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The North Sea Aurora sighting

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flateric

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Captures from Discovery Channel's The Black Aircraft documentary

CHRIS GIBSON'S AURORA SIGHTING
By Simon Gray

In August 1989, Chris Gibson, a Scottish oil-exploration engineer and, at the time, a member of the British Royal Observer Corps (ROC), was working on the oil rig Galveston Key in the North Sea when he noticed an aircraft in the shape of a pure isoceles triangle refuelling from a KC-135 Stratotanker alongside two F-111s.

The unknown aircraft, cruising in a formation northward through Air-to-Air Refuelling Area (AARA) 6A, is what people have come to believe, is the mysterious Aurora hypersonic spyplane. Another possible aircraft, which could have been seen over the North Sea however, is Northrop's A-17 stealth attack plane.

Chris Gibson's observation of the mysterious flying triangle is often cited by UFO researchers when the subject of Aurora rises. Below, Chris Gibson explains precisely what happened, as well as giving an insight into himself.

I welcome any questions on my North Sea sighting, as I am of the opinion that too much is taken at face value in the black aircraft snark hunt. I think that the snark hunt has degenerated into an exercise in regurgitating the same old stories with little or no new research being done.

A bit about me. I work as a drilling technologist for a major oil field service company. I hold an Honours degree in geology, with some engineering, geophysics and chemistry thrown in. I also did a post graduate course in systems analysis, I was a member of the Royal Observers Corps for 13 years and was a member of the ROC's aicraft recognition team for 12 of those years. In this field I was considered to be an expert and produced an aircraft recognition manual for the ROC. Some will obviously know the sighting story, but I'll fill you in on what happened from my point of view.

I was working in the indefatigable field on the jack-up rig 'Galvestion Key' in August 1989. My colleague, Graeme Winton, went out on deck but returned immediately. He told me to "have a look at this." We went outside and Graeme pointed skywards.

I had been at university with Graeme and he knew of my interest in aircraft. As far as Graeme was concerned it was a formation of aircraft and he reckoned I'd be interested. I looked up, saw the tanker and the F-111s, but was amazed to see the triangle. I am trained in instant recognition, but this triangle had me stopped dead. My first thought was that it was another F-111, but there was no 'gaps', it was too long and it didn't look like one.

My next thought was that it was an F-117, as the highly swept planform of the F-117 had just been made public. Again the triangle was too long and had no gaps. After considering and rejecting a Mirage IV, I was totally out of ideas. Here was an aircraft, flying over head, not too high and not particularly fast. A recognition gift and I was clueless. This was a new experience. Graeme asked me what was going on. I watched as the formation flew overhead and told him that the big one was a KC-135 Stratotanker, the two on the left were F-111s and that I didn't know what the fourth aircraft was.

Graeme said "I though you were an expert?" I said "I am." To which Graeme replied "Some expert."

It was obvious to me that this aircraft was something 'dodgy'. I watched the formation for a minute or two and went back inside with Graeme. At the time I was writing the aircraft recognition manual and had a Danish Luftmelderkorpset Flykendingsbog in my briefcase. This is probably the best aircraft recognition book ever produced. I looked through it, but nothing matched. I then sketched what I had seen and sent this to Peter Edwards, who was a Group Officer in the ROC and was also on the recognition team.

We discussed what to do about it but decided that if it was reported through official channels, it would be at best rubbished, at worst lead to trouble. Having signed the Official Secrets Act I didn't want to jeopardise my position in the recognition team, so I kept my mouth shut. I told other members of the recognition team in the hope that they could shed some light on the subject. On returning home I had a look through my book collection. The only aircraft which came close to matching what I had seen was a Handley Page HP115. It was not one of them. Whether this aircraft was a Aurora is debatable - my background precludes jumping to conclusions based on a single piece of evidence. I wrote to Bill Sweetman (Stealth expert) after being sent an illustration from Janes Defense Weekly which matched what I had seen.

As an aside, I wrote to two other writers who did not reply. Bill reckons it was Aurora; Agenct 'X' reckons it was the FB-119. I don't know what it was. It is the only aircraft I have ever seen that I could not identify. Pete Edwards told Bill Sweetman that if I didn't know what this aircraft was, it isn't in any book. I've been hunting this 'snark' for almost 9 years now and have turned up some interesting stuff, mainly through my own efforts, but also by having looked in the most unusual places. Talking to the people involved is a necessity.

As I said before, I welcome the healthy scepticism, but at least give me the opportunity to state my case.


from "Chris Gibson's Aurora Sighting (1989)" at AboveTopSecret.com
http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread60770/pg#pid632163.
 

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LowObservable

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Remarkable that this account has not changed one iota over the years.

And that it is reasonable to guess that OPSEC would not account for the risk of a trained visual observer in the middle of the North Sea.

By the way, neither was there any way that OPSEC planners would have known that CalTech people had (a) networked their seismographs and (b) played around with them as a detection/tracking system.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Is there any validity to the little snippets that come out in the news from air traffic controllers in the US Southwest that have noted an aircraft moving very fast and very high?
 

Firefly 2

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

I'm not able to log in for download, but I guess there might be something here.
http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JASMAN000111000001000614000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

http://sonicbooms.org/ReferenceTechPapers/seismicboom.pdf
 

Firefly 2

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Section 5 adresses the said mistery booms, nothing really new there ( mach 5-6 flying vehicle) just with a lot of scientific data added.
Very nice!
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Quote from LO: "By the way, neither was there any way that OPSEC planners would have known that CalTech people had (a) networked their seismographs and (b) played around with them as a detection/tracking system."

Most geologists and geophysicists have a passing interest in aerospace, be it getting to work or having been inspired by Harrison Schmitt. Some more than others. One day in the seismic observatory, waiting for the Big One, a couple of geos see responses caused by sonic booms. One of them is bound to have thought "Hmmmm...what if..?"

I'd be interested to know if that's how this work started off.

KB
 

overscan

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

And thats the same Chris Gibson who wrote BSP 4, so we have a lot to thank the USAF for!
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

OK, I've always was wondering who is Chris Gibson in person - till I saw this documentary - he makes an impression of very accurate in his descriptions, and never you can make a clue he has started this case willing to make money or become a celebrity (even, I'd say, I had an impression that he shy why talking of the case). We are moving to the 20th anniversary of 'Aurora' whatever it was/is, so it's good time to remember how all it's started up.
And - for a long time - I didn't know that Chris Gibson and BSP4 author is the same person...shame on me...
 

LowObservable

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

We are moving to the 20th anniversary of 'Aurora' whatever it was/is

:eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek:
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

OK, still I have many old industry veterans that pretty sure that Aurora along with Pumpkin Seed publications were another CIA provocation a-la SDI to force us spent money for useless, in their opinion, stuff.
 

sferrin

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

flateric said:
OK, still I have many old industry veterans that pretty sure that Aurora along with Pumpkin Seed publications were another CIA provocation a-la SDI to force us spent money for useless, in their opinion, stuff.
I remember the big "flamming pumpkin seeds" article in AvWeek from back then. The vehicles would have had something like a hundred warheads in upward-firing tubes similar to Pluto.
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

For younger generation...Oh, these were the good times...The last Golden Era of aviation, full of optimism and everyday news.
 

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LowObservable

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Right... so the CIA gets on to MI6, who find this aeroplane spotting expert, invite him for a beer in the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland Avenue and persuade him to fabricate a sighting and feed it to some gullible twit of an aerospace writer... At the same time, the Culinary Institute plants a stooge in CalTech's seismo labs and runs some secret balls-out SR flights over LA to trip the sensors, while planting what is in fact a completely different and contradictory story (Pumpkin Seed is not Blackstar is not Aurora) with Monsignor Scott at AvWeek...

Or maybe really everyone is in on the plot. But why make the big public things all happen in 1990-92, after the Soviet Union has fallen apart? And why did the Soviet Union take the alleged bait in the mid-1980s - when things that might be interpreted as "counter-Aurora" systems were under development - before it was offered? And if the idea was to fake the Soviets into spending big money on AIR DEFENSE systems, why go to all the trouble of pretending that we were spending money on an AeroSPACEplane?

I know I'm not smart but that does not make a lot of sense...
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

flateric said:
OK, still I have many old industry veterans that pretty sure that Aurora along with Pumpkin Seed publications were another CIA provocation a-la SDI to force us spent money for useless, in their opinion, stuff.
...They also have bad breath and don't use ear and nose hair trimmers, so I don't like them and their theories. I want Aurora to exist - it would be interesting bird)
 

LowObservable

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

It's the eyebrows too... I remember talking to one General Designer and worrying that one of those things might jump off his head and attack me if I asked the wrong question.
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Very good old document. I wonder how much such a requests were answered using copy-paste. Anyone have 'F-19' answers just to compare code phrases?
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

flateric said:
Very good old document. I wonder how much such a requests were answered using copy-paste. Anyone have 'F-19' answers just to compare code phrases?
Of course every FOIA office has "templates" for various types of replies, like "No records found", "Records partially released", "We need more time" (<- the most usual one ::) ) etc. I never got a "neither confirm nor deny ..."-type of reply, but a assume that this letter is just another one of those "template" replies.

Anyone have 'F-19' answers just to compare code phrases?
My own request for 'F-19'-related records was answered differently: The records were released ;).
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ptBxwuUh7Q
 

quellish

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

flateric said:
OK, I've always was wondering who is Chris Gibson in person - till I saw this documentary - he makes an impression of very accurate in his descriptions, and never you can make a clue he has started this case willing to make money or become a celebrity (even, I'd say, I had an impression that he shy why talking of the case). We are moving to the 20th anniversary of 'Aurora' whatever it was/is, so it's good time to remember how all it's started up.
And - for a long time - I didn't know that Chris Gibson and BSP4 author is the same person...shame on me...
After corresponding with Chris a few times years ago I do completely believe he saw what he says he saw, but I still have not been able to explain it at all.

Now, when it comes to "Aurora"....
It is not unreasonable to think that there were several hypersonic flight test programs in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, we now know a lot more about a few of those programs than we did in the 1990s. Wether any of these resulted in a manned hypersonic aircraft, that is still largely a matter of faith rather than fact.
While there is now a considerable amount of information regarding *other* classified reconnaissance programs (AARS/Quartz/Tier 3/Etc) and their lineage, there are still missing pieces.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

His sketch looks a lot like the Northrop Low Altitude Penetrator from the 1980 Low Observable Bomber Study.

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=A464771&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Would stand to reason that USAF might want a sub-scale prototype and the timeframe of the sighting (1989), the company it was keeping (F-111s), the size (30-60 tonnes) and the need for tanking over the North Sea at low altitude (lots of fuel burned at low level) would all support this a lot more than a hypersonic high altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

quellish said:
It is not unreasonable to think that there were several hypersonic flight test programs in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, we now know a lot more about a few of those programs than we did in the 1990s. Wether any of these resulted in a manned hypersonic aircraft, that is still largely a matter of faith rather than fact.
Can you elaborate on what programs we now know more about?

Would stand to reason that USAF might want a sub-scale prototype and the timeframe of the sighting (1989), the company it was keeping (F-111s), the size (30-60 tonnes) and the need for tanking over the North Sea at low altitude (lots of fuel burned at low level) would all support this a lot more than a hypersonic high altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft
Thats the same general conclusion I have come to, though whether the aircaft was Northrop's THAP, GD's Model 100 or something else, we don't know. I just wonder why everyone jumped to the "hypersonic Aurora" conclusion after Chris' sighting ??? :mad:
 

quellish

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Meteorit said:
quellish said:
It is not unreasonable to think that there were several hypersonic flight test programs in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, we now know a lot more about a few of those programs than we did in the 1990s. Wether any of these resulted in a manned hypersonic aircraft, that is still largely a matter of faith rather than fact.
Can you elaborate on what programs we now know more about?

Would stand to reason that USAF might want a sub-scale prototype and the timeframe of the sighting (1989), the company it was keeping (F-111s), the size (30-60 tonnes) and the need for tanking over the North Sea at low altitude (lots of fuel burned at low level) would all support this a lot more than a hypersonic high altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft
Thats the same general conclusion I have come to, though whether the aircaft was Northrop's THAP, GD's Model 100 or something else, we don't know. I just wonder why everyone jumped to the "hypersonic Aurora" conclusion after Chris' sighting ??? :mad:
Just off the top of my head here...
SWERVE (Sandia), AMARV (McD), TDMARV (McD) - all of these being maneuvering reentry vehicles. All of them at least somewhat resurrected for the HTV program as well!

The Aurora angle on Chris's sighting, I believe, was all Sweetman.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

quellish said:
Just off the top of my head here...
SWERVE (Sandia), AMARV (McD), TDMARV (McD) - all of these being maneuvering reentry vehicles. All of them at least somewhat resurrected for the HTV program as well!

The Aurora angle on Chris's sighting, I believe, was all Sweetman.
Okay, so "just" MaRVs of sorts ;)

I very much enjoyed reading your classified aircraft project pages back in the day. Any chance we might see an updated version sometime?
 

flateric

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Well, MARV refueling from KC-135 flying in formation with F-111 is rather..err...
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

At low level above a north sea oil rig...
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Truthfully speaking there are probably numerous such programs flying around.

McDonnell and McDonnell-Douglas came up with all sorts of Hypersonic-concepts starting in the 1960's (if not the late 1950's), some which looked very similar to the Aurora design.

Recently there was a plane called the Black-Star which was some kind of air-launched trans-atmospheric vehicle....


KJ Lesnick
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

I looked up, saw the tanker and the F-111s, but was amazed to see the triangle. I am trained in instant recognition, but this triangle had me stopped dead. My first thought was that it was another F-111, but there was no 'gaps', it was too long and it didn't look like one.
As I've stated above before I think it is highly unlikely that a high altitude, hypersonic strategic reconnaissance platform or experimental aircraft (a la the "Aurora") would be at low altitude (no altitude mentioned in the online testimonies by Chris Gibson but I assume they were below 10,000 feet to be seen so clearly) over the North Sea being in flight refueled in the company of two F-111s. That's a far more likely flight profile for a low altitude penetrator. Since Scott Lowther has just drawn a too scale Northrop Low Altitude Penetrator concept for the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) project. I have scaled it to a KC-135 and two F-111s to see what emerges (the colours are just notional to make the line drawings stand out from the white background). It looks remarkably like what Chris Gibson sketched. A 75% size demonstrator fits more closely the dimensions as drawn.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Abraham Gubler said:
His sketch looks a lot like the Northrop Low Altitude Penetrator from the 1980 Low Observable Bomber Study.

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=A464771&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Would stand to reason that USAF might want a sub-scale prototype and the timeframe of the sighting (1989), the company it was keeping (F-111s), the size (30-60 tonnes) and the need for tanking over the North Sea at low altitude (lots of fuel burned at low level) would all support this a lot more than a hypersonic high altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft
Interesting theory and work you've done on this !

After all, the F-117A guys flew A-7's in daylight for training and even at night
when they were off range in F-117A's and US ATC queried them for aircraft type,
they responded with A-7. So the A-7 was their training and "plausible deniabilty"
aircraft.

The SENIOR BOWL launcher took off IN BROAD DAYLIGHT from Beale, which isn't
someplace off from civilization like Groom is, with Tagboards hanging from its
pylons. All people had to do was look up - at CLOSE RANGE !! They even had at
least one launch not far off the Calif. coast where attentive civilians could have
seen it. The "plausible deniability" aircraft there was the Houndog Missile.

From what I recall the A-12 guys used F-101s and possibly other century series
birds for chase and as convenient explanations in certain cases.

And I think that at least 3 F-111's were associated in some way with whatever
that "thing" was, that Chris saw.

But I do have some problems with your interesting theory.

For one, if you are correct, the US flew a concept demonstrator over to Europe
in secret. Not sure why we'd take that risk.

But, say you are correct - the US built the Northrop Low Altitude Penetrator aircraft
mentioned in the excellent B-2 Systems Engineering Document you posted earlier
(thanks for that URL - by the way!!).

Then, where is it? How come it wasn't declassified along with TACIT BLUE say?
The B-2 would have replaced it because they produced the B-2.

You could respond that it is still black for some reason.

But, if that is true, it wouldn't have been discussed in that neat B-2 Systems Engineering
document.

Say it does exist, and it isn't black (because it was in the document). It's just gathering
dust in some hangar somewhere. Then someone should go ask!

But what if it is a still black delta planform aircraft that isn't the Northrop Low Altitude
Penetrator demonstrator. What would it's mission be? For stealthy attack we have the B-2.
For supersonic we have the B-1.

What if Chris is wrong, well then nothing exists. I personally believe Chris more than I don't
believe him, so I doubt this angle - but who knows.

I guess time will tell.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

shockonlip said:
For one, if you are correct, the US flew a concept demonstrator over to Europe
in secret. Not sure why we'd take that risk.
Maybe they needed to use it... August 1989 was a very dynamic time in Europe. Poland, East Germany and the Soviet Baltic republics were wracked by protests. Maybe the US needed to know whether the Soviets were deploying forces and a low level recce mission was needed. The VLO Northrop LAP prototype or black demonstrator could have provided that capability.

shockonlip said:
Then, where is it? How come it wasn't declassified along with TACIT BLUE say?
Because its still being used? Maybe like the F-117 USAF has a wing of these things and they are retained for the nuclear bomber role.

Or declassifying it would give away some of its missions - like why was it flying over the North Sea in August 1989...

As outlandish as all these scenarios may sound I find them all more believable that a hypersonic aircraft was at low level over the North Sea with some F-111s. Using Chris Gibson's sighting to validate the "Aurora" is too much a case of wishful thinking to me. Though it is also a great opportunity to provide counter intelligence cover to whatever the 'North Sea Triangle' actually was. Especially if it was a stealthy low altitude penetrator returning from a trip over Eastern Europe to confirm that the Soviet Army was not about to crush the uprisings that would end the Cold War.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Abraham Gubler said:
Because its still being used? Maybe like the F-117 USAF has a wing of these things and they are retained for the nuclear bomber role.
It is important to remember that the B-2 was *never* "black". The program itself was always acknowledged, unlike the F-117 and other programs. A secret strategic bomber would cause a number of diplomatic and legal problems due to arms control treaties.
So it is very, very unlikely that there are secret nuclear bombers out there.

As far as an operational detatchment/squadron of classified aircraft, it is possible. But something like that does leave a logistic footprint which is easy to find if you know where to look. For example, the Red Hats program is very much alive and flying, and relatively easy to find under it's new name(s). Where the F-117 was flying, and by whom, was not too hard to figure out in the 1980s.

Anyway, one of the things I find interesting about Chris's sighting is the F-111s accompanying it. That would be a very interesting choice of chase aircraft and says quite a bit about the mystery aircraft.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

The fact that the Gibson Aircraft could fly "slow" enough to keep pace with a KC-135 should also tell you something about the propulsion system. At a minimum it would use low-bypass turbofans (possibly for the low-speed cruise, while using rockets or ramjets for higher speeds.)

Has Chris Gibson ever elaborated on the aircraft's coloration or markings? I'm guessing it's all black, but even the F-117's had some national insignia and unit markings.

The presence of F-111's makes me think the mystery aircraft, if real, is a medium bomber of some sort. Then again, why procure a medium bomber in secret when the F-15E exists in the white world?
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

My personal opinion is that the aircraft that Gibson spotted was the Lockheed "Quartz" project. This supposedly was a fairly large subsonic testbed aircraft, which was built to test out some very sophisticated (and expensive) stealth technology. Like the Have Blues and most other "black" projects, it was never designed or built to be an operational aircraft. It was put together quickly from mostly existing components, and the airframe was designed specifically to test out whatever the fancy technology was. It was not a hypersonic or even supersonic plane, although it may have been a very sleek looking delta shape. Its flights were probably long, boring test runs across the open ocean, and F-111's would have been sensible chase planes.

My own speculation is that the Quartz project ran for maybe a decade total, made a bunch of test flights with one or two airframes, and the technology was generally proven successful. Lockheed's hope was to transition it into a contract to design and build a small fleet of very stealthy recon planes to replace the TR-1's and SR-71's. The idea was super stealth rather than super speed. But it never happened. Either the technology was too expensive, or the customer couldn't figure out an operational requirement to get the program together, or whatever. So, as with most black projects, parts of the technology were used on other projects, and any remaining airframes were mothballed or cut up.

I believe that the "Aurora" project never existed, in the form that Bill Sweetman and the common stories have it. The myth is put together from scraps of info about different projects, plus some very wishful thinking. I'm sure there were (or are) a few black projects working on experimental powerplant development for high speed planes. But they're mostly aimed at future hypersonic drones and cruise missiles. Whatever has been occasionally cracking the sky and leaving funny trails is most likely a testbed aircraft, built purely for engine testing. I find it very difficult to believe that an operational hypersonic super SR-71 was ever built. It would be waaay too expensive to ever be kept "black", and the political and operational need for it just isn't there.

Just my opinions.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

CFE said:
The fact that the Gibson Aircraft could fly "slow" enough to keep pace with a KC-135 should also tell you something about the propulsion system. At a minimum it would use low-bypass turbofans (possibly for the low-speed cruise, while using rockets or ramjets for higher speeds.)
This is a very good point and similar to the questions I outlined above. Though any high speed reconnaissance aircraft would have to be able to fly slow enough to land which should be more than slow enough to IFR.

What would be more helpful to actually identify (or at least classify) the Gibson Delta is what altitude, speed and heading they were on. We have to assume it was low enough for detailed visual identification (as provided by Chris Gibson) and judging by the forward sweep of the F-111s was reasonably slow. But more detailed information from Gibson would be helpful.

The situation of the IFR evolution – at low level with F-111 escorts – is not indicative at all of a hypersonic aircraft. To push a X plane cross over cliché: the truth is out there...
 

quellish

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Bruce Johnson said:
My personal opinion is that the aircraft that Gibson spotted was the Lockheed "Quartz" project. This supposedly was a fairly large subsonic testbed aircraft, which was built to test out some very sophisticated (and expensive) stealth technology. Like the Have Blues and most other "black" projects, it was never designed or built to be an operational aircraft. It was put together quickly from mostly existing components, and the airframe was designed specifically to test out whatever the fancy technology was.
Not to get off topic, but QUARTZ was designed for a specific set of requirements, and was pretty much entirely new. The engines were off the shelf like the B-2 or F-117 engines were off the shelf, but otherwise the aircraft was from scratch. The program started in the early 80s and ran until 1993 when it was canned and resurrected - briefly - as Tier III. Tier III was split into two programs which became Global Hawk and Darkstar. QUARTZ/TIER III has been resurrected several times since. Sensorcraft is an evolution of the requirements, while the Boeing/Lockheed NGB is the aircraft itself.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Yes, I suspect that the Quartz program was similar to Have Blue in scope and operation. By around 1980, Have Blue was well over, and the F-117A was in full development. Lockheed wanted to stay out front and take stealth technology to the next level. So, they proposed a flying testbed project to demonstrate some kind of newer super-duper stealth technology, and won a contract. It was primarily a Lockheed project, but Boeing may have been a teammate. One or two airframes were quickly designed and built in a shape that was specifically optimized to work with the technology. They weren't engineered out to be prototypes of an operational aircraft. My guess is that they were unmanned, fairly large, approximately Delta shaped, and slow moving. The test program would have involved making occasional passes over known radar ranges and installations. Like most black testbed projects, the majority of the work was done on the ground and actual test flights were expensive and rare. Later in the program, it's likely that they would have taken it over to the UK for a while and flown it near some European and Baltic radar installations, usually in the company of a pair of F-111's. I suspect that the testbed program ended around 1990, and successfully demonstrated the technology. Meanwhile, Lockheed and Boeing had proposed a project to design and build an operational aircraft that would use the technology, and won an initial design contract. But once the costs and operational constraints started emerging, the project got canceled. I think this was also around 1990-1991. The dance of requirements and proposals that eventually became Tier III, etc., came right after that.

Like I said, the timing and description seem to fit right in with the Gibson sighting. And because of the delta shape, it was assumed to be designed to go fast, which fed the whole Aurora story.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Bruce Johnson said:
Yes, I suspect that the Quartz program was similar to Have Blue in scope and operation. By around 1980, Have Blue was well over, and the F-117A was in full development. Lockheed wanted to stay out front and take stealth technology to the next level.
The Gibson Delta is very unlikely to be an advanced stealth aircraft because of its planform. The 90 degree to the boresight rear is not very stealthy. Any radar with some look up or look down would get very strong returns from this trailing edge unless it was dripping in RAM. Dark Star avoided this problem by flying very, very high and having the a very high aspect ratio wing with a spar structure so the leading and trailing edges could be RAM heavy structures. A delta would not be conducive to such a structure.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

I think you're mixing Have Blue and Tacit Blue here Abe.
 

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

Abraham Gubler said:
The Gibson Delta is very unlikely to be an advanced stealth aircraft because of its planform. The 90 degree to the boresight rear is not very stealthy. Any radar with some look up or look down would get very strong returns from this trailing edge unless it was dripping in RAM.
Well, remembering Flying Dorito...that have the same trailing edge configuration...that didn't disturb Fort Worth guys so much
 

Abraham Gubler

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Re: Chris Gibson - the man behind North Sea Aurora sighting

overscan said:
I think you're mixing Have Blue and Tacit Blue here Abe.
Right! You should just have edit function of my posts... :eek:

But Have Blue was clearly intended to be developed into a useable combat aircraft - the F-117A. So liek Tactic Blue (Assault Breaker) it had a practical intention not just be a technology demo... But of course the Quartz as detailed would appear to have been a stealth technology demonstrator.
 
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