New theory: Green Dart is a counter-narc spy UAV

In case you’re still wondering about my little obsession with Hunter Green Dart this week, I have a new theory.

This is obviously a classified program with an unclassified code name, which is a reliable recipe for driving me nuts until I can figure out what it is. Some of you may remember my earlier blog posts about the Littoral Surveillance Radar System, which was a similar mystery until the navy mercifully revealed the first details about the program in July.

So what is the Hunter Green Dart?

I’m starting with the assumption that Hunter refers to the Northrop Grumman unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designated variously as the E-Hunter, the RQ-5 and the MQ-5B. We also know, thanks to Bill Sweetman’s mad googling skills, that Green Dart refers to a payload. And, finally, it belongs to the Intelligence and Security Command, so it’s reasonable to conclude as a starting assumption that it generally refers to a Hunter UAS equipped with an intelligence payload.

But what is the nature of the payload and what is its mission? For that, I decided to search for clues in the code name itself. This is not always reliable, of course, but sometimes it’s actually a very helpful guide.

What could Green mean? Green has been a code name for two counter-narcotics operations in South America — Green Clover and Green Sweep, according to William N. Arkin’s fabulous reference book: “Code Names”. US Southern Command has been increasingly interested in UAVs for both imagery and electronic surveillance as it steps up a campaign to thwart narcotics traffickers in the region. The problem here is, how do you fly Hunter in South American airspace?

So what does Dart mean? That’s trickier. There’s no “dart” series of code names, but there is one good possibility. The air force ran a program called Compass Dart in the Vietnam War, which basically meant outfitting a fleet of C-47 Gooney Birds with electronic range direction finding antennas and using the fleet to hunt for SAMs.

So there you have it. Green Dart is some kind of signals intelligence payload aimed at narcotics traffickers.

Or maybe not. But that’s my theory.

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