Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More "Flying Saucers" Revealed

Back in 2012 I covered the release of classified documents detailing attempts by the United States Air Force and a Canadian company to construct a supersonic saucer-shaped aircraft. At the time, I speculated that the goofy-looking prototype saucers might have been responsible for some of the UFO sightings in the 1950's, and that perhaps the project got further than the released documents implied. Nothing like that has come to light, but recently the Central Intelligence Agency took credit for many of the sightings during that period.

According to documents recently released by the agency, the culprit was the U-2 spy plane, which entered service in 1955 and remained a closely guarded secret. It flew higher than any other aircraft of the period, and operated out of the Groom Lake facility in Nevada, better known as "Area 51" among UFO enthusiasts. This facility was also used to test the U-2's successor, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 stealth fighter. Both of those look different enough from other aircraft that they could easily be mistaken for alien spacecraft.

"Reports of unusual activity in the skies in the '50s? It was us," the agency tweeted.

The document the tweet links to is a previously confidential report on the testing of the U-2 spy plane at altitudes of over 60,000 feet. It says half or more of supposed UFO sightings were actually times when they were flying the plane at high altitudes, which people didn't realize was possible at the time.

Though they realized people were spotting the plane by cross-referencing the sightings with when and where the plane was flying, the agency couldn't inform the public of that knowledge. The agency says the document explaining that scenario was the most widely read document released this year from their database.

It may very well be that when Project Blue Book released the statement that "there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge" the investigators were well aware the people were seeing the U-2, but were unable to offer any comments to that effect due to the plane's classified status.

It should be noted that while the U-2 is not saucer-shaped, the term "flying saucer" originally did not refer to disk-shaped craft. The term was coined by reporters covering the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting in 1947. Arnold described the objects as flat and thin like saucers or pie pans, but added that they were crescent-shaped rather than round. It should be noted that what Arnold described resembled a "flying wing" aircraft with escorts, and there was one such military vehicle flying in 1947 - the Northrup YB-35.

The YB-35 project ran from 1946-1949, and then was replaced by the YB-49 which flew until the project was cancelled in 1951 due to flight instability of the flying wing design. Northrup Grumman's B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is descended from the YB-49 with computerized flight controls that manage the instability, and the two planes in fact look quite similar aside from the stealth cladding that covers the modern version. They look nothing like conventional aircraft, and certainly nothing like anyone in the United States had seen in the late 1940's.

While intelligent alien life almost certainly exists elsewhere in the universe, space travel is hard and the distances involved are nearly inconceivable. Earth has only been sending strong signals into space for sixty or so years, which means they have yet to propagate beyond stars in the solar system's local area. So even an alien civilization that is actively watching our part of the sky probably would not have received them yet. And if that civilization has no warp drive or similar technology, even once they detect our signals it would still be a long time before they get here.

Military technology, on the other hand, is constantly under development and consumes vast resources, and is also is highly secretive. It seems a lot more likely to me that those UFO sightings which cannot be explained by regular aircraft or other atmospheric phenomena are probably of experimental military aircraft belonging to various classified projects.

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