller-driven plane to spot nighttime enemy activity and direct artillery fire during the war in Vietnam. The Museum acquired its YO-3A in 2010. It has since been under restoration to reflect its original military service. The plane will take its place next to several other Vietnam War aircraft in the gallery, including the Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, McDonnell F-4 Phantom fighter, and Lockheed’s Mach 3 Blackbird spyplane.

Lockheed YO-3A Quiet StarPhoto: A six-blade prop is one of the many unusual features of the Lockheed YO-3A Quiet Star aircraft, shown here at The Museum of Flight Restoration Center. Photo courtesy The Museum of Flight.

Lockheed YO-3A Quiet Star
Lockheed’s Missile and Space Division designed the YO-3A as a nearly silent observation aircraft. The United States Army used the plane to spot nighttime enemy activity and direct artillery fire during the war in Vietnam. A downward-facing periscope equipped with night vision and infrared (heat sensing) capabilities allowed the aircraft’s forward observer to spot activity on the jungle floor, even in nearly complete darkness.

The YO-3A used an ultra-efficient airframe based on a Schweizer SGS 2-32 glider. The plane’s muffler-equipped engine drove a special slow propeller that eliminated the buzzing sound typical of propeller aircraft. This let the YO-3A operate almost unheard by people on the ground. Lockheed project manager, Stanley Hall, described the aircraft’s noise as “the gentle rushing sound of the ocean surf.”

The Museum’s aircraft, 69-18005, was the sixth of just 11 aircraft constructed. It served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972 before it was sold to an aviation school. The Museum acquired the aircraft in 2010 from Mr. Bruce Elliot of La Connor, Wash.

The First “Stealth” Aircraft
In 1968, before the production YO-3A’s were built, the Army deployed the prototype for testing in Vietnam. The prototype called the QT-2, for “Quiet Thrust, two-seater,” represented the first use of aerial stealth technology in combat. Unlike the stealth aircraft we know today, the QT-2 and YO-3A were not designed to hide from radar, but to hide from human detection. The aircraft achieved this through its incredibly quiet engine, and by flying at night while using infrared and night vision technology instead of lights to spot the enemy.The YO-3A was so stealthy that the enemy’s first indication that they were being watched was usually when they heard the sound of the helicopter gunships an aircraft crew had called in to attack. By then it was usually too late.

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