The fantastic 10 Percent True YouTube channel, the creation of Steve Davies, recently had Denny Jarvi on as a guest. Jarvi was an accomplished U.S. Air Force fighter pilot that found himself descending into the shadowy black projects world in the early 1980s to help run the top-secret Battlefield Surveillance Aircraft-Experimental (BSAX) demonstrator program, better known as Tacit Blue. In the interview, Jarvi gives a frank account of many of the finer details of what is understood to have been one of the most transformational secret aircraft test programs in known history, although it is often overshadowed by Lockheed’s Have Blue stealth demonstrator that came before it.
Northrop’s “Whale” demonstrator, the centerpiece of the Tacit Blue program, is maybe most famous for its absolutely homely looks. “Wow, haha, this is not the prettiest machine I’ve ever seen,” was Jarvi’s first impression of the aircraft after setting eyes on it. Yet it was a product of the early days of the stealth revolution, which broke all traditions when it came to what a combat aircraft should look like.
Tacit Blue aimed to prove that a surveillance aircraft could persist for long periods of time over the front lines of the battlefield while collecting very high-fidelity intelligence and survive to repeat the task the next day. This was a huge departure from past spy aircraft like the SR-71, which basically took a snapshot in time. With the help of stealth technology and highly tailored sensors and communications systems, Tacit Blue proved that an aircraft could deliver what would be akin to a constant feed of near real-time intelligence over or very near the most hostile places on earth. It was like going from taking a Polaroid picture at a birthday party to filming the entire party without anyone even knowing you were there. Simply put, Tacit Blue’s success represented a quantum leap in how intelligence could be gathered from the air and its accomplishments still reverberate throughout the U.S. military today.
The video is well worth a watch in its entirety. Jarvi’s recollections are highly interesting and they help add color to what is, unfortunately, something of an obscure footnote in military aviation history.