Airplanes are amazing. Bombers, fighters, spy planes, prop planes, jets, and stealthy versions of all those are some of the most impressive feats of engineering today. Secret military projects are also amazing, as we’ve discussed here and here. And here’s what happens when you combine the two. From stealth transports to space jets.
5. Stealth Black Hawk
Shortly after midnight on May 1, 2011 two unusual helicopters carrying twenty-five U.S. Navy SEALs descended on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottadbad, Pakistan. The heavily modified Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were able to fly two hundred kilometers undetected from the Afghanistan border, with neighbors reporting that they didn’t hear the helicopters until they were directly overhead.
Their existence might have remained secrete had one of the helicopters not crash landed on the wall of the compound. U.S. forces destroyed the crashed Black Hawk with explosives, but a portion of the tail section survived, revealing top secret stealth modifications stemming from a program that had supposedly been discontinued in 2006.
Blackstar is a rumored suborbital space plane project run by U.S. intelligence agencies in the 1980’s and 1990s and perhaps continuing today. The project was supposedly designed so that the U.S. could retain orbital reconnaissance capabilities jeopardized by the 1986 Challenger disaster.
It was a two stage orbital system which used a high-speed aircraft to ferry a small orbital vehicle to the edge of space which would and enter orbit three hundred miles above Earth using a rocket motor.The orbital vehicle would then conduct reconnaissance on materials that could be hidden from the paths of spy satellites.
3. RQ 180
Funded through the U.S. Air Force’s classified budget, the Northrop Gruman RQ-180 is the most advanced unmanned aerial system ever developed. Designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions behind enemy lines, the RQ-180 could enter operation by 2105.
According to official sources, the RQ-180 will be able to carry out active, electronically scanned array radar and passive electronic surveillance measures. This would allow the RQ-180 to carry out penetrating surveillance previously carried out by the SR-71 before its retirement in 1998. Based on the size of the new testing hangars at Area 51, the RQ-180 could have a wingspan of more than one hundred and thirty feet. Existing designs of the RQ-170 also suggests that the RQ-180 can fly for more than twenty four hours at altitudes as high as eleven miles.
Operated by the U.S. Air Force, the Boeing X-37B is a robotic space plane designed to test reusable space technologies, though its payload and actual mission remain a classified. The craft was originally developed by NASA as the X-40, but it was transferred to the military and became classified in 2004.
Launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the 29 foot long X-37B is able to spend more than a year in orbit before gliding to Earth. Theories about the X-37B’s true purpose include it being a space bomber, a spy plane, or an anti-satellite weapons. Development of the X-37B continues , Boeing recently converting the former Space Shuttle hangar at the Kennedy Space Center into a servicing facility for an entire fleet of the craft.
The name “Aurora” first appeared when it was inadvertently included in the 1985 U.S. budget as a four hundred and fifty-five million allocation for “black aircraft production” in 1987. Claims of its existence are based on observations tha the U.S. has the technology needed to build such a hyper-sonic craft and by sightings of black triangle aircraft accompanied by the donuts-on-a-rope contrail indicative of the pulse detonation engine it is thought to utilize.
Aurora is also linked to unusual sonic booms that were recorded at regular intervals by the U.S. Geological Survey sensors across Southern California which were later analyzed by NASA experts and showed “something at 90,000 ft” moving at “Mach 4 to Mach 5.2.” With sightings starting in the 1980s and continuing today, the Aurora rumors many encompass multiple top secret aircraft, including many that are yet to be revealed.