Mar 10, 2023 I Nick Redfern

Just Because There's a Weird Craft in the Sky, Doesn't Mean it's Extraterrestrial

Even if Bob Lazar did see a veritable squadron of circular-shaped UFO-like craft at Area 51’s S-4 facility, it doesn’t necessary follow that they had to be extraterrestrial. It’s a startling fact that the U.S. Government was secretly researching the feasibility of developing such craft in the early 1960s. Taking into consideration that that was almost thirty years before Lazar was even on the scene, an argument can be made that three decades was plenty of time to develop radical, advanced aircraft that looked just like what most people would expect a UFO to look like. It would also have been plenty of time to make sure that such a craft could fool someone into thinking they were seeing an alien spaceship. Maybe that’s what happened: Lazar was exposed to highly advanced, terrestrial craft, rather than extra-terrestrial ones – and, again, as we have seen in other chapters, to try and convince the Russians that we have alien technology, when that may not have been the case.

The proof that extraordinary, circular-shaped aircraft were well on the drawing-board in the early 1960s can be found in a 1962 document titled Environment Control Systems Selected for Manned Space Vehicles. It was a document written by staff with North American Aviation, Inc. for the Air Force Systems Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. Notably, a copy of this report was provided to Nellis Air Force Base employees in 1963, demonstrating a link between such documentation and strange craft and the Nevada Test and Training Range.   Certain portions of the document are well worth taking note of, as they make it graphically clear what was going on back in the early years of the 1960s.The document states: 

(Nick Redfern) Do some of these craft fly in and out of Area 51?

“The overall weapon system concept results in a requirement for three basic orbiting components. First, there is a requirement for a manned bombardment vehicle which houses the basic control function in space. Secondly, a weapon cluster is required. This is an unmanned weapon carrier which combines and integrates several weapons into a common orbiting package to facilitate handling and servicing. The third requirement is the weapon itself. The disc-shaped configuration was chosen for its greater usable volume for weapon storage and crew accommodations and for other advantages [italics mine]. It has a basic diameter of 40 feet and a gross launch weight of about 45,000 pounds. The vehicle functions as a manned orbital bombing system with an internal armament load of four winged reentry weapons and also acts as an orbital control and maintenance center for additional unmanned weapon clusters.”

The document continues: “The operational mission design is 6 weeks duration at a nominal orbital altitude of 300 nautical miles, with a crew of four men. Primarily because of its excellent surface area-volume-weight relationship, the lenticular shape has been chosen as its satellite-reentry configuration for the manned bomber. The basic disc shape is inherently unstable assuming a representative center of gravity location. However, control surfaces, flaps, and speed brakes suitably located and configurations tailoring can make the lenticular shape stable and, with other desirable characteristics, a very satisfactory manned reentry and landing configuration will evolve [italics mine].”

The author of the paper expands further: “The disc-shaped configuration with control surfaces on the aft portion of the vehicle eliminates the problem of high heating due to low shock interactions between conventional fuselage nose and wing leading-edge surfaces. This problem is common to winged body lifting vehicles. The manned bomber requires two separate power systems; one for the boost and reentry phases and another for the normal 6-week orbital operation. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to provide one system which can supply the energy for both requirements. Energy for the orbital operation can most feasibly be supplied from nuclear or solar sources. The nuclear reactor cannot be activated until the vehicle is in orbit, and on reentry, would probably be left in space to avoid the possible hazards associated with a hot reactor should a crash occur on landing.”

Consider very carefully all of the above: in the early years of the 1960s, the U.S. Air Force was planning to have built for them squadrons of advanced aircraft that looked just like the classic image of a flying saucer. Not only that, those same craft were to be nuclear-powered, could orbit the Earth for up to one and a half months and to a height of three hundred miles and – given that the document was highly-classified – the public and the media would never know anything about it. On this latter point, it’s worth noting that all of the copies of the document remained hidden behind closed doors until the early 2000s, when the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act opened the doors. And, we should not forget the significance of just how desirable the disc-shaped aircraft was. For all intents and purposes, the U.S. military was on the verge of having its very own, battle-ready flying saucer squadron. They may even have been built and deployed.  Remember, this was the early 1960s. If the technology was up and running then, this raises an obvious question: how many advances had been made by the time Bob Lazar came along in 1988? Maybe many. Perhaps, Lazar was deliberately shown some of them out at Area 51 – as a part of a strange mind-game for reasons that – to a degree – still elude us. Now, onto the so-called Black Triangle type craft. They look cool and futuristic, but that doesn't mean they are from other worlds.

Since the 1980s, sightings of large, triangular-shaped UFOs, usually described as being black in color, making a low humming noise, and very often with rounded rather than angled corners, have been reported throughout the world. The sheer proliferation of such reports has led some ufological commentators to strongly suspect that the Flying Triangles (as they have come to be known) are prime examples of still-classified aircraft, namely, the Aurora. It was one single wave of encounters in the U.K., in early 1993, which ultimately led senior military and defense personnel to liaise with their American counterparts to try and determine, once and for all, if the FTs are the Aurora or if they have extraterrestrial origins. The story comes from one of those at the forefront of the study into the aforementioned sightings: Nick Pope, who, for three years (1991-1994), investigated - at an official level - UFO incidents on behalf of the Ministry of Defense.

(Nick Redfern) Is there a secret program of high-tech aircraft we don't know of?

Long-since retired from the MoD, Pope reveals his role in – and his knowledge of – the March 1993 UFO encounters over the United Kingdom: “I arrived at the office at about 8.30 a.m. or 9.00 a.m. on the morning of March 31, 1993, and my telephone was ringing. I picked it up and there was a police officer on the other end making a UFO report. Now, he was based in Devon and told me an account of an incident that had taken place in the early hours of that particular day when he and a colleague who had been on night patrol saw a triangular-shaped UFO at fairly-high altitude. He said that the motion was fairly steady and that there were lights at the edges with a fainter light in the middle. To me, this was already a description that was becoming quite familiar both from one or two reports that I’d received at the Ministry of Defense over the years and from my own study and research into the UFO literature. In other words, I was aware that this was a commonly reported shape for a UFO.” Pope continues: “I was also quite pleased to get a report from a police officer. I won’t say that it was rare, but it was slightly unusual to have reports from trained observers like police and military. I would say that, of the reports I received in my time at the UFO desk, less than five per cent came from, collectively, pilots, military officers and the police. I had spoken, socially, to numerous Royal Air Force pilots who’d had personal sightings, but who had never reported them for fear of ridicule.

“But that police report was very much the first of many that came in that day and over the next week or so. When taken together, the sightings described took place in a range of times – the earliest was about 11-11.30 p.m. on the evening of the 30th and the latest was about 1.45 a.m. in the early hours of the 31st. What was it precisely that made the police officer’s report stand out? He said to me: 'I’ve been on night patrols for years, but I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life.’ Well, reports such as this came through thick and fast over the course of the next week or so; more and more reports came in from police stations, the public and local RAF stations. In fact, I would say that the total number of reports easily exceeded one hundred.” Now, one more example. This one also from the 1990s. And finally:

In the early 1990s, rumors began to circulate among the aviation world that a highly secret, futuristic aircraft was being flown out of Area 51 – and under distinctly covert circumstances. The reportedly large, black-colored, triangular-shaped aircraft which could fly at incredible speeds, could outmaneuver just about anything else on the planet. It was rumored to be known as the Aurora. Officially, at least, and according to the U.S. Government, the Aurora does not exist and has never existed. But, that was once said about Area 51, too. So, with that in mind, we need to tread cautiously when it comes to official proclamations of the controversial type. The story began – publicly, at least – in March 1990. That was when the well-respected magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology covered the story. They revealed that the term “Aurora” had appeared in the 1985 U.S. budget – and had possibly appeared by mistake, which makes sense if the program was so highly sensitive that its existence had to be denied at all costs. And talking of costs, it was rumored that around $455 million had been provided to those working out at Area 51 on secret, futuristic aircraft. AW&ST suspected that Aurora was a codename for multiple kinds of aircraft that were both radical in design and technology. Other investigators, though, concluded that Aurora referred to just one type of aircraft. AW&ST learned that by 1987 the budget had soared to in excess of two billion dollars. 

(Nick Redfern) The Flying Triangle-type craft. Extraterrestrial? Or from right here? The late ufologist Omar Fowler was holding the model.

Bill Sweetman is one of the leading figures in the field of aviation and someone who took a deep interest in the Aurora saga. His books include F-22 Raptor, Inside the Stealth Bomber, and Soviet Air Power. And, then there is his 1993 book, Aurora: The Pentagon's Secret Hypersonic Spyplane. Of the Aurora, Sweetman says: “Does Aurora exist? Years of pursuit have led me to believe that, yes, Aurora is most likely in active development, spurred on by recent advances that have allowed technology to catch up with the ambition that launched the program a generation ago.” This was all very interesting for those who follow the world of exotic aircraft, such as Bill Sweetman and the staff of Aviation Wek and Space Technology – and it still is of interest to them. But, where was the evidence for the existence of Aurora? Was there any evidence? Yes, there was. And it came from a highly credible man with an impeccable background. His name: Chris Gibson. It was in the summer of 1989 that Chris Gibson had what can accurately be termed the encounter of a lifetime. An engineer with an Honors degree in geology and someone who’s worked focused on oil-exploration, Gibson was also attached to the U.K.’s Royal Observer Corps. The work of the ROC – which closed down in December 1995, after seventy years of work to help protect the United Kingdom from attack – required its volunteers to keep a careful watch on the skies above and what was flying in those same skies, too. 

As luck – or fate - would have it, and at the time when the Aurora program may very well have been compromised, Gibson was working on an oil rig in the North Sea. The name of the rig was the Galveston Key. It was August 1989, specifically, when one of Gibson’s colleagues, a friend named Graeme Winton, who went to university with Gibson, excitedly told Gibson to come with him to the deck. There was something Winton needed to show him. A startled and amazed Gibson caught sight of something incredible in the skies above. A pair of General Dynamics’ F1-11 aircraft were shepherding a very strange-looking, completely black aircraft. And, a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker seemed to be fueling it. It was in the form of a triangle. For a moment or two, Gibson pondered on the possibility that what he and Winton were seeing was the F-117 stealth fighter. But, the design was clearly wrong. And the aircraft was significantly larger than the stealth fighter. Gibson knew this, as the four aircraft were not flying high; in fact, they were fairly low. Gibson was completely and utterly stumped by the strange appearance of the plane. It was something he had never seen before.

Gibson said: “We discussed what to do about it but decided that if it were reported through official channels, it would be at best rubbished, at worst lead to trouble. Having signed the [British Government’s] Official Secrets Act I didn’t want to jeopardize my position in the recognition team [of the Royal Observer Corps], so I kept my mouth shut.” Gibson did, however, contact Bill Sweetman, who found the encounter to be of extreme interest. Gibson added: “It is the only aircraft I have ever seen that I could not identify.” That the Aurora – which it almost certainly was – was seen over the North Sea, off the east coast of England, is intriguing, because a series of encounters of a near-identical kind were reported over mainland U.K. in March 1993. In between the time that Gibson had his encounter midway through 1989, the Aurora had a new nickname in the UFO research community: the Flying Triangle. Although, it’s important to note that more than a few researchers believed that the FTs were extraterrestrial in origin. Of one thing that pretty much everyone was in accord with, was that the Flying Triangles and the Aurora existed. But were they ours or “theirs?”

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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