Aurora (aircraft)

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The Aurora is the name of a rumored mid-1980s United States reconnaissance aircraft that, because there is no substantial evidence that it was ever built or flown, is an urban legend.[1]

The US government has consistently denied such an aircraft was ever built and in examining the available evidence aerospaceweb.org concluded "the evidence supporting the Aurora is circumstantial or pure conjecture, there is little reason to contradict the government's position"[1]

Others come to different conclusions.[2] In 2006, veteran black project watcher and aviation writer Bill Sweetman said, "does Aurora exist? Years of pursuit have led me to believe that, yes, Aurora is most likely in active development, spurred on by recent advances that have allowed technology to catch up with the ambition that launched the program a generation ago."[3]

Contents

Background

The Aurora legend started in March 1990, when Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine broke the news that the term "Aurora" had been inadvertently included in the 1985 US budget, as an allocation of $US455 million for "black aircraft production" in FY 1987.[4] According to Aviation Week, Aurora referred to a group of exotic aircraft projects, and not to one particular airframe. Funding of the project allegedly reached $US2.3 billion in fiscal 1987, according to a 1986 procurement document obtained by Aviation Week. In the 1994 book Skunk Works, Ben Rich, the former head of Lockheed's Skunk Works division, claimed that the Aurora was the budgetary code name for the stealth bomber fly-off that resulted in the B-2 Spirit.[5]

Evidence

By the late 1980s many aerospace industry observers believed that the US had the technological capability to build a Mach 5 replacement aircraft for the aging Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Detailed examinations of the US defense budget claimed to have found money missing or channeled into black projects.[6] By the mid-1990s, reports surfaced of sightings of unidentified aircraft flying over California and the United Kingdom involving odd-shaped contrails, sonic booms and related phenomena that suggested the US had developed such an aircraft. Nothing ever linked any of these observations to any program or aircraft type, but the name Aurora was often tagged on these as a way of explaining the observations.[1]

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