Thursday, July 15, 2021

Looking back at "Aurora" and a new clue that it may really have existed.

 Way back in the 1990s there was a lot of speculation about a possible high-speed aircraft built secretly to replace the SR-71 Blackbird. There was even some evidence to support this, a series of "skyquakes" (in actuality sonic booms) over the western U.S. along with even stranger sightings of "donuts-on-a-rope" contrails (some I actually photographed) and sightings (some from trained aircraft identification spotters such as Chris Gibson ) of a highly swept-winged hypersonic aircraft seen flying in formation with other military aircraft.

This unicorn was dubbed "Aurora" after a mysterious line item that inadvertently was included in the 1985 U.S. budget, as an allocation of $455 million for "black aircraft production" in FY 1987.
"Funding of the project allegedly reached $2.3 billion in fiscal 1987, according to a 1986 procurement document obtained by Aviation Week. In the 1994 book Skunk Works, Ben Rich, the former head of Lockheed's Skunk Works division, wrote that the Aurora was the budgetary code name for the stealth bomber fly-off that resulted in the B-2 Spirit."
But the name Aurora stuck and although no official successor to the SR-71 was ever acknowledged, in 2017 according to Lockheed Martin they were developing the SR-72, colloquially referred to as "Son of Blackbird" as a hypersonic UAV concept intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform as a successor to the retired Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The company said the SR-72 test vehicle could fly by 2023. Coincidentally the "skyquakes" are back and the California coast is rattling again.
That said -was there ever an Aurora?
While doing my own research after my own sighting (and after a sighting of "Aurora" causes considerable stir in the media, a HF phone patch was intercepted by a military radio hobbyist that was particularly telling. See attached. This comes from my book "The Comprehensive Guide to Military Monitoring" published in 1994.
At the time (early 90s) no one really knew who (sic) "McMann" was mentioned in the radio intercept was but it was a short walk to surmise he is a person of note who was charged keeping the aviation press at bay when it came to the subject of "Aurora."
Decades later a friend pointed out they now know who "McMann" could very well be, His bio was found on the website of
Modern Technology Solutions.
It reads:
About Jesse T. (Tom) McMahan
Jesse T. (Tom) McMahan is Co-President and Founder of Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI) of Alexandria, Virginia. MTSI operates in several locations around the country with core capabilities in modeling and simulation of advanced aerospace systems, flight and ground test support, systems engineering, acquisition planning, operational concept development, and business and financial management.
He has been with MTSI since its founding in 1993 and has seen the company grow to over 200 employees. His specialty is in advanced technologies supporting aircraft survivability and weapons as well as in modeling and simulation of air defense systems.
Tom left UMR with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1966 and worked for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, Maryland until 1968 when he entered the Air Force. His 25 year Air Force career was devoted to science and technology programs and weapon systems acquisition. The Air Force sent him back to UMR in 1972 for a Masters Degree in Engineering Management. He was fortunate to become involved in the early days of the stealth and counter stealth technology programs and spent the last 15 years of his career in that area. His final Air Force job was as Director of Electronic and Special Programs in the Pentagon.
Tom is now working about half time with MTSI. He is a past member and current ad hoc advisor to the Air Force Scientific Advisory board and sits on Boards of Directors and Strategy Boards of several small companies involved in advanced aircraft survivability technologies.
So does this mean that Aurora existed? Well, maybe not under that name but this finding (although decades late) does shed some light in a very dark corner of 90s conceptual military technology.
Maybe the SR-72 is the great grandson of Blackbird?


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