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Mystery aircraft photographed over Texas

xstatic3000

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Static said:
Two PAOs at Whiteman had ample time to check with schedulers about B-2 deployments. One answered the query before the story broke, the other - a day after the story broke. It wasn't as if just answered the queries off the cuff or didn't have time to consult the schedulers.

They could have said "We'll check and get back to you." but didn't. I inquiry to Whiteman was March 10 and was answered on March 28th.


Perhaps I'm a cynical (former) Fed - but I provided information to and requested information from PAOs from the USAF and USN for years. Without disparaging any of them, it's really hard for me to believe that the responses to the sighting are part of some kind of elaborate cover-up. Keep in mind that here in the States, "PAO Specialist" is an entry level position - some of the active duty ones that I've encountered were quite literally teenagers right out of basic, and quite a few of the civilian specialists that I've met are recent college graduates. I've personally been misquoted and had my words taken out of context more times than I can remember by PAOs.


The PAOs at locations associated with high visibility programs receive an incredibly high volume of inquiries from the public and the press every day. A person I know who was once a specialist at NAS Oceana literally received hundreds of emails from people wanting F-14 flyovers, especially when it was announced that they were being retired. In addition to the standard requests for tours and noise complaints, I can imagine that Whiteman's PAO Office receives a ton of emails daily from people who "saw something" just based on the high-profile nature and unique appearance of the B-2. It's actually hard to imagine a scenario where a GS-7 specialist would take a significant amount of time to check with the 509th and the 131st to get confirmation of where their aircraft were on a particular day and time - even when the person asking is a well known and respected aviation writer and blogger, or an esteemed veteran aviation journalist.


It's also clear that the other response was from a more senior person who after a meeting, generated a canned response for the extremely high volume of queries received after this story broke. Considering the current threat environment and geopolitical situation, we shouldn't really expect to get an accurate official answer about the whereabouts of one of our most valuable and sensitive National Assets. The "Air Force Official" who spoke to the USNI reporter was speaking off the record, and merely stated that the pictures are likely of training sorties. Its important to note that there was no confirmation of any specific flights at a particular date and time.


That said, anything is possible.
 

sublight is back

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quellish said:
Images from both cameras show pin cushion distortion that is typical of a telephoto lens that is zoom to near it's limits. You can seem some of the effects of this in each of the images, this is highlighted in one of the images below. Note that the actual effects of this type of distortion are across the whole lens. Pincusion distortion will affect the image little in the center, increasing dramatically as you move out from the center. Pincushion distortion will make straight lines or edges appear concave.
Those dots are not pincushion distortion. Those dots are dust particles that have collected on the face of the CCD or CMOS imager when the lens was removed from the DSLR.

Additionally, almost every Nikon and Canon lens has built in firmware to compensate for Pincushion distortions caused by the optics. If they did not have this, we would be buying $20,000 lenses. As a result, we have fantastically accurate images even at the limit of these lenses.
 

sublight is back

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Stargazer said:
Thanks Triton for noticing. And thanks mz, too. I appreciate that someone finally brings some arguments to discuss my pictures.
My compliments to the chef as well, I thought you did a pretty fantastic job in your analysis.
 

quellish

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sublight is back said:
Those dots are not pincushion distortion. Those dots are dust particles that have collected on the face of the CCD or CMOS imager when the lens was removed from the DSLR.

You are correct that those are not pincushion distortion! This is why later in the post it was pointed out:


quellish said:
That said, there do appear to be a number of consistent visual artifacts from the D camera in the released images. These are highlighted below as lens artifacts, though these are only the most easily identifable instances.


This is also why the pincushion distortion was marked and labelled differently than the lens visual artifacts.
It is very unlikely that these are dots or dust particles on the CCD itself. They are following the shape of the lens, and follow a distinct distribution.

sublight is back said:

Additionally, almost every Nikon and Canon lens has built in firmware to compensate for Pincushion distortions caused by the optics. If they did not have this, we would be buying $20,000 lenses. As a result, we have fantastically accurate images even at the limit of these lenses.



I am well aware of this, and the limitations of Nikon and Canon distortion control. Again, the data is in the image.
The S camera is a Nikon D70. That is not actually a camera that supports Nikon's distortion control implementation:
http://nikonimglib.com/dcdata/
You will also note that Nikon's implementation only supports certain Nikon lenses. It also has a tendency to blur parts of an image that would otherwise be subject to distortion.


The D images do not contain information on the camera or lenses.


A post-processing software solution does not give "fantastically accurate" images. It does quite the opposite. "Fantastically accurate images" require a "fantastically accurate" light path to the sensor. Taking bad data and attempting to apply a correction is not how "accurate" works.

 

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quellish said:
It is very unlikely that these are dots or dust particles on the CCD itself. They are following the shape of the lens, and follow a distinct distribution.

These are classic signs of dust on a DSLR sensor. I have no idea what you mean by "following the shape of the lens" and what is distinct about the distribution?


You also seem to be highlighting the lens vignetting (light fall off) and labelling it as 'pincushion distortion'. I would be interested how you are able to identify image distortion on such a featureless image as largely blank sky? (i.e. there are no straight lines/known geometry with which to reference any distortion).
 

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The forensic image analysis is fascinating, but my inner plod keeps coming back to "how often have these two guys photographed B-2 aircraft at these altitudes, and how often with these exact lenses and bodies, and how did those photos come out?"


Or would atmospheric variation between events make this irrelevant?
 

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So can someone post a confirmed B-2 photo at high altitude that looks like the mystery craft? The B-2 has been photographed numerous times in the past with telephoto lenses, I'm sure if the B-2 could look like the mystery triangle it would of already happened in the past.
 

xstatic3000

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repsol said:
So can someone post a confirmed B-2 photo at high altitude that looks like the mystery craft? The B-2 has been photographed numerous times in the past with telephoto lenses, I'm sure if the B-2 could look like the mystery triangle it would of already happened in the past.

Pictures and a video were posted earlier in this thread, and they clearly demonstrate how distorted a moving flying wing aircraft can appear when photographed from six miles below.


For your comparison to work, all conditions would have to be identical.


Keep in mind that the camera used, a Nikon D70, was a high quality DSLR at the time, but is now nearly 10 years old.
 

bobbymike

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Interesting image, especially the angles and back end, from this Popular Mechanics article.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/planes-uavs/how-the-next-gen-stealth-bomber-will-work-15438875

 

flateric

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fancy art... and an aerodynamicist's nightmare
 

dannydale

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One quick look, two shakes of my head 'no' on sight was my reaction to that PopMech plane. Oops.
 

donnage99

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And obsolete pre f-117 stealth philosophy as well - curved edges all around
 

J.A.W.

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donnage99 said:
And obsolete pre f-117 stealth philosophy as well - curved edges all around
Ah, hang on.. isn't it the 'F'-117 & its angular facet look which is the 'obsolete' flying stealth design?

B-2 is fairly curvy by comparison..
 

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Modern stealth aircraft are curvy surfaces... with very angular planforms. Curvy planforms seem to only exist in very early stealthy designs.
 

BioLuminescentLamprey

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flateric said:
fancy art... and an aerodynamicist's nightmare
...also not much fun for the Low Observables engineers. Vertical tails would be a real shock to see on LRS-B, among other visible problem areas I can see at a glance here. Still, it's a pretty picture.
 

quellish

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J.A.W. said:
Ah, hang on.. isn't it the 'F'-117 & its angular facet look which is the 'obsolete' flying stealth design?

B-2 is fairly curvy by comparison..

Physical laws don't become obsolete easily.


What happened is something like this:
1940s-Early 1970s: Radar signature reduction is mostly art, not science. A lot of trial, error, and time on poles. While the physics that drives radar cross section is understood, applying it in a rigorous manner is difficult.


Early 1970s: Various companies develop vastly improved design and simulation tools for calculating or estimating radar cross section: Northrop, Ryan, Lockheed, and others. Northrop probably had the first software solution for computing radar cross section but it's application was limited (and was best for low frequencies). By 1975 Lockheed had a set of software tools that worked well for high frequencies but were limited by computing power and software design. Both Lockheed and Northrop had recently worked on LO/VLO projects for other parts of DoD that helped move their tools forward.
At the time of the HAVE BLUE competition Lockheed and Northrop both had tools that allowed them to reach previously impossible levels of signature reduction.
Their competitors did not. Half of "Team X" had long, proven experience with low observables but they had no idea that Lockheed and Northrop could better them by (multiple) orders of magnitude.


1980s: The successes of the HAVE BLUE demonstrations resulted in greatly expanded efforts within DARPA and USAF to find new applications for VLO. These were largely using the tools used on HAVE BLUE, or evolutions of them. Lockheed invested in software and computing resources after winning XST and SENIOR TREND. With these resources it was much more feasible to take the "perfect" low RCS shape (Hopeless Diamond) and turn it into a flyable, operational aircraft. At the same time, Lockheed was somewhat adverse to changing the HAVE BLUE "recipe". This is why early SENIOR PROM models were not very different from the XST/SENIOR TREND.


1990s: The 1990s brought major advances in computational electromagnetics software. Hybrid solutions for both low and high frequencies became available - this was due to advances in how the software was written not "Moore's Law". This enabled aircraft designers to optimize across a much wider range of frequencies than before. The tools were also better able to predict the effects of different materials, and later layers of materials (i.e. metal under composites, etc). At least some of these capabilities were the result of efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to build low observable radomes, antennas, and apertures.
Manufacturing capabilities also advanced greatly during the same period, and in many cases VLO software tools were made part of that workflow. Software also allowed designers to optimize in 3 dimensional space, which had not been feasible during the 1980s. A 1980s VLO aircraft might have edges aligned in 3 planes (as if someone did it on a drafting table with a protractor), while a late 90s design may have alignment in many, many planes. This is somewhat difficult to explain or illustrate.


The physics and requirements that drove these designs remained constant throughout these periods: the ability to execute on them however changed drastically.
 

flateric

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http://www.wfaa.com/news/texas-news/bfont-color000000VIDEOfontb-Flying-Dorito-has-eyes-looking-to-the-skies-in-West-Texas-258730351.html
 

J.A.W.

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quellish said:
J.A.W. said:
Ah, hang on.. isn't it the 'F'-117 & its angular facet look which is the 'obsolete' flying stealth design?

B-2 is fairly curvy by comparison..

Physical laws don't become obsolete easily.




What happened is something like this:
1940s-Early 1970s: Radar signature reduction is mostly art, not science. A lot of trial, error, and time on poles. While the physics that drives radar cross section is understood, applying it in a rigorous manner is difficult.


Early 1970s: Various companies develop vastly improved design and simulation tools for calculating or estimating radar cross section: Northrop, Ryan, Lockheed, and others. Northrop probably had the first software solution for computing radar cross section but it's application was limited (and was best for low frequencies). By 1975 Lockheed had a set of software tools that worked well for high frequencies but were limited by computing power and software design. Both Lockheed and Northrop had recently worked on LO/VLO projects for other parts of DoD that helped move their tools forward.
At the time of the HAVE BLUE competition Lockheed and Northrop both had tools that allowed them to reach previously impossible levels of signature reduction.
Their competitors did not. Half of "Team X" had long, proven experience with low observables but they had no idea that Lockheed and Northrop could better them by (multiple) orders of magnitude.


1980s: The successes of the HAVE BLUE demonstrations resulted in greatly expanded efforts within DARPA and USAF to find new applications for VLO. These were largely using the tools used on HAVE BLUE, or evolutions of them. Lockheed invested in software and computing resources after winning XST and SENIOR TREND. With these resources it was much more feasible to take the "perfect" low RCS shape (Hopeless Diamond) and turn it into a flyable, operational aircraft. At the same time, Lockheed was somewhat adverse to changing the HAVE BLUE "recipe". This is why early SENIOR PROM models were not very different from the XST/SENIOR TREND.


1990s: The 1990s brought major advances in computational electromagnetics software. Hybrid solutions for both low and high frequencies became available - this was due to advances in how the software was written not "Moore's Law". This enabled aircraft designers to optimize across a much wider range of frequencies than before. The tools were also better able to predict the effects of different materials, and later layers of materials (i.e. metal under composites, etc). At least some of these capabilities were the result of efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to build low observable radomes, antennas, and apertures.
Manufacturing capabilities also advanced greatly during the same period, and in many cases VLO software tools were made part of that workflow. Software also allowed designers to optimize in 3 dimensional space, which had not been feasible during the 1980s. A 1980s VLO aircraft might have edges aligned in 3 planes (as if someone did it on a drafting table with a protractor), while a late 90s design may have alignment in many, many planes. This is somewhat difficult to explain or illustrate.


The physics and requirements that drove these designs remained constant throughout these periods: the ability to execute on them however changed drastically.


Thanks Q,

& does this co-relate with the development of 3D 'fractal' geometry software?
 

quellish

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J.A.W. said:
Thanks Q,

& does this co-relate with the development of 3D 'fractal' geometry software?

No.
 

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Dew said:
quellish said:
It is very unlikely that these are dots or dust particles on the CCD itself. They are following the shape of the lens, and follow a distinct distribution.

These are classic signs of dust on a DSLR sensor. I have no idea what you mean by "following the shape of the lens" and what is distinct about the distribution?


You also seem to be highlighting the lens vignetting (light fall off) and labeling it as 'pincushion distortion'. I would be interested how you are able to identify image distortion on such a featureless image as largely blank sky? (i.e. there are no straight lines/known geometry with which to reference any distortion).
At first glance I'd agree about this being contaminants on the AA filter. I have a bit of a doubt in that inspection of exif data shows that this images was taken with lens having a max focal length of 300mm, and a max aperture of f/5.6 with the lens wide open. I would not really expect contaminants on the AA filter to be this evident without the lens being stopped down a bit. Given the max FL/aperture I would expect this to be one of several consumer grade lenses, Nikkor or otherwise, none of which could even be thought of optimistically even somewhat sharp at 300mm. It would seem to be an uncropped image given the dimensions of 2240x1488, which correspond to medium size jpegs for the D70. Though I wonder in this day and age why anyone would set a D70 to anything but full/fine, as even a 1GB card would hold ~1000 images.
 

aliensporebomb

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Well it might have been converted to jpeg for web use - when I shoot, I shoot raw but downconvert for web use.

I have a 32 gig card and always shoot raw/full size. I was taking a walk at sunset with the wife and she noticed an "orange" airliner (glowing in the sun and due to the paint on the aircraft) so for fun I took a shot with my 55-200mm nikkor lens - zoomed in you can tell it's a southwest airlines airliner but you almost need a bigger/better lens to get some real definition on aircraft flying at 6-7 miles high.


But 400mm and larger is seriously expensive.
 

robunos

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Though I wonder in this day and age why anyone would set a D70 to anything but full/fine, as even a 1GB card would hold ~1000 images.
Another thought. Reducing the image size/lowering the quality would increase the performance of the camera in burst mode...

cheers,
Robin.
 

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aliensporebomb said:
Well it might have been converted to jpeg for web use - when I shoot, I shoot raw but downconvert for web use.
The full size image dimensions make it hard for that to be probable. Full size is 3008x2000, so the posted image at 2240x1488 isn't quite 75% of that. Furthermore at least in my version of PSE downsizing a full size image of 3008x2000 to 2240 wide keeping the aspect ratio fixed gets you 1489, not 1488. But why would one shoose 2240 to begin with?

I have a 32 gig card and always shoot raw/full size. I was taking a walk at sunset with the wife and she noticed an "orange" airliner (glowing in the sun and due to the paint on the aircraft) so for fun I took a shot with my 55-200mm nikkor lens - zoomed in you can tell it's a southwest airlines airliner but you almost need a bigger/better lens to get some real definition on aircraft flying at 6-7 miles high.
But 400mm and larger is seriously expensive.
I'm a Nikon shooter, started with a D70 and have been through D200/D300/D7100. One always wants more FL, the cost is somewhat subjective, the ability to carry it is less so, imo. The aircraft in this Nikon image is less than 40x40 pixels, not going to get a lot of detail there. I can't tell what quality it was originally saved at and it has been run through PSCS4 for the Mac so it most likely has been saved as a jpeg twice (once in the camera and once after some post processing), losing some information in the process. With a shutter speed of 1/1500sec, the electronic shutter was used. D70 has a combination mechanical/electronic shutter, iirc switching over to the electronic shutter at 1/500sec.

Filename - b57384e6-a5fd-4393-b7ca-9fc018a39528.Full.jpg
Make - NIKON CORPORATION
Model - NIKON D70
Orientation - Top left
XResolution - 300.00
YResolution - 300.00
ResolutionUnit - Inch
Software - Adobe Photoshop CS4 Macintosh
DateTime - 2014:03:10 17:57:54
YCbCrPositioning - Co-Sited
ExifOffset - 228
ExposureTime - 1/1500 seconds
FNumber - 5.60
ExposureProgram - Normal program
ExifVersion - 0221
DateTimeOriginal - 2014:03:10 16:32:44
DateTimeDigitized - 2014:03:10 16:32:44
ComponentsConfiguration - YCbCr
CompressedBitsPerPixel - 4 (bits/pixel)
ExposureBiasValue - 0.50
MaxApertureValue - F 5.66
MeteringMode - Multi-segment
LightSource - Auto
Flash - Not fired
FocalLength - 300.00 mm
UserComment -
SubsecTime - 10
SubsecTimeOriginal - 10
SubsecTimeDigitized - 10
FlashPixVersion - 0100
ColorSpace - sRGB
ExifImageWidth - 2240
ExifImageHeight - 1488
InteroperabilityOffset - 840
SensingMethod - One-chip color area sensor
FileSource - Other
SceneType - Other
CustomRendered - Normal process
ExposureMode - Auto
White Balance - Auto
DigitalZoomRatio - 1 x
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 450 mm
SceneCaptureType - Standard
GainControl - None
Contrast - Hard
Saturation - Normal
Sharpness - Normal
SubjectDistanceRange - Unknown

Thumbnail: -
Compression - 6 (JPG)
XResolution - 72
YResolution - 72
ResolutionUnit - Inch
JpegIFOffset - 966
JpegIFByteCount - 1364
 

DSE

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robunos said:
Though I wonder in this day and age why anyone would set a D70 to anything but full/fine, as even a 1GB card would hold ~1000 images.
Another thought. Reducing the image size/lowering the quality would increase the performance of the camera in burst mode...
D70 is only 3 fps at best and the buffer is is good enough for 9 images (according to the fine manual) before speed is limited by the speed of writing to the card.
 

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Raising Spirits

The B-2 bomber fleet set a record in April for sorties and hours flown in a single month, according to officials at Whiteman AFB, Mo., home to these stealth bombers. Members of Whiteman’s 509th Bomb Wing, together with their partners in the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st BW, flew 142 sorties in the month, amassing 839.3 hours, states the base’s May 9 release. "Any bad guy in the world watching us over the last 30 days saw a whole lot of airplanes doing a whole lot of flying. That's a strong message," said Col. Chase McCown, 509th Maintenance Group commander. B-2 maintainers achieved a mission-capable rate of nearly 70 percent for the month, some 15 percent above the bombers’ average rate, said McCown. That’s not an easy feat, he said, given the amount of maintenance required to maintain the low-observable qualities of the 20-aircraft fleet. “We proved we have proficient operators and maintainers who can surge operations and put jets in the air,” said Col. Edward Martignetti, 509th Operations Group commander. Among their activity, B-2 pilots flew long-duration sorties, trained with special operators, and worked with F-22s, he said. (Whiteman report by SrA. Bryan Crane)

5/13/2014
 

J.A.W.

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Well, - if "any bad guy in the world watching"..."saw a whole lot"..

- then maybe the B-2 stealth-wise - has lost its 'glamour'.. & a next gen bomber is needed - like now?
 

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BIll Sweetman on hunting mystery planes.


http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/searching-secrets-area-51-180951405/
 

phrenzy

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Has there been any developments with either of the pictured aircraft in the last month? A quick Google search didn't turn up much but I have a hard time believing at least some people aren't following up on two such exciting happenings.
 

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I'm not sure what you really could do; the USAF already gave their official response and have obviously wised up (by not flying prototypes over that area). Assuming of course that the aircraft was indeed not a B-2.
 

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That's something I thought there might be movement on, since clever image/geometry analysis to further confirm or deny if it's a B-2.
 

TAGBOARD

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Ian33 said:
XP67_Moonbat said:
I sure hope for him he finds the R-119 and gets the scoop on it. That'd make all those years of hard work pay off. Then again, a 'first' of the new stealth drone would be almost as awesome.

Are you referring to the "Boeing Model 119" that a job requisition was posted for back in 2010? Some of the job description included:



- "Inspect explosive and armament installations."
- "Inspect drag chutes and wing tip tanks as required."
- "Inspect the construction and modification of experimental aircraft."
- "Perform crash crew duties as directed."
- "Direct the aircraft in, chock the aircraft, putting up the boarding ladders, install essential safeties and unlock and fold wings."
- "Install and remove aircraft doors (excluding electronic access doors) and EROS pods."
- "Assemble prototype such as Model 119."
 

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John21 said:
A member of ATS(Above Top Secret) by the name of Zaphod58 claims that the aircraft will be revealed in "over two months but less than a year". He's doing a lot of hinting on certain things but never outright confirming anything. He has 30,000 posts and is a mod of the Secret Aircraft Projects part of the board so I'm kind of conflicted here.
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread1008530/pg1
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread1008344/pg1

Of course there was the other guy who was a refueler on a tanker(his credentials checked out) who claimed that he refueled a couple of "black" triangler aircraft over Iraq during the 2003 invasion. He claims that they were a stealth ECM/Jamming platform that flew over watch for F-117s.
I have been told that it's one of a couple of new platforms, and it's quite the design.
 

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From what I've heard from multiple sources though is that the Amarillo aircraft will be unveiled before the end of the year. It's been flying with another one for at least a year, possibly year and a half, and has already flown out of the UK region doing testing. If the numbers that I have been given hold up, then it will be a very interesting aircraft.
 

dark sidius

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Very impatient to be at the end of 15 ;), there is another picture of a triangle mystery craft over Kansas but may be it can be the same of Texas with a different angle.
 

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Zaphod58 said:
From what I've heard from multiple sources though is that the Amarillo aircraft will be unveiled before the end of the year.
What year exactly? Because it was last April when it was "less then a year" before it "should have been unveiled".
 

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I was initially told it would be less than a year. That schedule was revised after a problem developed with one aircraft, that grounded it for roughly 90 days. The revised schedule I was given points to late 2015.
 

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Zaphod58 said:
From what I've heard from multiple sources though is that the Amarillo aircraft will be unveiled before the end of the year. It's been flying with another one for at least a year, possibly year and a half, and has already flown out of the UK region doing testing. If the numbers that I have been given hold up, then it will be a very interesting aircraft.

Why would a Classified aircraft undergoing Flight Test (and therefore requiring very specific ground support and testing resources) leave the Restricted (and instrumented) US Ranges and fly out of the UK?
 

Zaphod58

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Live testing against foreign radars, as well as show and tell to the MoD. Both platforms were there at least thirty days, flying against Rapier and Typhoon radars.
 

sferrin

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Zaphod58 said:
Live testing against foreign radars, as well as show and tell to the MoD. Both platforms were there at least thirty days, flying against Rapier and Typhoon radars.
There are Typhoons in Nevada (and probably Rapier as well). Flying a secret aircraft to the UK for what you've suggested makes no sense at all.
 
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