Seven Spy and Stealth Craft that could be mistaken for UFOs
Spy and stealth planes--some with bizarre, bat-shaped wings, others with triangular silhouettes that imply otherworldly designs--have long generated UFO sightings and lore. And official denials feed rumors that the government isn't telling us about alien ships. The CIA estimates that over half of the UFOs reported from the '50s through the '60s were U-2 and SR-71 spy planes. At the time, the Air Force misled the public and the media to protect these Cold War programs; it's possible the government's responses to current sightings of classified craft--whether manned or remotely operated--are equally evasive. The result is an ongoing source of UFO reports and conspiracy theories. Here are the Earth-built craft that likely have lit up 911 switchboards over the years.
The U.S. Navy X-47B reached a new milestone for a futuristic new stealth drone when it successfully retracted its landing gear and flew in cruise configuration for the first time, engineers announced Tuesday. Developed by Northrop Grumman, the X-47B is a tailless, strike fighter-sized unmanned aircraft designed to take off from and land on moving aircraft carriers at sea.
The RQ Darkstar
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin/Boeing First Test Flight: 1996 Deployment: None (it was canceled in 1999) Declassified: 1995 Size: 15 ft long; 69-ft wingspan Performance: 288 mph (cruising speed); 45,000+ ft (max. alt.). The official life span of this unmanned spy plane was brief and disappointing, with a crash and a program cancellation after just three years. But in 2003, Aviation Week reported that a similar stealth UAV was being used in Iraq--fueling speculation that the government scrapped the craft publicly only to secretly resurrect it for clandestine missions.
U-2 Spy Plane
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin First Test Flight: 1955 Deployment: 1957 to present Declassified: 1960 Size: 49 ft long; 80-ft wingspan Performance: 410 mph (max. speed); 85,000 ft (max. alt.). Designed for high-altitude reconnaissance, the U-2's long, gliderlike wings and silver color would have been notable to observers on the ground and in the sky. In the 1960s the airplane was painted black to avoid reflections. The U-2 is also famous for being among the first classified planes to be flown from the Air Force's secret test facility at Groom Lake, Nev.--aka Area 51.
SR-71 - Blackbird
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin First Test Flight: 1964 Deployment: 1966 to 1990, 1995 to 1998 Declassified: 1964 Size: 107 ft long; 56-ft wingspan Performance: 2432 mph (max. speed); 85,000 ft (max. alt.). The tailless spy plane has an even more unusual cross section than the U-2. This Area 51 alum was briefly reactivated in the 1990s, and rumors of a followup--the now-legendary Aurora project--have supplied both UFO believers and skeptics with a possible source of unexplained sightings.Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin First Test Flight: 2006 Deployment: UnknownPlane spotters' photos and videos blew the top-secret cover off a 5-minute inaugural flight in Palmdale, Calif. The hybrid airship--it uses gas and a wing shape for lift--fuels speculation that classified airships quietly roam the night skies.
P-791 Classified Hybrid Air Ship
B2 Spirit - Bomber
Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman First Test Flight: 1989 Deployment: 1997 to present Declassified: 1988 Size: 69 ft long; 172-ft wingspan. Although the long-range bomber was never a true "black aircraft," since it was displayed to the public approximately eight months before its first flight, an airborne B-2 is a UFO report waiting to happen. It looks like an alien craft from nearly any angle and specifically like a flying saucer when viewed head-on or in profile.