Monday, July 7, 2008
In Defense Of Black Star
I was thinking about what I should post on this blog and going through some of my older writings on the subject of black aircraft I found the my original unedited version of a story I wrote for Aircraft Illustrated about Aviation Week's (former) editor Bill Scott's article on "Black Star." and the response to that story.
I talked to Bill last week about a lot of things (including Black Star) and we agreed that there are still a lot of black projects projects (going way back to the Reagan years) that have yet to be revealed and may never will be.
Many Internet pundits (having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) have said,. "Okay --where's Aurora. Where's the F-19? Where's the TR-3A?
If they really existed, Shouldn't they (the government) have come clean by now like they did with Tacit Blue?
It is quite likely that the SAPs that Bill and i wrote about are still classified above Top Secret and may not be acknowledged for another fifty years,or so - not just because the technology is sensitive but the various purposes and missions these classified aircraft flew are sensitive as well as are still-classified missions flown by the f-117, SR-71 and U-2.
In light of this, here my original AI story. I hope someday that I will live to say, "I told you so,"
Is This The Real Aurora?
By Steve Douglass
Finally! There it was, revealed in the March 6 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine for the entire world to marvel at, one of the U.S. intelligence community’s most closely guarded secrets, the existence of a covert intelligence gathering system consisting of a high-speed mother ship and baby space plane capable of zooming over terrorist states without warning, in search of hidden nuclear weapons cache’s or the tell-tale drum beats that signaled an impending war.
I say finally, because for this author it is the culmination and confirmation of over sixteen years of research, starting with the over flight of my home by an “unacknowledged” high-speed-bullet of an aircraft in the spring of 1992.
In three-part articles titled: “SPACE PLANE SHELVED?, SPEEDY DAMAGED? and ECHOES OF VALHALLA.” Aviation Week editor William B Scott lays bare the secrets surrounding the development and operation of two remarkable achievements in aviation and space technology, that until now were only officially known by a small group of industry and intelligence agency insiders and kept hidden from the even the highest ranking members in the U.S. Congress.
Known is secret circles as the SR3 Blackstar (mothership) and the XOV (Speedy) this two-ship system consists of a large supersonic aircraft (possibly based on the XB-70 prototype 0f the 1960s) and a mini-space plane that may or may not be a manned aircraft.
Developed in total secrecy by Lockheed & Boeing, (during the late 1980s and early 90s) the system filled a desperate need for a quick and dirty way to launch small payloads into space, and possibly kinetic energy weapons “rods from the gods” and mini reconnaissance satellites capable of sucking up radio communications or photo recon.
Although this system was never named “Aurora” these craft may indeed be the source of sonic booms, sightings and rumors surrounding a replacement system for the SR-71 Blackbird after its (what many thought was premature) retirement.
According to the AVWK article, the large “mothership” that closely resembles the 1960s era XB-70 supersonic bomber prototype carries the mini-space plane underneath its’ belly.
The carrier aircraft then lifts the space plane up to an altitude in excess of 100,000 (and at Mach 3+ speeds) and launches it into a low earth altitude (300 miles) where it can race across a target country (either for gathering intelligence or dropping a weapon or into outer space where it can launch mini-recon satellites) and then glide down (like the space shuttle) to land at a remote and secure landing strip.
Just minutes after the article was posted on Aviation Week’s website the buzz among black project watchers and aviation aficionados began.
Some scoffed at the report as being flawed and only based on rumor and hearsay, more conjecture than fact-based.
Others saw it as just the logical answers to the source behind a series of perplexing sightings (both eye and ear-witness reports of strange aircraft) unexplained government black-budget line item requests and what many consider the logical follow-ons to retired reconnaissance platforms (such as the SR-71 Blackbird.
It was clear from many of the postings in aviation forums (and Blogs) that most of the negative comments came from those who only read the first part of the three-part article “SPACE PLANE SHELVED” which was the only part posted (for non- AVWK subscribers) and had not read the other two parts” SPEEDY DAMAGED?” and “ECHOES OF VALHALLA.” which detailed the evidence and sighting reports from military pilots and others with impeccable credentials.
Negative comments centered mostly on the belief that it would be almost impossible to develop such a complicated, expensive and sophisticated system without the American public being aware, but those type of comments came from posters who did not read the entire article with Bill Scott’s excellent research on how the project was specifically structured to isolate it from the military (promoting “plausible denialbility”) with it being overseen by private sector contractors much like how the United Space Alliance now manages huge parts of NASA’s manned space flight program.
Some of those skeptical of the report did come with bona fide space and aviation journalism credentials such as MSNBC space analyst James Oberg, who didn’t attack the report outright but let other sources (some anonymous) state their skepticism.
According to his article posted at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11691989/ . Oberg writes: “Aviation Week's report did not make clear exactly why such a program might be shelved — and after reading the report, aerospace experts questioned a number of claims made for the Blackstar concept. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources told MSNBC.com that they believed the concept was unworkable, based on principles of rocket design. One source said the mothership would be flying much too slow and too low for a space plane to reach orbital speed after release. When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sought proposals for an unmanned RASCAL satellite launcher five years ago, the specifications called for the carrier aircraft to go much higher, and the submitted designs still needed two stages to reach orbital speed.”
Another space pundit, Jeffrey F. Bell (who posted an article on www.spacetravel.com) was not near as kind as Oberg. He called the report “A false messiah” and a long-standing fantasy in the space community.
Jeffrey F. Bell who calls himself a “former space scientist and recovering pro-space activist.” and one who repeatedly refers to those who believe in Blackstar’s existence as “space cadets” wrote “AvWeek has a long history of "revealing" secret programs that turned out to be either government disinformation, corporate disinformation, or just plain fantasy.
“In the 1980s and 1990s AvWeek ran lurid pictures of hypersonic "Aurora" vehicles (my favorite was the one that cruised upside down and was covered with dozens of launching ports for H-bombs). Only last year, AvWeek published a totally credulous article about spaceships powered by "zero-point energy" which quoted only quack promoters and ignored real physicists.”
But Bell doesn’t care to site instances when an AvWeek disclosures turned out to be right on the money, such as being the first to report on the (also highly classified at the time) stealth fighter project (Have Blue) which lead to the development of the F-117A or Northrop’s Tacit Blue program or Boeing’s Bird Of Prey advanced stealth proof-of-concept vehicle.
Bell’s report goes on to site what he sees as other errors in the story, such as: “The alleged function of Blackstar and sightings that don't make any sense.”
"The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight. There would be no forewarning of its presence, prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden."
Soviet (I think he means Russian-SD) missile-warning satellites would pick up the IR plume from the second stage, and since it would not be at a known space launch site they would interpret it as a covert nuclear missile launch. At a minimum you would get a major diplomatic crisis, at worst an accidental nuclear war!
Although Bell claims Scott’s article is technically flawed, so is his argument.
He shows a real ignorance of stealth technology and the technical breakthroughs that dramatically lower IR signatures, including the successful masking hot exhaust plumes employed by the Air Force on modern ICBMs.
Bell also mistakenly seems to think the XOV’s advanced imaging suite (that features 1-meter-aperture adaptive optics with an integral sodium-ion-sensing laser) would be detected as some sort of weapon and thus triggering aggression.
Terrain scanning LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) lasers have been used on earth sensing satellites and stealth aircraft for decades and they haven’t triggered a war yet.
Although it may seem the SR-5/XOV project may be to some a radical new design and a giant technological leap forward, the technology involved is based on tried and true older concepts such as they XB-70 “mothership concept) and the U.S. Air Force Dyna Soar (space plane) project.
Those who scoff at the report, saying it is too dangerous and difficult to launch a simple space-plane system into space, forget the private-sector has already accomplished just that and without the billion-dollar backing of any government.
On October 4, 2004, the privately funded SpaceShipOne rocketed into history, becoming the first private manned spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within the span of a 14 day period, thus claiming the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize.
Many have asked, if the SR-5 and XOV truly exist, why have so many insiders suddenly now come forward, willingly ready now to talk about this still highly classified program?
The history of black “Special Access” programs is piecemeal.
Although we now know some of the story behind several remarkable military aviation technological breakthroughs (such as the discovery of formula for radar-invisible stealth technology made by Lockheed‘s now famous Skunk Works) much of the history is still classified and under the threat of being lost forever.
It has been revealed the Have Blue stealth prototypes (considered at the time too sensitive to keep in unguarded or expensive guarded storage) were lost forever, buried in a deep hole (now under a paved taxi-way) at Area 51.
Those close to the space-plane project fear the same fate is slated for the SR-5 (XB-70 type mothership) now possibly kept in flyable storage inside the large hangar (known to Groomies as Hangar 18) at Area 51.
It is thought that the space plane (now modified to take off from the ground under its own power) is still in operational service and not yet threatened with final disposition.
This author (and a witness) had a recent sighting of what may have well been this space plane just last summer. The story of this recent sighting, (which I see as confirmation that some type of space plane or follow-on system exists) will be detailed later in this report.
As other projects at Area 51 mature or become operational and new ones are begun, storage space at the secret base is becoming limited so the shelved XB-70 “Super Valkyrie” mothership may be seen by some as taking up valuable hangar space which could be better served as work areas for other projects.
It is feared the mothership could suffer the same fate as Have Blue, either cut up and buried under restricted government desert property with the bulk of unclassified materials (such as aluminum used in the super Valkyrie’s skin) sold to scrap dealers and ending up recycled in the form of double wide mobile homes.
It is the personal view of some closely attached to the project that the SR-3 deserves a better fate and the aircraft existence should be celebrated not hidden way forever. The toil and genius of the system’s designers, builders, pilots and crews should be told as well as the important role the aircraft served, providing vital information to the United States and its allies on the movements, communications and type of threat enemy states posed and at a time when America’s space surveillance systems were literally in jeopardy of falling out of the sky.
Roots in The Past
The family tree that lead to the development of the SR-3/XOV began in the early 1ate 1950s when the U.S. Air Force began looking for ways to create a military space plane (not unlike a mini-space shuttle) that could be used for a variety of military missions, including reconnaissance, bombing, space rescue, satellite maintenance, and sabotage of enemy satellites.
Designated X-20 or Dyna Soar (for Dynamic Soaring) the concept had its roots in a German bomber project of World War II conceived by Eugen Sanger.
It was Sanger’s original “ Silbervogel” concept to create a rocket-powered bomber that could cover vast distances by gliding to its target after being boosted to high speed (>5.5km/s) and high altitude (50-150km) by rocket engines and then (in a series of boost-glide parabolas,) skip across the upper atmosphere to attack a target and then glide down to a safe landing on a remote landing strip.
The Air Force Dyna Soar project initiated in 1957was kick started by information gleaned from captured World War II German scientists (chief among them among them being Dr. Walter Dornberger the former head of Germany's wartime rocket program, who had detailed knowledge of Sanger’s “antipodal bomber” concepts.
In October of 1957, the USAF Air Research and Development Command solicited to military contractors a call for proposals for development of the “Hypersonic Glide Rocket Weapon System" (Weapons System 464L): also known as Dyna Soar. In 1958 nine aerospace company’s submitted designs, with the ultimate winner being Boeing who narrowly beat out Bell and were awarded the final contract in 1959.
In 1961, the Titan III ballistic was finalized as the launch vehicle. The Dyna-Soar was to be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
In April 1960, seven astronauts were secretly chosen for the Dyna Soar program, one of which was Neil Armstrong who would alter become the first man to walk on the moon.
Although much of the hardware had been tested and many involved in the program were sure the concept had merit and would indeed work, it was abandoned in 1963 for several reasons, most of them political and not technical such as some questioning the need for two space programs (one military and one civil) with both competing for limited government funding.
NASA had just begun the manned space flight program (beginning with the Mercury) and there was also talk among politicians in Washington who were having second thoughts about the militarization of space.
As a result of the American public’s intense interest in the space race and calls for keeping space out of the hands of the warriors, NASA won out.
On December 10, 1963, Secretary Of Defense Robert McNamara killed Dyna Soar, but much of the data generated by the project lead directly to the space shuttle program and most likely the XOV.
Meanwhile during the same era the Air Force wanted to build a new large supersonic nuke carrier for Strategic Air Command.
Then (1954) SAC commander General Curtis Lemay wanted a big (and fast) stick to wield to give the Soviet nuclear forces something to loose sleep over. Although the relatively new B-52 was a formidable bomber, Lemay thought it was too slow and thus vulnerable to new faster Soviet fighters. SAC’s other bomber, the supersonic B-58 Hustler, although fast (Mach 3) was limited in bomb carrying capacity.
What was needed, Lemay thought, was a large supersonic bomber capable of extended high-altitude supersonic flight and delivering a huge bomb load to heavily defended areas in the Soviet Union such as Moscow.
North American Rockwell answered the call with their radical WS-110 concept, which eventually became the XB-70 bomber or “Valkyrie.”
The XB-70 was a Mach 3 capable bomber featuring a large delta wing and a forward canard with configurable drooping wing tips that created what was called the “compression lift effect” which enabled (at high –speed) the aircraft to ride the supersonic shockwave. Essentially, the XB-70 was a modified wave-rider design, which was ahead of its time.
Propelled by six powerful engines that could run on an exotic “zip fuel” composed of ethyl-borane the XB-70 was a remarkable achievement in aviation history although it never lead to a fielded operational bomber for SAC.
According to an excellent article on the history of the XB-70 program posted at (http://unrealaircraft.com/classics/xb70.php) and titled “Unreal Aircraft, Lost Classics-North American XB-70 Valkyrie: “After a review in 1960, the program was partially restored, and allowance was made for up to twelve fully-operational B-70s to be built, in addition to the prototype.
In March 1961, during the Kennedy administration, it was still held that missile development made the B-70 unjustifiable. It was reduced to the status of a Mach 3 research project, with an airframe potentially useful as a bomber. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara promptly cut back the program to three prototypes, which were ordered on 4th October, 1961; but the third was cancelled a few weeks later, leaving only aircraft with the USAF numbers 62-001 and 62-207.
The USAF tried to keep some promise in the project by changing the role of the B-70 to strike-reconnaissance late in 1962, and temporarily re-designated the aircraft RS-70. They proposed an initial delivery of sixty RS-70s to enter service in 1969 and a further 150 the year after.
Apart from a slight flicker of interest from the House Armed Services Commission, it was wishful thinking on the USAF's part, the more so when the existence of the purpose-built Lockheed A-12, which had also been under development since the late 1950s, was revealed to President Johnson late in 1963 and announced to the world in February 1964.
After a successful flight test program and a horrendous mid-air collision with a chase plane (that claimed the life of test pilot Major Cross, and loss of XB-70 62-207) the project was cancelled with the remaining XB-70 flying on until 1969 serving as a research platform for NASA, amassing copious data on supersonic flight that could be applied to other programs.
The surviving XB-70, 62-001, continued to amass research data, largely for NASA. Its last flight was on 4th February 1969, to the USAF Museum, Wright-Patterson.
And this is the part of the story where things go -- black.
According to those inside the XB-70 program a 3rd XB-70 was under construction when the program was cancelled and it has been rumored for decades it was eventually finished and put into flyable storage to be used as a “sliver bullet” if the Cold War was to turned hot.
Why not just use NASA’s XB-70 research vehicle instead of sending it to the museum one might ask?
XB-70, 62-001, was not ever intended to become an operational version of the bomber and was instead only configured as a research vehicle, so it would not be suitable for combat.
Also, if it did not show up at the museum (and just disappeared into secret storage) the Soviets would have known it and cried foul. A secret supersonic bomber could be held in reserve. Ready to fly in a moments notice without anyone being the wiser.
There is anecdotal evidence to support the rumor. According to an article on the history of the XB-70 bomber posted at: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/research/xb70/ :
“Construction had also started on a third XB-70 prototype that carried a crew of four and would have been much closer to the final production design. As managers struggled to keep the B-70 program alive, proposals were made to equip this third aircraft with even more extensive research capabilities than the earlier prototypes had received. Among the proposals were plans to use the aircraft as a high-altitude astronomical observatory, a recoverable first stage booster for launching payloads into orbit, a platform for launching anti-satellite weapons, a high-altitude communications relay, a high-speed propulsion test craft, and a vehicle to test methods of reducing radar cross section. Although construction of this aircraft was well underway, it was cancelled prior to completion.”
However, according to William Scott’s AVWK Blackstar Shelved report, the final disposition of the supposedly never finished 3rd vehicle (and the material stored to build other B-70s) remains a mystery.
“Several SR-3 vehicles could have been built fairly quickly from material that had been delivered for XB-70 Air Vehicle No. 3 (AV-3). Work on AV-3 ceased when its contract was canceled on Feb. 15, 1964. However, more than 24,000 sq. ft. of honeycomb-core material, 157,000 lb. of sheet metal and 26,000 ft. of metal extrusions had already been delivered for AV-3, according to public records.
Tony Landis, a coauthor of North American XB-70A Valkyrie (published in 2002 as Vol. 34 of the Warbird Tech series), said his research “never found any reference to the disposal of the six General Electric Aircraft Engines was still researching this matter.”
When sightings of an XB-70 bomber-like aircraft began to surface, this author began his own research into the idea that the canceled XB-70 might have been resurrected or lead to the construction of a modern counterpart. In my research I quite accidentally came across a local Amarillo man who said he was stationed at the old Amarillo Air Force Base during its last years.
This former jet mechanic trainee (who never told me his name) said in the spring of 1968, he remembered to his great surprise seeing what he thought was an active Air Force B-70 bomber landing one dark night and being hurriedly hidden away in one of the old B-47 hangars.
The next morning on the pretext of retrieving some tools, he and a buddy talked their way past a clueless guard, entered the hangar and took a long good look at the aircraft, including a walk around. He said he remembered clearly how big and beautiful the bomber was and that it was wearing USAF (and not NASA) markings and painted light grey, not white like the XB-70 prototypes.
While they were admiring the aircraft they were discovered by an officer, who asked them what their business was in the hangar.
The pair confessed they were jet mechanics and just wanted to see the aircraft that had flown in the night before. Later they were ordered to sign a form (as they found out were all the personnel on base who saw the aircraft) promising not to disclose what they saw.
Other than being sworn to secrecy, the officer didn’t seemed to be too perturbed that the mechanics were in the hangar looking at a supposedly secret aircraft. In fact, he gave the two airmen the cook’s tour, which included a trip to the cockpit and a full inspection of the aircraft’s engines and bomb bays.
When one of the mechanics asked what it was doing in Amarillo, they said the aircraft had to divert because of an in-flight emergency, a fire indication that turned out to be a false alarm. Later that night under the cover of darkness, the aircraft took off with what the mechanic described as a chest-rumbling roar that caused residents to call the police and ask what the racket was.
Even though the man who told me this tale seemed to be an honest-joe, at the time I doubted the story. Maybe the man had his dates mixed up and he saw one of the two XB-70 prototypes? I rationalized, but as more and more sighing reports of a an XB-70 like aircraft began to surface I began to ponder the possibility what this man reported could be true.
However, since then I have never been able to confirm the report even by digging through the stacks (archives) at the Amarillo Globe News, searching for any stories possibly written about complaints of the noise coming from the base, however I found nothing and without exact dates the search is difficult at best.
Is it possible that a secret stash of two or more B-70 bombers were taken out of mothballs, upgraded and updated with 1990s technology and avionics and used as launch platforms for secret space planes? Or when faced with the threat of having no way to conduct direct satellite surveillance on the enemies of the U.S. did the NRO or CIA take the plans of two proven Cold War–era technologies, dusted them off and created new and improved versions of a 1960s high-altitude bomber and a baby space plane to fill an urgent need?
It may seem to some far-fetched, but the body of evidence is highly stacked in favor of existence.
Is this Aurora?
And then there’s the question? Is the Mothership and XOV pair the true source of the so- called “Aurora” sightings and speculation?
Although the dual sightings/dual skyquakes and F-15 pilot witness reports (cited in the AvWeek article) swing the needle heavily in the mothership/spaceplane column (accounting for the majority of sonic booms and sightings) it is becoming increasingly clear that at least one other classified high-speed aircraft does indeed exist.
But if as the AvWeek article states the SR-3 has been shelved, and as recent sightings by this author indicate a new and improved XOV can now reach orbit under its own power, why have the sightings and sonic booms continued of a high-speed SR-71 sized craft?
Only recently was this report posted on AvWeek’s Aerospace Daily web site: “
Military personnel stationed at Yokota AB, Japan, have spotted what may be highly classified "black" aircraft that could be flying spy missions over North Korea. Two or three of the unknown aircraft appeared at Yokota periodically over the last year, flying night missions for 2-3 weeks at a time, then departing. USAF C-5 Galaxy transports may have accompanied the "black" aircraft. The latter were kept in special hangars, appearing only during night hours, and were described as "very fast." The unknown aircraft were smaller and more sleek than now-retired SR-71 Blackbirds, one observer said.”
And what about Meinrad Erberle’s sighting of a “Fastmover” taking off from Groom in 1999 (as featured in the March, 2000 issue of Aircraft Illustrated) or the sighting reports coming from military personnel coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan?
There was also the strange incident in July of 2002, where F-16s were scrambled to chase a extremely fast-moving aircraft flying over Washington D.C. and the even more bizarre case of a light civilian plane collided with something unknown and crashing into a swampy area in Big Bateau Bay, Alabama killing all on board. The cause of the crash remains a mystery with the only evidence being a hunk of metal (origin unknown) embedded in one wing.
The last sighting of the SR-3 mothership seems to have occurred in the late 1990s hinting that the aircraft was retired to make way for a more advanced replacement system.
Having served its’ important gap-filler mission requirements providing vital intelligence when the U.S. looked as if it was loosing its’ grip on near space, the SR-3 (if not the XOV) sits quietly awaiting its fate most likely in a hangar at Area 51.
Only time will tell if the story of these historically important “black” aircraft is ever brought into the white.
Sightings of a possibly new black aircraft began in 1989 with the well-documented Chris Gibson North Sea sighting, that some think could have been a replacement for the SR-71 Balckbird named Aurora, but in hindsight may have been the SR-3.
While working as an oil drilling engineer, Gibson spotted what may have been Aurora flying in formation with several F-111s behind a refueling tanker. Gibson's report is all the more credible because he is a longtime member of the Royal Observer Corps and considered an expert on aircraft recognition.
Gibson made a sketch of the unidentified aircraft and sent it to aviation researcher Bill Sweetman. Sweetman published the report in Jane's.
Soon after the North Sea sighting, civilian air Scottish air traffic controllers began tracking incredibly high-speed-blips on their scopes that would disappear near a joint American/Scottish Air Force special operations base at Machrihanish. Citizens in the area also reported great thunderous rolling booms echoing across the Mull of Kyntre.
In 1990 the first “XB-70 Mothership” sightings reports began showing up in the aviation press.
In September of that year there wee a total of five separate sighting of a large light-colored delta-shaped aircraft flying near Edwards AFB, California by residents in Mojave and civilian workers at the base.
Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in their August,, 24 1992 issue: “Observers said they first saw a large, primarily delta-shaped aircraft at night during the summer of 1990. On Sept. 13, 1990, and Oct. 3, 1990, the same type of aircraft was seen flying near Mojave, Calif., in the late evening. Mojave is about 16 naut. mi. northwest of Edwards AFB.
Engine noise associated with the aircraft seen on Sept. 19 was described as a low-pitched rumble. However, noise from two chase aircraft - one was an F-16, the other was not identified - may have combined with that of the large aircraft, distorting the latter's sound. Afterburner flames from twin exhaust ports located under the wing trailing edge and immediately outboard of the aircraft centerline during the Oct. 3 sighting.
A similar aircraft was seen in April 1991, at about 11 a.m., flying north of Edwards AFB at an estimated altitude of 5,000-10,000 ft. An observer said it was large - dwarfing an F-16 chasing it - and was light colored, possibly white.
The first sighting this year was near Atlanta, Ga., on May 10. Glenn Emery, now a writer associated with Cable News Network, said a large, unidentified aircraft was flying eastbound at about 5 p.m. Because its size was unknown, its altitude was difficult to judge, but was estimated to be 10,000-15,000 ft.
The vehicle was clearly higher and faster than the airline traffic descending for landing at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.
Another sighting, on July 12 at 11:45 p.m., occurred near a Lockheed-operated radar cross-section (RCS) test range in the Mojave Desert. Described as an "XB-70-like" shape, the aircraft tuned its landing lights on while at fairly high altitude, then descended quickly, following an S-pattern flight track. It made a final turn at about 200 ft. above a road, crossing less than a mile in front of a motorist who had watched its descend. Ambient noise masked any sounds from the aircraft.”
Soon after the “donuts on a rope contrails” sightings began. The first reports of a high-speed “pulser” aircraft leaving the distinctive “sausage link “ or “pearls on a string “ contrails in their wake began in California in early 1992 with subsequent sightings occurring over Colorado, and then over my hometown in Texas.
On April 5 and April 22nd of that year, military radio monitoring hobbyists intercepted the transmissions of what may have been a secret high-altitude aircraft on approach to Edwards, AFB. The unknown aircraft call sign “Gas Pipe” was directed by controllers to land in a manner that indicated it was reentering the atmosphere much like the Space Shuttle.
Then the “skyquakes”began waking sleepy citizens on the west coast of the United States.
Beginning in 1990 and lasting through all of 1992, these series of sonic booms rocking cities in Southern California came at regular intervals, in the wee hours of the morning and almost always on a Tuesday or Thursday nigh. It was, as if a secret aircraft was making a high-speed run across the high desert to its’ secret base in Nevada before the sun came up.
Dr. Jim Mori of the California Institute of Technology analyzed the booms and said "The booms came in twos, indicating a pair of aircraft on slightly different flight paths. The frequency and shape of each sonic wave differed from the Space Shuttle and indicated that a high-flying aircraft flying at hypersonic speeds greater than MACH 3 and above 100,000 feet) streaked across California and into Nevada.
At the time the only SR-71s were on lease to NASA and on the nights the skyquakes were recorded none were flying. "
Meanwhile back at the “ranch” at the not-so-secret black project test center known as Area 51, new, improved (and huge) hangar facilities were built.
In just a few short years the size of the secret base more than tripled. Satellite photos revealed a sprawling complex with a super-long runway, perfect for landing and launching high-speed aircraft.
In August 1992 a United Airlines 747 almost collided with a wedge-shaped object flying near the DAGGET VOR, near Edwards Air Force Base California.
The craft that almost collided with the 747 did not appear on radar controller’s scopes. The pilots said the craft was small, and looked like the front end of an SR-71 Blackbird. The FAA investigated but concluded the existence of the craft could not be verified.
In 1994, a British Airways jet had a close encounter with a high-speed aircraft that almost collided with the airliner. Described as being a wedge-shaped object by the co-pilot, the object passed directly in the flight path of the passenger packed air carrier. The CAA investigated but was never able to identify the craft involved.
Also in 1994, the infamous Boscombe Down incident occurred when sharp-eared aviation monitors intercepted communications concerning the possible crash-landing of a mystery craft at the Boscombe Down air base. Witnesses saw a tarpaulin covered aircraft looking like it had suffered a gear collapse sitting on one of the runways.
Just weeks later, this author monitored communications involved in the recovery of a crashed aircraft in New Mexico.
On, October 18 1994) 15:34 PM the author filed this report with AvWeek’s Bill Scott: “A C-130 out of Kirtland (SHADO 81) placed an HF phone patch to Edwards C.P.(SPORT CONTROL) on 11.176 MHZ USB The pilot (or whomever was talking said)
"We have the crash debris on board and are en route to Edwards." Request parking instructions and security to meet them when they land. Cargo is CLOSE WATCH." They also said "leading edges" had been recovered and were on board as well."
Calls to Kirtland and the Pentagon got a resounding We do not know what you are talking about" answer, but AvWeek’s Bill Scott found out through reliable Pentagon insiders that a "High Altitude Research Aircraft " had crashed on or around Wednesday October 19th south of Kirtland AFB, near Vaughn New Mexico.
Sightings of the XB-70 trailed off in 1997, indicating the program may have ended or been shelved for technical reasons, however, sightings of the space plane continued, including a sighting by a FedEx pilot (in 2000) who’s regular night-time route took him sixty or so miles north of Area 51.
The pilot, who could see the Groom Lake Strip very clearly watched as a craft sporting a very bright anti-collision light took off at high speed, climbed through his altitude and just kept going up and up as if into orbit. When he asked ATC controllers what the craft might have been, they matter-of-factly replied “Probably just one of the spooky flyers, flying out of the base that doesn’t exist.”
The latest sighting of what might have been the spaceplane occurred only last summer. Although unable to document the sighting (on film or video) I did post it on several message boards where it was generally dismissed of derided by self-imposed internet know-it-alls.
Fortunately I had a witness at the time, computer guru and friend Mike Dunlap who can verify my story.
Here is my original post: dated July, 24th 2005
“I had an interesting sighting of a fast mover tonight over Amarillo that caught me and a friend quite by surprise. Shortly after 10 PM (as we were coming home from a movie) I spotted a bright yellowish light in the southwestern sky moving at high speed directly toward us.
I first thought it was the International Space Station, which I have seen on many passes over the city, but as it neared the bright light suddenly switched off and was replaced by a bright red blinking anti-collision strobe.
As it flew directly overhead we could see three red lights (including the flashing one) arranged in a triangle shape with the flashing beacon on the south facing (right) side of the craft.
It was moving very fast (much faster than a passing airliner (we also were observing) and also appeared to be gaining in altitude. Our guesstimation was it was climbing up well over100, 000 feet but with nothing but black sky to see it against it (like high clouds) it's just a guess compared with other commercial aircraft flying in the area.
No sonic booms or jet engine noise was heard. We watched as it disappeared in the northeast in less than 5 minutes (speeding across the entire sky) faster than anything else in the air at the time.
Although it seemed to move as fast as satellites and the I.S.S. across the sky, I don't think it was either because of the strobes and lights. Both my friend and I came to the conclusion that it was climbing to altitude and from the direction it had come it might have originated in from one of the test ranges in New Mexico.