a reply to: grey580
Yes but the alleged link between Copper Canyon and Copper Coast has never been proven as far as I know.
I wrote up my thoughts on Copper Coast some time ago, this is from a discussion with a forum member, most of it is probably wrong as these things go,
but maybe someone will find it interesting:
Copper Coast (you probably know this) is SAP title going way back to the Reagan days, its in the oldest DOD budgets I can find on the Internet
In the Future Years Defense Program Structure DoD 7045.7-H (April 2004 version) its listed as an active Special Access Program – no manpower
included. [if someone has the most recent version of DoD 7045.7-H available…]
In 1994, the great renaming happened. An odd dozen classified projects listed in the budgets were renamed but retained there PE Numbers. IMO this
happened because someone look at how ‘Aurora’ blew up and got worried about what would happen when the public at large started noticing all those
other juicy project names. Anyway, henceforth, Copper Coast was known as Evaluation and Analysis Program. A BS name if I ever heard one.
Its specifically listed as excluded from the USAF RDT&E Descripted Summaries due to classification, however information on funding is included and
readily available through the DOD CFO archives.
As of FY2010 it has disappeared completely from the records, along with every other classified budget line item. Instead of specific PE numbers, a
general Classified PE Number 999999 with a funding for USAF RDT&E of 11 billion in FY2008. As of FY2018 funding stands at 15 billion, an increase of 2
billion form FY2017.
The program is apparently live and well, showing up as ‘muh classified, cant talk about it’ USAF Justification book entries in the last years.
Anyway, Copper Canyon itself has a very interesting funding history. If you look through the available data this is how it looks like:
I don’t have any numbers from FY1994 or before which is unfortunate. FY1995-97 are not included but the funding amounts weren’t much different
compared to FY98 on.
If we look at the graphs we see couple of things:
1) Funding was constant between the Nineties, averaging around 75 Mill US-$
2) Funding increased with FY2001. Notice this is not an increase due to 0911, there was already a planned budget increase to 200 mil for FY03 in
3) Funding was very abruptly cut to almost zero between FY2005 and FY2008
4) Just before the great disappearance funding dramatically increased to never before seen levels beginning with FY2008
What does this tell us? Nothing. Everything. We can interpret this as we want. :-)
I go with this:
There has been speculation literally for decades that Copper Coast is linked to Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon of course was a classified DARPA research
effort into hypersonics. More specifically, it was aimed at looking into SSTO and general hypersonics designs. It later sort of merged with the
Transatmospheric Vehicle studies of the USAF Aeronautical Center and eventually morphed into the Advanced Aerospace Vehicle studies (rather
black/grey) and NASP efforts (white world front). There was lots of other stuff going on with regards to NASP (Science Dawn, Science Realm, Have
Region, Have Blinders) which i wont go into here. If you are interested, this is an awesome writeup about all this:
Sidenote: You can see were a certain user gets the ‚big cooperation from three contractors‘ boost glide program from. If its real, it began
probably with the Have Region studies, was ‚cancelled‘ and got real black.
Also good luck with trying to find stuff on TSTO programs on the web. There is tons of info on US SSTO programs but way less on the far easier TSTO
Anyway, back to Copper Coast, as said it first appeared in the FY1991 RDT&E which goes back as far as FY1989. Its the oldest USAF R-1 document
available of the internet that i’m aware off (if you get your hands on an older R-1 document…), so we cant really they when Copper Coast started
And there isnt much evidence that it relates to all this hypersonic stuff at all, so we might be chasing ghosts. But it wouldnt be the first time,
that similar project names were used for follow on programs.
If we entertain this possibility (and its really just a theory) that Copper Coast is ‘something with hypersonics’, the funding history becomes
If we go really outthere for a second, we can even entertain the idea, that Copper Coast is the codename for an active military unit. The PE Code
would match (the name probably not), but DoD 7045.7-H list it with no included manpower. Of course this might no mean anything either, manpower could
just be billed someplace else. 70 mill a year is probably enough to fund a very small semi-operational fleet. I don’t believe this though, more on
that further down.
So what happened when funding suddenly increased in 2000? Obviously, the Bush administration came in, overall DOD funding got increased even before
0911 and the wars.
Now I don’t know if the increase Copper Canyon got was just part of the rise all across the board or specific to the program. Its probably not a
stretch to say that the Clinton admin wasn’t a great proponent of hypersonic programs. Any black “NASP/X-30” follow on (not necessarily from
this track but let go with it) would be kept on the down low after Reagan era efforts died a quick death in 1993.
Interestingly enough with the incoming Bush admin James G. Roche was confirmed a Secretary of the Air Force in January of 2001. Roche was a Corporate
Vice President of Northrop Grumman before his nomination. It’s the Secretaries job to manage the Air Forces RDT&E budget.
And more importantly, the Reagan era legend Edward C. Aldridge, Under Secretary of the Air Force, Director of the National Reconnaissance Office and
later Secretary of the Air Force came back as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, serving from 2001 to 2003. If
there was evert a black high speed effort in the Eighties, this guy was responsible for it.
May not be related to the funding increase Copper Coast got, but interestingly none the less.
So funding picked up with Bush in office. IMO the sudden and rapid increase (almost 250% percent) points to an RDT&E effort, not and operational unit,
no matter the PE number listing. But anyway, funding evaporated even more rapidly to basically zero four years later in 2005.
At the height of the Iraq war and record defense service spending mind you. The program stayed ‘dead’ until it came back with a vengeance,
receiving way north of half a billion US-$ in FY2008. This has to be RDT&E. I just don’t see an operational unit being capable of blowing so much
cash when they were down to the bones mere months before.
So whats the explanation for this radical fluctuation in funding? IF Copper Coast is the go to PE Line item code for ‘lets fund something
hypersonic’ there is actually an explanation for all of this.