Aurora Time Line

 

 

Collected here are some of the key dates in the Aurora's "history." If you
have items to add to this list mail them in.
August 1989   A former Royal Observer Corps member working on a North Sea
              gas rig, 100 Km off the Norfolk coast spotted a matte-black
              aircraft refueling from a KC-135, accompanied by two F-111s.
              The aircraft was "a perfect triangle", slightly bigger than
              an F-111. The formation was heading towards the UK coast.
              (This may have either been a prototype of the canceled US
              Navy A-12 Avenger II, several of which are reported to have
              flown, or more likely the Northrop(?) TR-3A Black Manta
              Recce aircraft).
March 1990    Aviation Week and Space Technology first broke the news that
              Aurora was inadvertently released in the 1985 US budget, as
              an allocation of $455 Million for Black aircraft PRODUCTION
              in FY 1987. Note that this was for building aircraft, not
              R&D.
              Observers in Nevada have seen and heard a distinctive
              aircraft flying over the Mojave desert at high altitude and
              speed, usually in the early morning. The contrail has been
              described as "doughnuts on a rope." Engine note at take-off
              "sounds like the sky ripping." Officials on the inside say
              "it's so black you won't hear anything about it for 10-15
              years. "
October 1990  Aviation Week & Space Technology published reports of: "A
              high altitude aircraft that crosses the night sky at
              extremely high speed.... The vehicle typically is observed
              as a single, bright light -- sometimes pulsating -- flying
              at speeds far exceeding other aircraft in the area, and at
              altitudes estimated to be above 50,000 ft.... Normally, no
              engine noise or sonic boom is heard."
May 1991      "Aviation Week" claims that briefings have been given to
              selected members of Congress, and high-ranking Government
              officials suggest that some of these aircraft might be "the
              ultimate weapons featured in comic books- the ones so
              devastating that any potential adversary would never think
              of disturbing the peace for fear of the "Good Guys"
              retaliation. Aviation Week, stressing that it is only a
              "theoretical possibility", claims that one of the Aurora
              aircraft has an airframe like a flattened American football,
              about 110 ft long and 60 ft wide, smoothly contoured, and
              covered in ceramic tiles similar to those used on the Space
              Shuttle which seem to be coated with "a crystalline patina
              indicative of sustained exposure to high temperature. . . a
              burnt carbon odor exudes from the surface." Power comes from
              conventional jet engines in the lower fuselage, fed by inlet
              ducts which open in the tiled surface. Once at supersonic
              speed, the engines are shut down, and Pulse Detonation Wave
              Engines take over, ejecting liquid methane or liquid
              hydrogen onto the fuselage, where the fuel mist is ignited,
              possibly by surface heating. Speeds are reported to be in
              the region Mach 6-8. Beneath the fuselage are 121
              tile-covered ports, housing nuclear or conventional
              munitions. These are ejected downwards at subsonic speed.
              The aircraft is reported to have a minimal RCS (Radar Cross
              Section), and a dedicated recce version is possibly already
              in service.
June 1991     A series of unusual sonic booms were detected in Southern
              California, beginning in mid to late 1991. On at least five
              occasions, these sonic booms were recorded by at least 25 of
              the 220 US Geological Survey sensors across Southern
              California used to pinpoint earthquake epicenters. The
              incidents were recorded in June, October, November, and late
              January 1991. Seismologists estimate that the aircraft were
              flying at speeds between Mach 3 and 4 and at altitudes of 8
              to 10 kilometers. The aircraft's flight path was in a North
              North-East direction, consistent with flight paths to secret
              test ranges in Nevada. Seismologists say that the sonic
              booms were characteristic of a smaller vehicle than the 37
              meter long shuttle orbiter. Furthermore, neither the shuttle
              nor NASA's single SR-71B were operating on the days the
              booms were registered.
              In the article "In Plane Sight?" which appeared in the
              Washington City Paper on the 3rd of July 1992 (pg. 12-13)
              one of the seismologists, Jim Mori, noted: "We can't tell
              anything about the vehicle. They seem stronger than other
              sonic booms that we record once in a while. They've all come
              on Thursday mornings about the same time, between 6 and 7 in
              the morning."
November 1991 Reports of "unusually loud, rumbling sonic booms" near
              Pensacola, Florida in November 1991 have been associated
              with the Aurora program.
Late 1991     An anonymous arms-control analyst says he examined a
              late-1991 Landsat image of Dreamland that shows three white
              triangles sitting by the main- runway. Each was about the
              size of a Boeing 747.
February 1992 At Beale Air Force Base, the California facility that was
              long home to the SR-71, on two consecutive nights in late
              February 1992, observers reported sighting a triangular
              aircraft displaying a distinctive diamond-shaped lighting
              pattern, comprised of a red light near the nose -- similar
              to the F-117 configuration -- two 'whitish' lights near what
              would be conventional wingtips and an amber light near the
              tail. While the wing lights are reportedly much brighter
              than normal navigation lamps, they do not illuminate the
              aircraft's platform. Observers claim the vehicle's wing
              lights are approximately twice as far apart as those on the
              F-117, and nose-to-tail light spacing is about 50 percent
              longer than that on the stealth fighter.
Early 1992    An aircraft fitting the description of the Aurora was seen
              being loaded into a C-5 at night at Lockheed's Skunk Works.
              The C-5 then departed for Boeing Field in Seattle.
              Speculation is that this aircraft is a hypersonic drone
              launched from the larger Aurora aircraft, like the
              SR-71/D-21A system.
              "... RAF radars have acquired the hypersonic target
              traveling at speeds ranging from about Mach 6 to Mach 3 over
              a NATO-RAF base at Machrihanish, Scotland, near the tip of
              the Kintyre peninsula, last November and again this past
              January." [Rogers, Jim, "RAF Radar Tracked 'Aurora' Over
              Scotland at Speeds From Mach 3 to Mach 6," Inside the Air
              Force, 24 April 1992, pages 1, 10-11.]
              In early 1992 a number of houses (+/- 25) in the Netherlands
              were damaged as a result of a sonic boom. The strange thing
              was that there were no aircraft in the region that could
              have caused the boom... A Dutch newspapers suggested it came
              from a top secret plane temporarely based in Scotland for
              testing.
Mid 1992      By mid-1992 noted aviation observer Bill Sweetman concluded
              that, "The frequency of the sonic booms indicates that
              whatever is making them is now an operational aircraft."
Summer 1992   An observer saw an Aurora type aircraft on finals to a
              secret Lockheed- operated RCS range in the Mojave desert one
              night in the summer of 1992. Because it was a moonlit night,
              he was able from a range of about one mile to discern a
              prominent raised-dorsal spine, two rectangular exhaust
              nozzles and a light-colored paint job with darker leading
              and trailing edges. Other observers who have claimed to have
              seen a similar aircraft flying near Edwards AFB say it
              "dwarfed" an F-16 chase plane, and reckoned it was about
              200ft long.
October 1992  A night sighting was made near Beale AFB in California,
              ex-home of the 9th SRW flying the SR-71. The aircraft was
              seen in company with F-117s and a KC-135Q. (The KC-135Q was
              a dedicated version specifically for carrying the SR-71s
              special JP-7 fuel.) Because it was night, the exact shape of
              the "Aurora" aircraft could not be determined, but sported
              an unusual diamond shaped nav light pattern, which when
              compared to the formatting of F-117s suggest that it was
              about fifty percent longer with twice the wingspan. The
              engine note was described as being "like a very low rumble,
              like air being passed over a very large bottle."
              Several reports have been received from the LA area of
              double sonic booms, minutes apart, which are characteristic
              of two aircraft flying slightly different tracks. The booms
              were recorded by the US Geological Survey's seismic
              monitors, and when compared with baseline data obtained from
              Space Shuttle re-entries and SR-71 operations suggest a
              speed in excess of Mach 3. A senior USAF officer hinted that
              Beale AFB would be assigned a new mission within two years.
              It is thought that "Auroras" have visited the base, probably
              as transients, in recent months. Local residents report
              hearing a series of "booms like artillery firing" emanating
              from within the base perimeter. Propulsion experts confirm
              that these booms are consistent with light-off testing of
              Pulse Detonation Wave Engines.
              In Amarillo, Texas, Steven Douglas photographed the
              "doughnuts on a rope" contrail pattern of Aurora passing
              overhead. Shortly after, he picked-up digitally encrypted
              speech on a narrow-band frequency used by the USAF for
              special missions, and as a Comsat downlink. He also
              intercepted Air/Air R/T between a USAF AWACS and two unknown
              aircraft using the call signs "Darkstar Mike" and "Darkstar
              November."
              A month later, radio enthusiasts in California monitoring
              Edwards AFB Radar, c/s "Joshua Control", heard early morning
              R/T between Joshua and a high flying aircraft using the
              callsign "Gaspipe." Joshua controllers were vectoring
              Gaspipe into Edwards AFB, using terminology usually used
              during Space Shuttle recoveries. "You're at 67000 ft, 81
              miles out." was heard, followed by "Seventy miles out now,
              36000 ft, above glideslope. " Now, at the time, NASA was
              operating both the SR-71 and the U2-R from Edwards, but it
              has been confirmed that neither of these types were
              operating at the time Gaspipe was heard.
              Financial analysts Kemper Securities have examined Lockheed
              Advanced Development Company's declared revenues from Black
              programs: Returns for 1987 were $65 Million. Returns for
              1993 were $475 Million. The only declared Lockheed Black
              Projects are U2-R and F117A upgrade programs, and nothing
              new has been announced between 1987 and 1993. It was also
              discovered that the TOTAL US budget allocation for Project
              Aurora for 1987 was no less than $2. 27 Billion. According
              to Kemper, this would indicate a first flight of around
              1989. The spread of US Government payments to Lockheed
              indicate that the aircraft is probably about one-fifth of
              the way through it's development program, or has been
              "extensively prototyped." Around $4. 5 Billion has already
              been spent.
February 1993 The USAF has applied to buy over 4000 acres of land
              overlooking Area 51.
              Local residents have reported hearing Pulse Detonation Wave
              Engines being tested inside the perimeter. These tests have
              also been reported from Edwards AFB. One local pilot who
              lives near Edwards said that the engines could be heard 25
              miles away when being ground tested.
March 1994    Further evidence of Aurora comes with details of a new
              hangar which has been built, several stories high, with a
              large gantry crane inside. Apparently this is used to mate
              the hypersonic drones to the Aurora mothership. Huge
              cryogenic storage tanks containing liquid methane or liquid
              hydrogen have been built. These are the two fuels that Pulse
              Detonation Wave Engines would use.
April 1995    Freedom Ridge Shut down. A hill overlooking Area 51 is shut
              down by the government.
January 1995  A sighting by two British Airways pilots and other witnesses
              at Manchester Airport on January 6 1995 has been attributed
              to the Aurora aircraft.
July 1996     Report of a sonic boom over Orange County, CA coming on 20
              July 1996. It is reported that the "quake" occurred around
              3pm PST, fitting the "skyquake" pattern of previous reports.
November 1996 Aviation Week magazine is reporting that SR-71 operations
              have resumed. The first flight was a week ago today. The
              fiscal 1997 budget provides $30 mil for operations, which
              will result in about 250 flight hours. Three crews are
              assigned to operations, not known how many aircraft are
              available.
December 1996 In the Dec 2 issue of Aviation Week a small column about a
              "screaming roaring take off" sound heard Nov. 25th in
              Palmdale around 6am that morning. Article quote an old
              aviation hand who lives there as it being unlike anything
              he'd ever heard.
Unknown Dates The crew of a London-bound United 747 on climb out from LAX
              filed an Airmiss after an "unidentified supersonic aircraft"
              passed within 500- 1000ft vertically of them near George AFB
              in California. The crew described it as "a lifting-body,
              like the forward fuselage of an SR-71 but without wings."
              Further sightings have been made in the US: Observers in
              California have reported seeing an aircraft with a similar
              platform to the XB-70 Valkyrie, with a clipped delta wing
              with winglets, narrow blended fuselage with a clear canopy,
              sharp nose and possibly a retractable canard.

Thanks to Mark Steedman for the original file containing many of these
items. Also many of the sightings taken from the FAS report on Aurora.