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Thread: SR-91 Aurora aircraft - Replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird

  1. SR-91 Aurora aircraft - Replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird

    Aurora, also credited as the SR-91 Aurora is the popular name for a hypothesized American reconnaissance aircraft, believed by some to be capable of hypersonic flight at speeds of Mach 5+. According to the hypothesis, the Aurora was developed in the 1980s or 1990s as a replacement for the aging and expensive SR-71 Blackbird.

    SR-91 Aurora

    A British Ministry of Defense report released in May 2006 refers to USAF priority plans to produce a Mach 4-6 highly supersonic vehicle, but no conclusive evidence has emerged to confirm the existence of such a project. It is believed by some that the Aurora project was canceled due to a shift from spy planes to high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites which can do the same job as a spy plane, but with less risk of casualties.

    Does the United States Air Force or one of America's intelligence agencies have a secret hypersonic aircraft capable of a Mach 6 performance? Continually growing evidence suggests that the answer to this question is yes. Perhaps the most well-known event which provides evidence of such a craft's existence is the sighting of a triangular plane over the North Sea in August 1989 by oil exploration engineer Chris Gibson.

    As well as the famous "skyquakes" heard over Los Angeles since the early 1990s, found to be heading for the secret Groom Lake (Area 51) installation in the Nevada desert, numerous other facts provide an understanding of how the aircraft's technology works. Rumored to exist but routinely denied by U.S. officials, the name of this aircraft is Aurora.

    SR-71 Blackbird

    The outside world uses the name Aurora because a censor's slip let it appear below the SR-71 Blackbird and U-2 in the 1985 Pentagon budget request. Even if this was the actual name of the project, it would have by now been changed after being compromised in such a manner.

    The plane's real name has been kept a secret along with its existence. This is not unfamiliar though, the F-117a stealth fighter was kept a secret for over ten years after its first pre-production test flight. The project is what is technically known as a Special Access Program (SAP). More often, such projects are referred to as "black programs."

    So what was the first sign of the existence of SR-91 Aurora? On 6 March 1990, one of the United States Air Force's Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spyplanes shattered the official air speed record from Los Angeles to Washington's Dulles Airport.

    There, a brief ceremony marked the end of the SR-71's operational career. Officially, the SR-71 was being retired to save the $200-$300 million a year it cost to operate the fleet. Some reporters were told the plane had been made redundant by sophisticated spy satellites.
    There was one problem, the USAF made no opposition towards the plane's retirement, and congressional attempts to revive the program were discouraged. Never in the history of the USAF had a program been closed without opposition. Aurora is the missing factor to the silent closure of the SR-71 program.

    Testing such a new radical aircraft brings immense costs and inconvenience, not just in the design and development of a prototype aircraft, but also in providing a secret testing place for aircraft that are obviously different from those the public are aware of.

    Groom Dry Lake, in the Nevada desert, is home to one of America's elite secret proving grounds. Here is Aurora's most likely test location. Comparing today's Groom Lake with images of the base in the 1970s, it is apparent that many of the larger buildings and hangars were added during the following decade.

    Also, the Groom Lake test facility has a lake-bed runway that is six miles long, twice as long as the longest normal runways in the United States. The reason for such a long runway is simple: the length of a runway is determined either by the distance an aircraft requires to accelerate to flying speed, or the distance that the aircraft needs to decelerate after landing.

    That distance is proportional to the speed at which lift off takes place. Usually, very long runways are designed for aircraft with very high minimum flying speeds, and, as is the case at Edwards AFB, these are aircraft that are optimized for very high maximum speeds. Almost 19,000 feet of the runway at Groom Lake is paved for normal operations.

    Lockheed's Skunk Works, now the Lockheed Advanced Development Company, is the most likely prime contractor for the SR-91 Aurora aircraft. Throughout the 1980s, financial analysts concluded that Lockheed had been engaged in several large classified projects. However, they weren't able to identify enough of them to account for the company's income.

    Technically, the Skunk Works has a unique record of managing large, high-risk programs under an incredible unparalleled secrecy. Even with high-risk projects the company has undertaken, Lockheed has a record of providing what it promises to deliver.

    In late August 1989, while working as an engineer on the jack up barge "GSF Galveston Key" in the North Sea, Chris Gibson and another witness saw an unfamiliar isosceles triangle shaped delta aircraft, apparently refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker and accompanied by a pair of F-111 fighters.

    On March 23, 1992, near Amarillo, Texas, Steven Douglas photographed the "doughnuts on a rope" contrail and linked this sighting to distinctive sounds. He described the engine noise as a strange, loud pulsating roar, unique ... a deep pulsating rumble that vibrated the house and made the windows shake, similar to rocket engine noise, but deeper, with evenly timed pulses.

    The distinctive "doughnuts on a rope" contrail and pulsing sounds reported by many have given rise to the speculation that the aircraft might use pulse detonation propulsion technology originally patented in the 1950s but not used on any acknowledged non-research project.

    Almost 25 years ago, Space Shuttle STS-61C, launched on January 12, 1986 took these amazing photos of a "UFO" in low earth orbit. I would submit these may be in fact photos of the secret SR-91 Aurora making this an Identified Flying Object.

    The top two photos were used in the movie Stealth, however that does not mean they are not the real thing.. after all the aircraft has been operational since at least 1986!


    I. Origine II. Description II. Budget III. Les moteurs de l'Au

    In terms of what we know, Groom Lake (popularly known as Area 51), where Aurora is believed to have operated from, has a massive runway of more than 23,000 feet.

    Image via Google Earth

    The lengthening of the runway apparently dates to the time that Aurora was supposedly flying. Such a long runway suggests an aircraft with an extremely high takeoff and landing speed (perhaps powered by a ramjet engine, as Aurora is/was believed to be.

    Interestingly, this runway appears to be closed today, as the yellow cross painted on the surface indicates (below), correlating to Aurora’s apparent termination and no further need for such a long runway. Despite this, Area 51 continues to expand, as the construction of a new hangar shows

    Google Earth

    There have been several sightings of a triangular aircraft plus unexplained “doughnuts-on-a-rope” contrails (below), although some say these could be made by conventional aircraft. The sound has been described as a deep pulsating rumble.

    Experts concluded that a series of bizarre sonic booms beginning in 1991 didn’t represent earthquakes or other aircraft, adding that data showed “something at 90,000 feet, Mach 4 to Mach 5.2″.

    One fascinating nugget of information – that seems extrordinarily coincidental – is that each unexplained sonic boom came on a Thursday morning between 6 and 7am.

    There will be more to come on the Aurora, but in the meantime you can find more information here. If you enjoyed this article, check out: China’s Secret Fleet of Stealth Fighters.

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  3. Top Secret Aircraft that Officially Do Not Exist

    There is nothing more fascinating in the aviation world than the “black projects” – aircraft programs that are so secret that even those with the highest security clearance have no idea they exist, occasionally the veil of secrecy is accidentally lifted, offering a fleeting glimpse into this shadowy world. Here we take to the air with six of the world’s most classified aircraft, assuming they exist, that is!


    Little is known of the TR-3A Black Manta, which is rumored to have been active during the 1980s/1990s. It’s an alleged stealth aircraft that exists in the shadow world of rumor and probable misinformation – its existence vehemently denied.

    Adrian Mann

    The TR-3A is claimed to be a subsonic stealth vehicle manufactured by Northrop Grumman, famed for its “flying wing” designs. Some say it was used in the Gulf War in conjunction with F-117A stealth fighters, but little evidence exists beyond hearsay. A more likely theory – but again unsubstantiated – holds that the vehicle identified as the “TR-3″ was merely a prototype for the B-2 Spirit.

    Two 1977 designs from Teledyne Ryan, a firm specialising in unmanned aerial vehicles, one manned, one unmanned, have been linked to the TR-3A. This stems in part from the fact that “TR” stands for Teledyne Ryan – a fanciful connection at best since TR is well known to denote tactical reconnaissance.

    The fact that Teledyne Ryan was purchased by Northrop Grumman in 1999 adds fuel to the fire of conspiracy theory, while some suggest the designs resemble alleged UFOs photographed over Belgium in 1989/1990, which were chased by the Belgian Air Force. View the original patent here.

    Cosmic Conspiracies here and here.

    The online world is buzzing with information about the alleged TR-3B, from rumours of its fantastical capabilities to intriguing video footage. In the dark world of flying triangles, the TR-3B would seem to be king.

    Yet despite hundreds of sightings suggesting the existence of a large triangular aircraft that can fly slowly with little noise, this alleged black project could be one of the most classified of all time. It’s tough to know what to make of the hearsay since, to the uninitiated, reports of the TR-3B’s capabilities seem to fall somewhere between science fiction and pseudoscience.

    It’s claimed that the TR-3B Astra is a nuclear powered tactical reconnaissance aircraft built with technology available by the mid 1980s. The TR-3B is said to have been developed under the Aurora Program, again muddying the waters since Aurora was thought to be the codename for another top secret spyplane (bottom).

    The name “Astra” has also been attributed to other rumoured black projects, including one that allegedly crashed at MoD Boscombe Down in 1994. The TR-3B’s outer coating is said to be reactive to electrical stimulation, changing colour and reflectiveness to make the TR-3B look like a small craft or several aircraft at once.

    If this theory holds water, it could explain why radar operators have witnessed planes vanish from their screens while others appear out of nowhere, then accelerate to speeds and forces of gravity that would crush any human pilot. Logic says it would be much easier to trick the radar than perform structurally impossible maneuvers.

    Here’s where things get really interesting: The TR-3B is allegedly powered by a circular, plasma filled accelerator ring called a “magnetic field disrupter” (MFD) surrounding a rotatable crew compartment, this MFD supposedly generates a magnetic vortex field that disrupts the effects of gravity.

    It reduces the mass of everything within the accelerator by 89% – making the craft extremely light and maneuverable, a less exotic theory suggests the TR-3B Astra is nothing more than a highly advanced “air balloon”, explaining its slow speed and lack of noise… Of course, there may be no such thing.

    The A-12 Avenger II was envisioned by McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics as an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber for the U.S. Navy and Marines.

    U.S. Navy

    Again shrowded in secrecy, the A-12 apparently gained the nickname “Flying Dorito”. Concept drawings and mock-ups show a flying wing design in the shape of an isosceles triangle, with the cockpit near the apex.

    Anynobody Image Attirbution-ShareAlike 3.0

    Development of the A-12 was hampered by problems. The project was cancelled in January 1991 by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney when the estimated price of each plane hit $165 million.

    The cancellation was said to be a breach of contract, resulting in years of legal wrangling. But in 2009, a court ruled that the government was justified in terminating the contract and the contractors would have to pay more than a $2 billion in charges

    U.S. Navy

    After the cancellation of the A-12 Avenger II the Navy bought the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. But what of the A-12 mock-ups? We were able to track one of them down thanks to those savvy online explorers at Virtual Globetrotting1

    The X-44 Manta was a conceptual design by Lockheed Martin, based on the original F-22 Raptor (below). The X-44 was essentially a tailless Raptor with large delta wing and advanced thrust vectoring nozzles replacing normal aerodynamic control surfaces.

    Benefits would be a more stealthy, light airframe, with increased fuel volume and maneuverability. The rumoured plan was to convert an early F-22 prototype, the story goes that funding was cut in 2000 and the program terminated. The X-44 also looks similar to the proposed FB-22, which was reportedly cancelled in 2006.

    Rob Shenk

    It’s hard to know what to make of many alleged black projects. Could some of these exotic aircraft be one and the same? How much misinformation is out there? The X-44 is/was a flying wing design with a name similar to the TR-3A Black Manta (above), although in the X-44′s case, MANTA apparently meant Multi-Axis No-Tail Aircraft.

    Could this be a case of one black project’s name being mistaken attributed to another that may not exist? And despite the assertion that no flying X-44s were developed, could the project still be out there? In 2005, reported that the X-44 designation may be reserved for a possible NASA full-scale manned tailless flight control demonstrator. The mystery continues…

    Like other black projects, Britain’s attempt to create a stealth fighter remains shadowy to say the least, despite likely cancellation in the 1990s.


    The Replica programme was a BAE Systems design study for such an aircraft, tied in with the Royal Air Force’s now defunct Future Offensive Air System. It is believed to have run from 1994 to 1999,

    With a full-sized mock-up subjected to rigorous testing to determine its radar cross section. The “official” story seems to be that knowledge gained was poured into the Joint Strike Fighter program, which allegedly replaced Replica.

    The Future Offensive Air System was intended replace the RAF’s Tornado GR4s by 2017. But the program was officially canceled in June 2005, after the UK joined the U.S. Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System program. In December 2005 the UK published its intent to increase funding for testing unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV), but in June 2006 the U.S. announced the J-UCAS program would be terminated.

    United States Air Force

    While Britain is proceeding with the Joint Strike Fighter (above), there was initially some controversy about access to the aircraft’s source code to allow British planes to be serviced and upgraded in the UK. At the time, Britain alluded to potentially pursuing an alternative to the Joint Strike Fighter, commonly thought to refer to a naval version of the Eurofighter Typhoon.

    Or could they be referring to something else? Britain is thought to have contributed to, or cooperated with, several U.S. stealth projects going back many years. Perhaps British stealth technology is more advanced than anticipated… A full-sized Replica mock-up is thought to be stored at BAE Warton, but details remain hazy.

    The rumored Aurora spy plane is certainly the world’s most famous and hyped black project, and a reliable photograph would be one of the most coveted finds in the history of classified aviation.

    Hendrickson and Foxbat

    While Aurora has never been officially acknowledged, it is historically thought to be a hypersonic spyplane designed to replace the ageing SR-71 Blackbird (below), accounting for a series of unexplained sonic booms during the 1980s and 1990s. But the name “Aurora” could be a red herring.

    SR-71 Blackbird

    In March 1990 Aviation Week & Space Technology revealed the term “Aurora” was accidentally released in the 1985 U.S. budget. Next to the entry, $455 million was allocated for “Black aircraft production” – suggesting the project had moved beyond R&D.

    Meanwhile, Aviation Week claimed that “Aurora” referred to a group of exotic aircraft projects, rather than a particular aircraft, and that by 1987 funding had reached $2.3 billion. However, Ben Rich, former director of the Lockheed Skunk Works, said Aurora was the name given to the B-2 Stealth Bomber competition funding and no such hypersonic plane ever existed.

    Nevertheless, there is a significant body of evidence to the contrary. Aurora’s prime contractor is said to have been the Lockheed Skunk Works. Lockheed’s only known black projects were the U-2R and F-117A upgrade programs, with nothing new declared between 1987 and 1993.

    Financial returns from black projects during that time reportedly show $65 million (1987) and $475 million (1993). Analysts suspect Aurora – or whatever its real name was – first flew around 1989 and was probably around 20% into development by 1992.

    Sightings declined after 1992 leading some analysts to reason that, if Aurora had existed, the project had probably been canceled by then. Some suggest that at least one Aurora aircraft was built but failed to live up to expectations due to cost.

    F-117 Nighthawk

    Lockheed and the U.S. government have continued to deny the existence of Aurora. But it should be remembered that the F-117 Nighthawk (above) had been flying for seven years before its existence was publicly acknowledged.


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