posted on Nov, 21 2006 @ 09:00 AM
Well, there's nothing to suggest "secretive" launches by Aurora or Brilliant Buzzard carrier vehicles; the main problem with the D-21 (drone) /
M-21 (the A-12 "Mother" craft) combination was successfully launching the D-21 a supersonic speeds.
Actually, a pair of B-52H bombers were converted to carry the D-21 after attempts to used the A-12 (M-21) proved fatal. These drones were called
D-21B's. As noted here
and in the original Wikipedia article, four operational
missions occurred over the People's Republic of China under the code name SENIOR BOWL. But problems occurred on these flights as well, including the
failure of photo recovery capsules to eject, which caused the program to be cancelled after 4 flights.
Of the 38 D-21/D-21B drones created, 21 were used in known (and reasonably well documented) test or operational flights. The remaining 17 are
scattered around museums and other locations throughout the country (NASA has a couple, too). Matter of fact, there's a thread about Edwards AFB (I
believe) floating around here on ATS where a couple of D-21's are visible.
The fact that 17 of these are intact in various places throughout the country suggests that the program really was ended after the 4 SENIOR BOWL
missions over the PRC. If the program had continued under the auspices of the CIA or any other agency, these remaining 17 drones (or at least some of
them) would have been used to test modifications to the D-21B design - or even modified to a hypothetical D-21C standard, as two D-21's were upgraded
If there were any D-21 flights beyond the 21 we know about (and I'm not convinced there were), they probably used a highly modified D-21-type
aiframe, modified so extensively that it was cheaper to build new rather than modify the 17 existing (and expensive!) B-type drones.