Stealth aircraft developed by the United States Air Force, such as the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird, played crucial roles as spy planes during the Cold War. Today, such stealth aircraft (as well as the F-22 Raptor, F-35, B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk) are all highly publicized due to their roles in conflicts such as the Cold War or the Gulf War, and to help promote the Air Force’s technological superiority. There is one aircraft though that has been speculated and reportedly sighted numerous times, one that can supposedly fly up to Mach 6, although the USAF has consistently denied its existence. Its the legend of the stealth aircraft codenamed “Aurora.”
It is important to note that the name “Aurora” is not an official designation given to an aircraft by the USAF, such as how the SR-71 was called the “Blackbird” or the F-22 is called the “Raptor,” and may in actuality be a program rather than one single aircraft. The term “Aurora” was first spotted on a 1985 U.S. National Defense Budget estimate for FY (fiscal year) 1986, which allocated $445,000,000 to “Black Aircraft Production” in 1987. However, when the National Defense Budget was submitted in 1987, the term “Aurora” had been removed. This had led some to believe that the term “Aurora” may have been inadvertently or accidentally leaked to the Pentagon, and that is why it was not included in the 1987 budget. However, if the Aurora project was indeed so top-secret and has been going on since the mid-80’s, then it has most likely changed names since then. For example, the Stargate Project (a program run by the CIA to train psychic spies) was known as Stargate, SCANATE, GRILL FLAME, SUNSTREAK, etc. It is also important how the budget emphasizes that Aurora was in the production phase by roughly 1987, rather than just research and development. This was first revealed to the public by Aviation Week And Space Technology in March, 1990.
The first sighting of an aircraft believed to be the Aurora was in 1989, when it was spotted by Chris Gibson in the North Sea 100km off the coast of Norfolk. Gibson was working as an oil-exploration engineer on a gas rig, but had previously been a member of the Royal Observer Corps, an organization made up of civilians for the purpose of spotting and identifying aircraft. Gibson stated that he saw a black triangle-shaped aircraft being refueled by a KC-135 while being flanked by two F-111 Aardvarks. Aside from occurring two years after Aurora supposedly went into production, this sighting is also remarkable for the qualified witness who was unable to identify the aircraft despite being a former member of an award-winning group that identifies aircraft. This was not the only time the Aurora was spotted refueling, as in October of 1992 there was a night sighting near Beale AFB, California (a base where the SR-71 formerly operated from). Again, the Aurora was spotted with a KC-135 refueling craft, this time a KC-135Q which had been designed to refuel the SR-71; alongside the Aurora and the KC-135Q was a pair of F-117s.
Another instance supporting the existence of the Aurora aircraft occurred in 1994 on September 26th when an aircraft crashed during takeoff at RAF Boscombe Down. However, unlike other crashes, the site was surrounded by SAS (Special Air Service) who prevented civilians and on-site personnel from seeing the wreckage of the crashed aircraft. Following the incident, the wreckage was kept in a hangar covered in tarpaulin until it was loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft and flown back to the US two days later on September 28th. It seems odd that an aircraft crash at a British airbase would be kept secret from British personnel, then flown back to the US.
While there have been numerous sightings of the Aurora aircraft in the UK, there were also many strange occurrences in the US at this time. For example, in 1993 the USAF purchased 4,000 acres surrounding Area 51 in Nevada, then in the following year 1994 a hangar was built that was not only several stories tall but also possessed a gantry crane. By April of 1995, Freedom Ridge, which overlooks Area 51, was shut down by the USAF, as well as all the other hills allowing an overlook of Area 51.
In addition to these examples of financial and visual evidence directly related to the aircraft, there is also some other strange occurrences believed to be related to the Aurora. One of the most infamous is the “donuts on a string” contrail associated with Aurora. The first photo of such contrails came in 1992 by Steven Douglas from Amarillo, Texas, who stated that aside from the contrails was a strange sound:
“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.”
That sound is referred to by some as “skyquakes,” and on the same day Douglas picked up transmissions on a narrow-band frequency (heavily utilized for special operations) between an AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) and two unidentified aircraft whose call signs were “Darkstar November” Darkstar Mike.” Both the donuts-on-a-string contrails and skyquakes have been associated with the Aurora. There is also how the US Geological Survey recorded numerous booms in the sky in 1991 and in 2006 a NASA specialist in sonic booms reviewed the data and determined that the noises could only be generated by an aircraft going between Mach 4 and Mach 5.2 and at an altitude of 90,000 feet.
There was another situation where strange transmissions were heard on the radio regarding an unknown aircraft believed to be Aurora. In November of 1992 radio operators heard Edwards AFB (referring to itself as “Joshua Control”) communicating with an aircraft whose call sign was “Gaspipe.” Joshua Control was heard directing Gaspipe towards Edwards AFB early in the morning, stating “You’re at 67,000 ft, eighty-one miles out,” and then “Seventy miles now, 36,000 ft, above glidescope.” The terminology used by Joshua Control tends to be used for Space Shuttle landings, and while NASA was operating the U-2 and SR-71 for research purposes out of Edwards AFB, it was confirmed that neither was operating at the time of the transmission.
While this may all seem like a mere collection of sightings and phenomena that is being attributed to a single, possibly fictitious aircraft, it is important to remember the financial and political aspects of Aurora. For example, there is the $445 million attributed to it in the National Defense Budget for FY 1987, despite Aurora being absent in the actual 1987 budget. However, it has since been found that the overall allocation of funding towards Aurora in the 1987 budget was roughly $2.27 billion. According to financial analysts at Kemper Securities, this suggests a first flight would have occurred by roughly 1989, and by 1992 $4.5 billion had been spent on Aurora. Another major issue is how when the SR-71 was discontinued in 1998, there was no opposition by the Air Force and congressional attempts at reviving the Blackbird were discouraged. Never before had an aircraft program been so effectively ended, and the most likely reason is that the Aurora project was already well underway, supposedly with Lockheed Skunk Works being the major candidate.
There is also how in early 1992 an aircraft whose appearance was similar to descriptions of Aurora was seen loaded onto a C-5 at Lockheed’s Skunk Works during the night. However, it’s believed that this aircraft spotted was merely a hypersonic drone that could be launched from the main Aurora aircraft. This would explain the existence of the hangar built in 1994 at Area 51, as the gantry crane could be used to load the drone aircraft onto the Aurora. There was a variant of the SR-71 with a similar drone-launching capability, the M-21 which could launch the D-21 drone (which was Mach 3 capable).
Today there is still no official confirmation by the USAF in regards to the Aurora’s existence, and its highly possible that the Aurora program was actually a series of aircraft. However, there have been numerous sightings by reliable sources in the field of aviation which lends credence to the concept of a black, triangular aircraft testing some sort of Pulse Detonation Engine, which is believed to be what grants the Aurora such speeds. Perhaps the most striking evidence is the recently unveiled Lockheed-Martin aircraft, the unmanned SR-72. A triangular aircraft with hypersonic capability that can reach Mach 6 and developed by Lockheed Skunk Works, just like the SR-71 and the rumored Aurora.