Archives For secret aircraft

ufo city

Please pardon the lack of posts. Things have been rather hectic on and off and the news from the usual sources have been rather slow, reporting on experiments and ideas which I’ve written about before in their previous incarnations, or ones that seem to be of little interest to virtually anyone outside the field in question. But I did come across something from Ray Villard that gave me a good idea for a post. Basically, Ray explores the question of whether UFO sightings were culprits in accidents and finds that cases of mistaken identity can certainly cause you to crash a car or make a military pilot do something risky with his jet, but overall, you don’t have to worry if an alien spacecraft will run you off the road or out of the sky. This is all old news of course, but the incident mentioned in his opening paragraphs regarding a pilot who crashed his plane in a spirited pursuit of a UFO likely to have been a weather balloon, is noteworthy because it lets me try and address a very common and often hard to counter claim made by many ufologists.

A while ago, a small group of former high ranking Air Force officers claimed that UFOs regularly showed up during nuclear tests, occasionally disabling the warheads, something a lot of ardent conspiracy theorists and ufologists took as concrete proof of a long-standing idea that nuclear weapons attracted the aliens who come to Earth. Having military personnel talk about having no idea whet was in the sky above them or recalling chasing down bizarre objects which they could not identify and which their commanders seemed very reluctant to discuss, if they discussed the objects at all, sounds like a slam dunk to a UFO believer. If anyone would know what was in the skies, it should be the Air Force and if it doesn’t know, it must be an alien, right? There’s no way that crazy people are flying bombers and interceptors, and operating radar stations on such a massive scale that hundreds of honorably discharged specialists and career officers will come forward to talk about their UFOs sightings. And they’re right. There aren’t. But the issue is not a question of whether someone not entirely sane servers in the military. It’s military secrecy.

The defense establishment has a lot of secrets and these secrets are stratified. If you have top secret clearance while your colleague has a secret one, you know things he or she doesn’t and you’re not allowed to say anything about a top secret level project without those with the same exact clearance as you. This is important because clearances can also be project specific which means that two officers with top secret clearance may actually not be cleared to know about an extremely important project, or only one of them may be involved with it but is not allowed to say anything about his work to his counterpart. Getting pretty tangled isn’t it? Usually, this happens to minimize the potential leaks because the fewer people know about a critical project which has to stay in the shadows, the fewer people can spill any details and if they do, it’s easier to track down who talked and to whom. And during the cold war, the golden days of UFO sightings, very classified, compartmentalized work was constantly happening at military bases.

Former military pilots, specialists, and officers talking about UFOs isn’t crazy or poorly trained, they simply didn’t know what they saw or why because they weren’t allowed to know. Spy plane prototypes flying overhead, highly experimental detectors and weapons systems flew across an impressive swath of the country in total secrecy and whoever detected them with no clue what a bizarre objects like that was doing in the air, was unlikely to have the clearances to find out what they actually were. And the same trend continues today, so even as the number of clearances grows, there are still few people who can accurately connect the dots on today’s black projects, ones likely to involve very oddly shaped robotic craft that have been mistaken for UFOs by the public when being trucked from base to base, even when they were already known to exist and had their own Wikipedia pages for years. Just imagine what’s happening behind closed doors at the infamous Area 51 base, the birthplace of the world’s most advanced military jets. How many experimental planes are flying in the skies today and how many are so secret that only a room full of people are allowed to know about them? How many have been spotted as UFOs?

Over the last decade, thereve been rumors of a jet that can fly more than six times the speed of sound and cross continents in minutes. Air quakes and strange contrails on weather maps along with secret line items for black project funding mentioning something called Aurora, are often cited as evidence for this kind of technology. It was even featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics and merited special mention in a speculative article on the next generation of secret warplanes. It must be somewhere, hiding in the hangars of Area 51, just waiting to be unveiled like the SR-71 Blackbird and the Stealth, right?

Well, probably not. Maybe there’s a prototype somewhere of a potentially hypersonic plane that was even flown a few times and put away in cold storage. But its probably very different from the speculative drawings and as counterintuitive as it may sound, it wont have much of a role in military efforts because of just how fast and powerful it’s supposed to be.

aurora hypersonic jet renderFirst and foremost, all speculative designs for Aurora have a triangular shape, aerodynamically perfect for a jet thats supposed to go faster than six times the speed of sound. It reduces the friction of the air around it and diffuses the immense heat it will generate. Its engines, however, resemble a scramjet array. In theory, scramjet engines with no moving parts are supposed to generate enough power to propel a craft to more than Mach 12. In reality, theyre not stable yet and few serious tests resulted in a successful flight. Our stumbles in this technology have led to the shelving of many promising space plane projects intended to replace the shuttle and the Concord.

Using ramjets, which weve been able to create, wouldn’t give the plane enough oomph to get to Mach 6 and qualify it as a hypersonic jet. Other theoretical propulsion like pulse detonation engines is even less reliable and their current tests are worlds away from the energy output itll need to produce to move more than 30 tons of aircraft at 4,600 miles per hour.

Secondly, moving that fast would make Aurora ineffective at many of its intended functions. It could only fire very long range guided missiles. Close combat will be next to impossible since it will be too fast to hit with an unguided weapon and at the same time too fast to return fire. It would also be too fast for reconnaissance. It would move as fast as a satellite, but a satellite is far above the Earth and has more time to look at an area of interest. The Aurora would scream by and have just a precious second or two over the area of interest, requiring multiple passes to get the necessary high quality photos. It would be a good nuclear bomber because it could deliver powerful ordinance in a flash but it may have to sacrifice too much accuracy on non- nuclear bombing runs in order to move quickly.

All this brings us to our third and final problem with Aurora as a viable military aicraft. It would be redundant. Reconnaissance by plane had to be done until satellite technology advanced far enough along to monitor areas of interest across the globe. Satellites are fast, difficult to shoot down (even though the US and China have shown they can do it) and they have enough time to capture high resolution images and videos. Existing jets like the F18 and F22 are well suited to fight unit to unit (although when was the last time US aircraft had to dogfight?) and perform a quick bombing run. Stealth bombers are exactly that. Perfect bombers. And when it comes to delivering nuclear ordinance Lets just say that ICBMs are really fast, scary and can find their target half a world away with impressive ease.

When we put together our current technical capabilities, the engineering challenges and all the problems in using something this fast, expensive and complex efficiently, it looks like Aurora is not going to see the light of day for a very long time if it ever will. My regrets to the potential lonely prototype out there in a top secret hangar. Generals love powerful and expensive toys, but if the history of Area 51’s experiments is any guide, many of those toys end up as nothing more than novel ideas.