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Aurora - a famous speculative project

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Ian33

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My money is on: He knows, has been briefed, and the US DoD have sat on a promise that he gets to roll it out in a massive 4 page spread when the successor starts flying and the 'Aurora' gets rolled into daylight after 12 years sat in a hanger gathering dust some where.
 

quellish

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Ian33 said:
My money is on: He knows, has been briefed, and the US DoD have sat on a promise that he gets to roll it out in a massive 4 page spread when the successor starts flying and the 'Aurora' gets rolled into daylight after 12 years sat in a hanger gathering dust some where.
I think its more like:
- There is compelling circumstantial evidence that there were one or more high supersonic air breathing flight test programs from the late 1970s to the early or mid 1990s
- The Air Force's push to retire the SR-71 created an environment that had people looking for such programs
- There were mission requirements that would have been serviced by such a platform, or that platform as one element of a system of systems
- The known SR-71 successor program was not able to meet all of the requirements/needs of the mission(s)
- At least some of the infrastructure required to support development of a high supersonic or hypersonic cruise vehicle was being put in place in crash programs - for a while, then at least some of it stopped.

At the same time:
- Methane. Ha.
- The usual pointing to activity in Nevada. "New hangar! OBVIOUSLY, AURORA!"
- There were not-insignificant efforts across the services in hypersonic vehicles that were also sensitive, and at least one was flight tested.
- The SR-71 retirement was for a lot of reasons. AARS was the successor, the most visible part of which was QUARTZ - about as different from the SR-71 as you can get.
- A number of things that would have to be in place to support a manned hypersonic flight test program were not, as far as anyone can tell at this point. Aircraft traveling at these speeds require a lot of room and a lot of support assets, and then when things go wrong how does your crew escape and recover?

Yadda yadda. I could go on and on.
 

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Meteorit

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quellish said:
- At least some of the infrastructure required to support development of a high supersonic or hypersonic cruise vehicle was being put in place in crash programs - for a while, then at least some of it stopped.
Any chance you could elaborate a bit on this?
 

GeorgeA

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I think Quellish sums it up. Note also that when the USSR dissolved, a lot of the incentive for the US to pursue high-end aerospace projects of this nature disappeared along with it. That might explain why some of these hypothetical projects, the existence of which provided the "circumstantial evidence" Q mentions, were stopped at the proof-of-concept or flight test stage and didn't go on to be operational systems. Or, maybe, we were just wildly unsuccessful and the vehicle(s) were shelved.


Having said that, it would be sweet to know what they did test and how successful the tests were.


Going slightly off topic, I do think it's interesting that we (myself included) bemoan the sorry state of US air-breathing hypersonic research, yet we've been pretty successful with rocket-powered hypersonic vehicles for decades.
 

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George Allegrezza said:
Going slightly off topic, I do think it's interesting that we (myself included) bemoan the sorry state of US air-breathing hypersonic research, yet we've been pretty successful with rocket-powered hypersonic vehicles for decades.

Indeed


From the SR-72 avation week article "This left the Skunk Work designers with a familiar problem: how to bridge the gap between the Mach 2.5 maximum speed of current-production turbine engines and the Mach 3-3.5 takeover speed of the ramjet/scramjet. “We call it the thrust chasm around Mach 3,” he adds."


This is an old problem... old solutions to this problem have looked at rockets, see SA-2S


http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=92


"This configuration was an enlarged version of VSF-4 powered by two Pratt & Whitney J52 turbojet engines for takeoff and cruise. A solid rocket, the first stage from a SCOUT rocket, was used to accelerate the aircraft to supersonic speeds necessary to start its two Marquardt ramjet engines"


EDIT
Note these were of course only studies from the early 60's no evidence exists that a prototype was built
 

quellish

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George Allegrezza said:
Going slightly off topic, I do think it's interesting that we (myself included) bemoan the sorry state of US air-breathing hypersonic research, yet we've been pretty successful with rocket-powered hypersonic vehicles for decades.
There has been plenty of research. These are difficult problems to solve.
 

GeorgeA

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quellish said:
There has been plenty of research. These are difficult problems to solve.


[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]Without question. The efforts have been well-documented on these pages. However, the institutional lack of commitment in the US government during the past couple of decades to solving these issues has led to a series of fits and starts, dead ends, and promising approaches dying off. The history of such things as ICBM development or the creation of satellite reconnaissance shows that advanced technologies need broad political support and tolerance of failure in order to reach important national goals. We don't have that today in hypersonic research and, avoiding any black-world mumbo jumbo, we don't seem to be on a steady path to achieve it.[/font]


[font=verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif]My other point is that "we" seem to be focused on scramjets, and there are other technologies available to solve the hypersonic propulsion problem, some of them less efficient, admittedly, but perhaps easier to attain. I can't help but believe in my tiny layman's brain that a conventionally-armed Skybolt equivalent would be an ideal A2/AD weapon. But, I just know what I read on the Internet, so I'm probably wrong there.[/font]
 

sferrin

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George Allegrezza said:
quellish said:
There has been plenty of research. These are difficult problems to solve.


Without question. The efforts have been well-documented on these pages. However, the institutional lack of commitment in the US government during the past couple of decades to solving these issues has led to a series of fits and starts, dead ends, and promising approaches dying off. The history of such things as ICBM development or the creation of satellite reconnaissance shows that advanced technologies need broad political support and tolerance of failure in order to reach important national goals. We don't have that today in hypersonic research and, avoiding any black-world mumbo jumbo, we don't seem to be on a steady path to achieve it.


My other point is that "we" seem to be focused on scramjets, and there are other technologies available to solve the hypersonic propulsion problem, some of them less efficient, admittedly, but perhaps easier to attain. I can't help but believe in my tiny layman's brain that a conventionally-armed Skybolt equivalent would be an ideal A2/AD weapon. But, I just know what I read on the Internet, so I'm probably wrong there.
Like this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCUwZs6BK0w


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaurya_%28missile%29
 

Mr London 24/7

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Likely description (and depiction - of integrated) of same LaRC study, from McClinton et al:

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, NASA Langley was engaged in an in-house program to develop an airframe-integrated scramjet concept and ground demonstrate its performance potential. This program included research on engine components (inlets, combustors, and nozzles), computational fluid dynamics for internal reacting and non-reacting flows, component integration (sub-scale engines), high-temperature materials and structures, and flow diagnostics. In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) and industry were also involved in this technology development, again only at modest level of effort.These research efforts were substantially augmented during the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) Program that spent over $3B between 1984 and 1995.
http://www.cs.odu.edu/~mln/ltrs-pdfs/NASA-2001-15isabe-ak.pdf
 

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Interestingly I found a document from the CIA that was received from the ISINGLASS files for a vehicle study, dated Oct 1969, for an Advanced Aerodynamic Reconnaissance System. The CIA was looking for money to develop the concept in FY1970. They proposed a boostglide type system similar to ISINGLASS and was looking at the cost estimates using ISINGLASS as a model. I'll post the few documents I have as soon as I get near a scanner.
 

Dynoman

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Here is the document.

The CIA's Office of Special Activities conducted a study for a boost-glide vehicle, known as the Advanced Aerodynamic Reconnaissance System, that followed the cancellation of the ISINGLASS project. Additional documentation shows meetings with McDonnell Aircraft Co., concerning this new reconnaissance study. Money was sought for further concept evaluation.

I don't know where this study led, if anywhere, however it does show continued interest in an operational boost-glide reconnaissance system into 1969, based on the ISINGLASS concept.
 

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Mr London 24/7

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British Tabloid rag 'The Daily Mail' serves as the source for yet another SP post.... ;)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2854551/What-loud-bangs-heard-Britain-Twitter-bombarded-reports-mysterious-noises-military-denies-RAF-jets-cause.html
 

CJGibson

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It's deja vu all over again!

Chris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yj9OYFkB2y8
 

Mr London 24/7

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They might contact you for some Background?

Wait, where are those KC-135T's this week.... ;)
 

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They'll have to make a rather hazardous climb up the platform legs to doorstep me at the moment as it's a bit rough out here.

I think it has been sufficiently documented in the past. I'd only be interesting in a tyre-kicking trip.

Anybody mentioned seismic responses? Course not, they'll be from fracking.

Chris
 

Mr London 24/7

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Mr London 24/7 said:
New Year, New Aurora Thread revival!... No?:

In case you missed Orionblamblam's Blog (like me... 2 years ago...)

Interesting in time frame and concept, from the Penland Files perhaps?
New Year, New Aurora Thread revival!... No Wait... again?:

Anyway - just to point out
Buz Carpenter making a cheeky reference to his own former 'Aurora' program in this book review for the AF Historical Foundation:

The mysterious Aurora program continues to fascinate conspiracy believers


Must be talking about that Bill Sweetman? ;)
 

Flyaway

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CJGibson said:
They'll have to make a rather hazardous climb up the platform legs to doorstep me at the moment as it's a bit rough out here.

I think it has been sufficiently documented in the past. I'd only be interesting in a tyre-kicking trip.

Anybody mentioned seismic responses? Course not, they'll be from fracking.

Chris
Suggesting this is fracking is even more unlikely than a secret aircraft.
 

quellish

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Mr London 24/7 said:
New Year, New Aurora Thread revival!... No Wait... again?:

Anyway - just to point out
Buz Carpenter making a cheeky reference to his own former 'Aurora' program in this book review for the AF Historical Foundation:


As best I can tell, Carpenter was in the USAF special projects office from 1981-1984/85. ATB RFP was in 1980, with source selection ("competition") happening through most of 1981. The "AURORA" PE code (0101119F) first appeared publicly in a FY86 budget document. There has never been anything to indicate that PE code had been around longer.
 

Mr London 24/7

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Indeed there hasn't - one can only agree my dear quellish!

The original Carpenter-Aurora link was made in the Rich/Janos 'Skunk Works' book, and is cited in the public domain much since.

I'm reminded of one of my favourite quotes!:

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know"
 

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I wonder if anyone here remembers the year 1987 and the news reports on the radio (an AM station where I lived at the time) that "the USAF had begun flight testing a mach 6 spy plane in the Nevada desert" that was going to replace the SR-71. The reporting lasted for a day or two before never being heard again. Major news outlets don't just make stuff like that up out of thin air, especially in 1987 LONG before there was even public/fan speculation about "Aurora". This was also long before most people knew about Groom Lake. If only I had made a recording of that. . .
 

Stargazer2006

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Yes, but there is a marked difference between saying in 1988 that they were "developing" something and saying in 1987 they were "flight testing" something!
 

quellish

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tacitblue said:
I wonder if anyone here remembers the year 1987 and the news reports on the radio (an AM station where I lived at the time) that "the USAF had begun flight testing a mach 6 spy plane in the Nevada desert" that was going to replace the SR-71. The reporting lasted for a day or two before never being heard again. Major news outlets don't just make stuff like that up out of thin air, especially in 1987 LONG before there was even public/fan speculation about "Aurora". This was also long before most people knew about Groom Lake. If only I had made a recording of that. . .

Rene Francillon, who was well regarded and considered a reputable source published in 1982/83 that Lockheed had flown a Mach 6 aircraft.
By 1985/86 there were rumors and speculation of a USAF Mach 6-8 aircraft. In 1987/88 the AURORA PE code became public and was linked to the Mach 6 rumors by the press.


The press was aware of Groom Lake in the early 80s for a number of reasons - the LVRJ reporting, Bill Lear, etc.
 

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From 2006:

Secret UK report points to existence of 'Aurora'
Skies fill with hypersonic black helicopters
15 Jun 2006 at 14:35, Lester Haines

Source:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/15/aurora/
 

marauder2048

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CJGibson

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'The reference to the "F-19" makes this article truly classic.'

Aye, maybe with the benefit of hindsight. Back in January 88, nobody knew, so calm down laddie.

B-2: Unveiled end of 88, F-117: November 88. If my memory serves me. Prior to that, we only had rough ideas to go on and any clues were seized upon.

Give us old hands a break. There was a Cold War on.

Chris
 

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CJGibson said:
B-2: Unveiled end of 88, F-117: November 88. I my memory serves me.
I think the F-117 was unveiled some time during Spring 1989. I still have the AW&ST article somewhere.
 

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Skyblazer said:
CJGibson said:
B-2: Unveiled end of 88, F-117: November 88. I my memory serves me.
I think the F-117 was unveiled some time during Spring 1989. I still have the AW&ST article somewhere.
The F-117 was publicly announced on November 10, 1988 by Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard. -SP
 
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Ian33

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There was something manned, flown and tested that was far higher and faster than an SR71.

SR71 pilot shared an amusing account where they did a speed run, and found out it was a cover for a higher faster test - by the ground team giving a far higher and faster speed by mistake.
 

marauder2048

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Ian33 said:
There was something manned, flown and tested that was far higher and faster than an SR71.

SR71 pilot shared an amusing account where they did a speed run, and found out it was a cover for a higher faster test - by the ground team giving a far higher and faster speed by mistake.
Could it have been the X-15? They did overlap in time and might have overlapped in space.
 

Mr London 24/7

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marauder2048 said:
Ian33 said:
There was something manned, flown and tested that was far higher and faster than an SR71.

SR71 pilot shared an amusing account where they did a speed run, and found out it was a cover for a higher faster test - by the ground team giving a far higher and faster speed by mistake.
Could it have been the X-15? They did overlap in time and might have overlapped in space.

No, it was much later and is covered here:


http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,7886.msg85798/topicseen.html#msg85798
 

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M2048 - What do you know (aside from the one quote I remember from somewhere) about the "directed disinformation campaign"?

If it existed, why on earth would any idiot have talked about it?

Or maybe the quote about disinformation was the disinformation...
 

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CJGibson said:
'The reference to the "F-19" makes this article truly classic.'

B-2: Unveiled end of 88, F-117: November 88. If my memory serves me. Prior to that, we only had rough ideas to go on and any clues were seized upon.
I remember the B-2 unveiling well. As the news anchor was wrapping up the story his closing remarks were something along the lines of "the Air Force plans to unveil 3 new stealth airplanes next year." I distinctly remember specifically the number "3". I knew the ATF program was producing 2 prototypes that were going to be shown to the public, and I assumed the 3rd plane was going to be the SR-71 replacement.

So what ever happened to that 3rd airplane? I assume is stayed black.

In an interview before he passed away, Tom Clancy said on video that one of his sources revealed to him the existence of a manned fighter sized supersonic stealth aircraft. I can't locate the video any longer.

I think that it goes without saying the Pentagon isn't keeping those hangars out in the desert full of acquired Russian equipment and one-off demonstrators.
 

marauder2048

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LowObservable said:
M2048 - What do you know (aside from the one quote I remember from somewhere) about the "directed disinformation campaign"?

If it existed, why on earth would any idiot have talked about it?

Or maybe the quote about disinformation was the disinformation...
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/18/us/lies-and-rigged-star-wars-test-fooled-the-kremlin-and-congress.html

Given that US "reconnaissance-strike complexes" were the bugbear of Soviet defense analysts and generals, a putative hypersonic version would really get them to spend.

And here's just one minor technical objection: an endoatmospheric, hypersonic recon plane makes absolutely *no* sense from a SAR/MTI perspective i.e. really the only viable sensor it could have carried during the time period it was alleged to have operated.
 

marauder2048

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Another major problem for a hypersonic recon plane: its putative major role, that of helping in the hunt for mobile ICBMs cannot
be reconciled with what we know of US defense plans for attacking the strategic relocatable target threat with:

* ICBM delivered MaRVs guided in the terminal phase by a sensor equipped PBV
* ICBM delivered long-loiter, subsonic cruise missiles
* B-2s accompanied by RPVs serving as bi-static SAR/GMTI transmitters

All of the above were just as capable and technically attainable at cost during the period.

On the other hand, if Aurora's major role was to be part of a reconstituted trans-attack/post-attack recon asset that was also
superfluous given the plan to reserve a portion of the rail and road mobile ICBM and SLBM force as satellite launchers and the large
investment in relocatable OTH radars.

So a hypersonic recon aircraft doesn't make much sense but given the massive increase in the Soviet bomber threat
to CONUS, a hypersonic interceptor does make some sense. After all, the US would have to defend *its* mobile ICBMs from the Soviet bomber fleet.
 

quellish

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marauder2048 said:
* ICBM delivered MaRVs guided in the terminal phase by a sensor equipped PBV
* ICBM delivered long-loiter, subsonic cruise missiles

Neither of these things made it much past wind tunnel models.


marauder2048 said:
* B-2s accompanied by RPVs serving as bi-static SAR/GMTI transmitters



LACROSSE documents the large search area - so you don't have to search the ENTIRE USSR landmass while executing SIOP.
QUARTZ provides SIOP and post-SIOP search
B-2 radar finds the needle in the smaller search area and uses SRAMs to attack.


The problem here was that for QUARTZ to be effective it would have to be in the search area long before the B-2s. This was impractical for a number of reasons. QUARTZ was also not very effective in searching large areas - to cover the required area would have required many more QUARTZ and more time.

So a hypersonic platform that could search a large area for SRT and point other systems to their targets would have filled a gap. Such a system could arrive well before the strikers and image a large area in a small amount of time. It *would* have filled a need.

marauder2048 said:
So a hypersonic recon aircraft doesn't make much sense but given the massive increase in the Soviet bomber threat
to CONUS, a hypersonic interceptor does make some sense. After all, the US would have to defend *its* mobile ICBMs from the Soviet bomber fleet.



Not really. An unmanned hypersonic AA weapon WAS flight tested. And thus, today we have AHW.
 

marauder2048

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quellish said:
marauder2048 said:
* ICBM delivered MaRVs guided in the terminal phase by a sensor equipped PBV
* ICBM delivered long-loiter, subsonic cruise missiles

Neither of these things made it much past wind tunnel models.
It was the exact strategy (in terms of platforms and payloads) the US was using to counter the theater mobile missile threat.
Makes sense to scale it up to strategic mobile missile threat. And such weapons would have first strike or second strike utility i.e.
they would be generally useful in a strategic sense.

quellish said:
The problem here was that for QUARTZ to be effective it would have to be in the search area long before the B-2s. This was impractical for a number of reasons
Given that the Reagan administration had rescinded the ban on overflights in order to aid in the hunt for the mobile missiles it was
more practical.

quellish said:
So a hypersonic platform that could search a large area for SRT and point other systems to their targets would have filled a gap. Such a system could arrive well before the strikers and image a large area in a small amount of time. It *would* have filled a need.

It would have filled that need by taking very low SNR images over a vast area at hypersonic speed, then using a data link that works at hypersonic speed (none were known to exist during this period or well after) transmit that vast amount of data to the survivable satellite relay system that could handle all of 1.2 kilobits/sec? C'mon...

If you want a hypersonic imager you would get it by reserving some of your survivable ICBM/SLBM forcer or bombers equipped with Pegasus as LEO satellite launchers.

That would serve the far more pressing need of reconstituting your space systems with any number
of the lightsat, smallsat, cheapsat or sparse phased array radar sat concepts that were explored in the early 80's.
 
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Ian33

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I'm still 100% in the camp that the Greenland / UK Gap anti shipping asset was the reason for the high speed effort. Too many people saw / heard / experienced 'something' out over the gap over a prolonged period of time for it to be coincidence.
 
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