Scaled Composites, the storied ‘bleeding-edge’ aircraft design firm, is known for their absolutely ecclectic array of exotic airframes. Some of them, created for one purpose, have then gone on to serve long lives as test aircraft for various systems and concepts, with the Department Of Defense being their most persistent customer. One such aircraft, ARES, which stands for Agile Responsive Effective Support, was built 30 years ago as a very light and affordable close air support proof of concept aircraft. Fast forward to today and the little jet’s 25mm cannon may be long gone, but it has continued to serve brilliantly as a testbed, at times being highly modified with various systems. Now it appears that it has received its very own version of Star Wars’ most iconic ‘astromech droid.’
ARES is quite modular in nature and has been fitted with all types of satellite communications systems over the years. It’s thought to have served as a surrogate testbed for a number of classified unmanned aircraft programs, in particular. As such, it isn’t that odd to see a satcom dome mounted on its spine.
What is new is that this particular satcom dome looks like the top of R2-D2, the loveable droid from Star Wars that acts as a sort of navigator and flight engineer, and that clearly wasn’t lost on the Scaled Composites team. The dome wears a paint pattern that is a dead ringer to the Star Wars fan fav. The placement is also absolutely spot on, with R2-D2 riding above behind the cockpit of Luke’s X-Wing starfighter in the original films and other media.
The shots come to us from aviation photographer James Reeder, who goes by the handle @boreeder on Instagram. He snapped these pictures of ARES while it was landing at Mojave Air And Space Port, home to Scaled Composites, on June 24th, 2021.
Scaled Composites has a very creative culture and a lot of thought seems to be put into the lore and naming of their unique aircraft, which sport monikers like Proteus and Firebird. Just take ARES ‘children,’ the Model 401 ‘Son Of ARES’ demonstrators, Deimos and Phobos, as an example (yes it is a father!). In fact, just look at one of the stencils painted ARES’ fuselage showing pride of its offspring—the ‘chemtrail tank’ is also a nice touch. Deimos and Phobos have gone on to do all types of shadowy work since their birth four years ago.
No wonder their father is proud.
With all this in mind, it’s not too surprising that the folks at Scaled Composites would have a little fun with what is a glaring resemblance of ARES’ satcom installation to the classic R2-D2 and X-Wing configuration. It’s certainly isn’t the first time such a connection has been made in the military aviation world, either.
Now can it lock down a stabilizer?
Author’s note: A big thanks to James Reeder for sharing his ARES shots with us. He has some gorgeous aviation images on his Instagram, make sure to follow him!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com