posted on Sep, 7 2005 @ 01:38 PM
The government acknowleged the exisitence of stealth technology development programs in 1980 but categroically denied the exisitence of a "Stealth
Fighter" until it was unveiled by DoD in November 1988. By that time that had been many rumors and much speculation about the so-called "F-19."
Much of the speculation was faily accurate (number of aircraft, squadrons based at Tonopah Test Range, etc.). Surprises included the faceted shape and
the F-117A designation.
There were also rumors from the 1980s to mid 1990s about a Northrop stealth demonstrator nicknamed "Shamu" that was allegedly flying at Area 51. In
1996, Northrop's TACIT BLUE stealth demonstrator, nicknamed "The Whale" was unveiled and put on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum. Again the
shape was surprising. It was thought to look like a miniature B-2. It looked more like a flying Twinkie, but the front end had some resemblance to
that of the B-2 and the low-observables design philosophy was the same.
In the mid 1990s, rumors began floating around about a secret aircraft called "Bird of Prey." Within five years or so, there was some
circumstantial evidence linking it to the X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). In 2002, Boeing unveiled the Bird of Prey (BoP) stealth
demonstrator which was subsequently displayed in the Air Force Museum. As it turned out, the manned BoP tested technology that contributed directly to
development of the unmanned UCAV.
So what aircraft unveilings do we have to look forawrd to now?
There have been at least 7 to 11 classified manned aircraft flown at Groom Lake since the mid 1980s that have yet to be unveiled. This doesn't
include the modified aircraft, foreign aircraft, or ordinary platforms (C-130, F-16, etc) carrying experimental avionics.
In 1985, Frank Birk made the first flight of a "classified technology demonstrator." He won the Bobby Bond Memorial Aviator Award for his work on
Since 1982, Dan Vanderhorst has flown at least seven classified aircraft, described as mostly "one of a kind demonstrators." One was TACIT BLUE.
Another had internal weapons bays, suggesting stealth characteristics (Vanderhorst "holds the altitude record in this aircraft" according to his
During the last part of a 20-year Air Force career, Doug Benjamin flew four classified aircraft. One of these was Bird of Prey. What were the other
In the early to mid 1990s, Dennis Sager commanded the classified flight test squadron at Groom and became the first Air Force pilot to fly the
YF-113G, a "classified protoype" that he helped shepard from development to first flight. Sager told me he posed for a photo with the airplane.
That photo is in a vault awaiting the day it is declassified.
During the late 1990s, Joe Lanni flew first flights of two classified prototypes, including the YF-24. Lanni can't talk about these projects despite
the fact that they are mentioned in his official Air Force biography.
How long will we have to wait to see these airplanes? The average time span from first flight to unveiling is approximately 10 to 15 years.