- The decade-long struggle to understand the mystery of
the super-secret "Aurora" hypersonic aircraft and its role in
the UFO phenomenon's rash of "triangle sightings" has entered
a new phase.
- Veteran UFO litigator Peter Gersten (of CAUS -- Citizens
Against UFO Secrecy) argues that military secret-keepers did not make a
"good faith" effort to provide him with information about large
triangle-shaped craft seen repeatedly within the United States and elsewhere.
- The Department of Defense (DOD) has maintained it could
find no information confirming the existence of such craft, military or
- However, the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Arizona,
recently denied DOD motions to dismiss Gersten's lawsuit, instead demanding
that the DOD produce additional affidavits about the way it handled the
- This sets the stage for a rare opportunity to submit
oral arguments regarding UFO sightings possibly caused by secret military
aircraft like the notorious "Aurora".
- Hunting the shadowcraft
- The quest for Aurora has consumed the passions and skills
of a diverse army of investigators for more than a decade. One of the more
knowledgeable is Dr. Scott Miller, associate professor of aerospace engineering
at Wichita State University in Kansas.
- Miller has recently been touring the country lecturing
on "shadowcraft" -- his term for the elusive mystery vehicles
reported all around the world.
- His travels are sponsored by the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, the world's largest professional society
of aerospace engineers, as part of the annual "Distinguished Lecturer"
series of about a dozen speakers who visit local chapters.
- "A lot of the audience is a bit skeptical,"
he admits. "Yet they're also intrigued, and they'd like to think these
things really exist."
- The professional engineers he talks to also express gratitude
that a fellow professional is examining the well-known rumors from a strict
engineering point of view.
- Has Miller gotten any useful feedback from his audiences?
"Nothing really super juicy yet," he notes.
- Black programs and Belgian triangles
- At St. Louis, the home of the Boeing aircraft plant (formerly
McDonnell Douglas), he recalls that one attendee told him that some of
his other friends in a local military 'black program' couldn't attend the
talk because of security concerns.
- "That was kind of disturbing," Miller recalls.
"And kind of interesting!"
- Some fellow experts he has talked with are very interested
in photographs of the "Belgian triangle" seen repeatedly over
Belgium a decade ago.
- "They tell me it resembles a vehicle that Teledyne-Ryan
had been working on," he says, "and they were way ahead of Lockheed
on 'stealth' technology."
- Such a subsonic reconnaissance vehicle might be the long-rumored
spotter companion for B-2 missions over Russia.
- Miller described the need for an aircraft to help hunt
down rail-mobile Russian missiles, and such a mission would be more than
enough rationale to keep its existence classified.
- Follow the fuel
- He himself is intrigued by recent Indiana UFO reports
and the "pretty wild" rumors of stealth blimps with fake starfields
displayed on their undersides.
- "At this point," he admitted, "I'm paying
- One of the most interesting tidbits Miller has learned
involves the mid-air refueling aircraft that any secret military vehicle
- "The SR-71 needed a special hydrocarbon fuel,"
he says. "And there were several modified KC-135 tankers stationed
near Wichita. The fuel has a two-week shelf life and must be safely disposed
of if stocks are not used quickly."
- "I was told the KC-135's are still in service, and
they are still making that fuel."
- According to Miller, there aren't any more SR-71s flying,
and they were mostly served by tankers out of Beale AFB in California,
not Kansas. So why the Wichita refueling fleet?
- The Los Angeles object
- Another heavyweight aviation historian who has examined
"Aurora" stories is Tom Heppenheimer, famed for his ferociously
precise engineering assessments of aerospace issues.
- One case Heppenheimer examined centered around reports
of unusual supersonic shock waves over Los Angeles in 1991-2.
- Many analysts speculated that these phenomena were caused
by a Mach 4 aircraft headed north at about 30,000 feet, but Heppenheimer
was skeptical that any aircraft would fly at that speed so low.
- He calculated that the dynamic pressures on such a vehicle
would reach 4,500 pounds per square foot, ten times the tolerance proposed
for known hypersonic designs.
- Furthermore, the Federal Aviation Administration controls
this airspace to an altitude of 60,000 feet and all aircraft, military
as well as civilian, are required to have active radar transponders while
- The mystery plane did not appear on radar.
- From sonic booms to odd jet trails
- Perhaps a less conventional object, flying at a lower
speed but designed to evade radar, caused the disturbance?
- "The computer analysis which came up with the performance
figures has never been calibrated in real flight experiments," Heppenheimer
- Moreover, analysis of the same acoustic data at MIT's
Lincoln Laboratory suggested that the booms could have come from conventional
fighters doing about Mach 1.1.
- Heppenheimer is more intrigued by sightings -- and photographs
-- of strange contrails which follow a "donuts on a rope" pattern,
like sausage links. He interprets these as evidence for subsonic flight
testing of pulsed detonation engines, possibly the next step in efficient
and reliable aircraft propulsion.
- But Miller has his own less highly classified explanation
for such effects.
- "Aerodynamics expert Steve Crow studied this effect
in the early 1970s," Miller tells SPACE.com, "and so these are
called 'Crow Instabilities'. Studies show that on some occasions, wake
vortex interactions from normal jets such as a 747 build donuts out of
- The increasingly clandestine sky
- None of these expert assessments has had any influence
on what people continue to perceive in the sky.
- They see and report large objects, sometimes bizarrely
lighted and sometimes dark against the stars or clouds above. Often these
phenomena are entirely silent, but witnesses sometimes report pulsating,
throbbing engine noises.
- And such reports are appearing in far higher numbers
than in the past.
- Arguably, many of these sightings are misinterpretations
of both manmade and natural phenomena, and there is a long, dismaying history
of such cases.
- Various groups on Earth (from reconnaissance teams, to
test and training groups, to smugglers and even spies) have not been at
all displeased when accidental witnesses misinterpret their aerial activities.
- But the remaining uncertainties remain wide enough to
fly entire fleets of unknown objects right through them, all over the Earth,
and even possibly off it.
- Aside from waiting for hindsight decades in the future
-- or for the success of lawsuits such as Gersten's -- the only hope to
resolve these fascinating mysteries is to collect and rigorously assess
- And even, when opportunities arise, go deliberately hunting
for these shadowcraft.
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