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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 02:51   #21 (permalink)
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The world-wide-web didn't exist in November, 1988, so there was no place to post pictures on-line. You can probably dig up a paper copy of AW&ST somewhere. There's one available on ebay:
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 03:17   #22 (permalink)
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I always thought you wouldn't withdraw the SR71 unless you already had a replacement in place..... Only the British do that.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 03:56   #23 (permalink)
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For what it's worth - Chris Gibson's account of his 1989 sighting.
I wonder if there was a son of D-21 - perhaps manned...

By Simon Gray

In August 1989, Chris Gibson, a Scottish oil-exploration engineer and, at the time, a member of the British Royal Observer Corps (ROC), was working on the oil rig Galveston Key in the North Sea when he noticed an aircraft in the shape of a pure isoceles triangle refuelling from a KC-135 Stratotanker alongside two F-111s.

The unknown aircraft, cruising in a formation northward through Air-to-Air Refuelling Area (AARA) 6A, is what people have come to believe, is the mysterious Aurora hypersonic spyplane. Another possible aircraft, which could have been seen over the North Sea however, is Northrop's A-17 stealth attack plane.

Chris Gibson's observation of the mysterious flying triangle is often cited by UFO researchers when the subject of Aurora rises. Below, Chris Gibson explains precisely what happened, as well as giving an insight into himself.

I welcome any questions on my North Sea sighting, as I am of the opinion that too much is taken at face value in the black aircraft snark hunt. I think that the snark hunt has degenerated into an exercise in regurgitating the same old stories with little or no new research being done.

A bit about me. I work as a drilling technologist for a major oil field service company. I hold an Honours degree in geology, with some engineering, geophysics and chemistry thrown in. I also did a post graduate course in systems analysis, I was a member of the Royal Observers Corps for 13 years and was a member of the ROC's aicraft recognition team for 12 of those years. In this field I was considered to be an expert and produced an aircraft recognition manual for the ROC. Some will obviously know the sighting story, but I'll fill you in on what happened from my point of view.

I was working in the indefatigable field on the jack-up rig 'Galvestion Key' in August 1989. My colleague, Graeme Winton, went out on deck but returned immediately. He told me to "have a look at this." We went outside and Graeme pointed skywards.

I had been at university with Graeme and he knew of my interest in aircraft. As far as Graeme was concerned it was a formation of aircraft and he reckoned I'd be interested. I looked up, saw the tanker and the F-111s, but was amazed to see the triangle. I am trained in instant recognition, but this triangle had me stopped dead. My first thought was that it was another F-111, but there was no 'gaps', it was too long and it didn't look like one.

My next thought was that it was an F-117, as the highly swept planform of the F-117 had just been made public. Again the triangle was too long and had no gaps. After considering and rejecting a Mirage IV, I was totally out of ideas. Here was an aircraft, flying over head, not too high and not particularly fast. A recognition gift and I was clueless. This was a new experience. Graeme asked me what was going on. I watched as the formation flew overhead and told him that the big one was a KC-135 Stratotanker, the two on the left were F-111s and that I didn't know what the fourth aircraft was.

Graeme said "I though you were an expert?" I said "I am." To which Graeme replied "Some expert."

It was obvious to me that this aircraft was something 'dodgy'. I watched the formation for a minute or two and went back inside with Graeme. At the time I was writing the aircraft recognition manual and had a Danish Luftmelderkorpset Flykendingsbog in my briefcase. This is probably the best aircraft recognition book ever produced. I looked through it, but nothing matched. I then sketched what I had seen and sent this to Peter Edwards, who was a Group Officer in the ROC and was also on the recognition team.

We discussed what to do about it but decided that if it was reported through official channels, it would be at best rubbished, at worst lead to trouble. Having signed the Official Secrets Act I didn't want to jeopardise my position in the recognition team, so I kept my mouth shut. I told other members of the recognition team in the hope that they could shed some light on the subject. On returning home I had a look through my book collection. The only aircraft which came close to matching what I had seen was a Handley Page HP115. It was not one of them. Whether this aircraft was a Aurora is debatable - my background precludes jumping to conclusions based on a single piece of evidence. I wrote to Bill Sweetman (Stealth expert) after being sent an illustration from Janes Defense Weekly which matched what I had seen.

As an aside, I wrote to two other writers who did not reply. Bill reckons it was Aurora; Agenct 'X' reckons it was the FB-119. I don't know what it was. It is the only aircraft I have ever seen that I could not identify. Pete Edwards told Bill Sweetman that if I didn't know what this aircraft was, it isn't in any book. I've been hunting this 'snark' for almost 9 years now and have turned up some interesting stuff, mainly through my own efforts, but also by having looked in the most unusual places. Talking to the people involved is a necessity.

As I said before, I welcome the healthy scepticism, but at least give me the opportunity to state my case.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 05:32   #24 (permalink)
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Maybe that North Sea oil rig worker who saw the F111's escorting something very strange all those years ago wasn't imagining things.
I recall being in UK in October 90 when a fast mover was detected moving up the North Sea from out of Germany. Spoke with the QRA crew, who could not get close to it!

Seemed to tie in with some Gulf War One recce and description was of a deltoid plan-form.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 07:11   #25 (permalink)
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Why in the world would you need to build a spy plane going that fast?

Much more sensible to just go smaller. Like dragonfly size.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 08:23   #26 (permalink)
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I'm surprised no-one has posted this...

...By the way, it's a fake!
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 13:58   #27 (permalink)
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Satellites are very limited.
They run on polar sun synchronous orbits. In the early morning and evening, when they have good shadows to give 3D information.
So their presence runs to a timetable and anyone on the ground just needs to throw a tarpoline at the appropriate over anything they want to hide.
The KH 11s (and KH 12s, which are the stealth version) have finite manoeuvre fuel to correct their orbits or to move to new orbits. So they are pretty much stuck with what they can see.
In the Falklands war the Americans changed the orbit of one or more of these satellites to give us photo intelligence, using up the manoeuvre fuel and very significantly shortening the satellites lives. Considering that they cost over $3 billion each in 2013 dollars this was a huge gift from the Americans to us.

Reconnaissance drones are still very limited. They are only really any use in tactical situations in uncontested airspace. The Iranians regularly shoot down USA and Israeli drones.

Aurora was a black project, like the F-117, kept secret from the public. Forensic accountants found how it was funded, so we have multiple sources of evidence of its existence. It managed to come into service then out of service whilst still remaining secret. It is thought that there were major problems with it, shortening its service life and leading to the SR 71s coming back out of retirement.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 15:51   #28 (permalink)
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Maybe just a little marketing in this press release. It appears that Lockheed is attempting to get government funding for a project that the company has been self-funding. There are more than a few technical problems that need to be overcome.

Lockheed declined to say how much it had invested in the SR-72 project to date, or what the new airplane might cost if it is ever built. But it said it had tried to keep the current tight budget environment in mind while working on the project………………………

He said the company and its partners had developed and tested key components of the proposed new aircraft using their own internal research funding, but the program needed additional funds to move ahead with larger-scale demonstrations of the technologies involved.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 16:04   #29 (permalink)
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There are lots of interweb articles about this.
Here is one that isn't too tinfoil hat: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/90691e28b42
And this one reckons that the project is very well advanced: SR-72 Confirmed: Mach 6 Project Blackswift , page 1
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 19:10   #30 (permalink)
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I very much doubt this hypersonic aircraft will fly in the timescale suggested by Lockheed.

I suspect that for many years the USAF have been using a number of very stealthy, high-altitude, long endurance UAVs to provide coverage of denied areas. The RQ-170 was an old low-tech UAV that had been in use for a number of years. I think it may have been deliberately crashed in Iran in the hope that, whilst they were examining the on-board software, a hidden virus would find its way onto Iranian systems and eventually bugger up their nuclear programme.

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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 19:49   #31 (permalink)
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It would have been a bit pointless to introduce a virus via a crashed UAV as it had already been done a different way.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 21:38   #32 (permalink)
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For me the interesting part in all of this is that they claim to have developed a way of incorporating an off the shelf fighter weight turbojet into a working scramjet. If this is true - potentially there are much wider applications than just the SR-72.
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Old 2nd Nov 2013, 21:51   #33 (permalink)
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My thoughts as well, that was the most interesting part of the article.
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Old 3rd Nov 2013, 13:51   #34 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by tartare View Post
For me the interesting part in all of this is that they claim to have developed a way of incorporating an off the shelf fighter weight turbojet into a working scramjet. If this is true - potentially there are much wider applications than just the SR-72.
In this case I believe that the claim of having developed a way to use a turbojet is still a very long way from proving it can be made to work. One of the problems with hypersonic flight is that it is very difficult to prove risk reduction with ground tests as duplicating the flight environment is very hard.

There have only been two recent flight tests for hypersonic vehicles/propulsion; Lockheed's HTV-2 test on approximately April 26, 2010 and Boeing's X-51 flight on May 03, 2013. The Lockheed test was not considered a success, and the Boeing X-51 flight lasted 3.6 minutes but the vehicle was rocket assisted.

Again, I am not saying it is not feasible. I am saying that having a tested propulsion system and a full up operationally usable vehicle is a long way off.
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Old 3rd Nov 2013, 22:01   #35 (permalink)
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Tacit Blue and Bird of Prey and Quid

Half a century ago, Lockheed Martin had the A-12 followed by the SR-71...if they did it back then with what they had.....fast forward to the Reagan administration, and then to the first Bush administration, should not been a problem to cobble something faster and less vulnerable to the then latest Soviet SAMs and Triple-A???

IIRC, the SR-71 when it was brought back out of retirement, stuck around for 6/7 years while the NASA pair were kept till 99 before their last flight?

Magic question I have is, after 9/11, I wonder if anyone in the Pentagon considered bringing them back out of retirement / mothball for urgent reece over Afghan and Mid East.

Tacit Blue and Bird of Prey were revealed publicly a decade or so after flying in secret. I know they were technology demonstrators, which flew for a few years, but if the timeline of the Aurora supposedly operated within the 90s and retired, it could be about time to be revealed to the aviation community, could it not?

Area 51 has been officially acknowledged by the Obama administration so could this SR-72 be the Aurora coming into light, assuming the airframe probably existed for over a decade if not two.

The sighting by Gibson over the North Sea (coinciding with the Leuchars SATCO curious about the extremely fast mover from Machrihanish area, told to mind his own business and ignore the blip earlier in the year or year before)
marks up a few question marks.....I agree the F-111C pair is a bit odd, (could be the Lakenheath and the then Upper Heyford lot and logic dictates it be the Wing CO if not the base commanders flying) . Unless they came from the Test Force at Edwards...

Could hazard a guess that the KC-135 in the description, be a Q model with JP-7 refueling the Aurora again from the then 9th Det 4 from the 'Hall (or had they and the SR-71 pair gone by 1990?)

And what about the two seat test vehicle whose landing gear collapsed down in the west country in late 94, with two American voices calling a Pan and got injured, (not sure if there was 1 fatality). Then the C-5A assigned to LM on its way to the Eifel Valley, told to divert into the west country to pick up the test vehicle a few nights later?

I'm sure somewhere, some aviation enthusiast probably wrote on a forum or in one of the aviation pubs, you find in WH Smiths, that the Aurora supposedly flew from Fairford during Allied Force.


Last edited by chopper2004; 3rd Nov 2013 at 22:05.
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Old 3rd Nov 2013, 23:28   #36 (permalink)
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It's not at all tinfoil hat territory - there are many pointers to an as yet unknown SR-71 successor.
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Old 3rd Nov 2013, 23:37   #37 (permalink)

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We often hear the old 'SR-71 was replaced by the satellites' arguament- but, as ane fule no, the orbits are soooo predictable.

The need for a top line recce a/c has never gone away- so if the US simply abandoned the requirement (or went back to the previous one) - it would be quite a big deal.

Anyway, try getting into Area 51 to check!
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Old 3rd Nov 2013, 23:53   #38 (permalink)

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"Area 51 has been officially acknowledged by the Obama administration"

Only because it was pointless denying it any longer considering how much
has been written and said about it by people who worked there. And acknowledging it doesn't given anything away.
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Old 4th Nov 2013, 12:05   #39 (permalink)
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The Chinese have got it on their Xinhua website. Nice piccies of SR71s as well.

Meet Son of Blackbird -- SR-72 - Xinhua | English.news.cn
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Old 4th Nov 2013, 13:13   #40 (permalink)
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Meet Son of Blackbird -- SR-72 - Xinhua | English.news.cn
The unbelievably flexible woman looks interesting too.
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