IN SEARCH OF THE PENTAGON'S BILLION
DOLLAR HIDDEN BUDGETS
HOW THE U.S. KEEPS IT'S R&D SPENDING UNDER WRAPS
By Bill Sweetman - January 5, 2000
On 8 January last year, around 6.45pm, residents of Delaware in
the US were startled by a sonic boom, strong enough to shake walls,
rattle windows and cause the citizens to call their local police
offices, demanding explanations. This particular speeder, however,
could not only outrun any highway-patrol cruiser in Delaware, but
was beyond the reach of anyone else in the state. Even the US Air
Force, with its surveillance radars at Dover Air Force Base, was
unable to identify the miscreant.
The incident was not isolated. A rudimentary data search turns
up a stream of such incidents since the early 1990s, from Florida
to Nebraska, Colorado and California, with a similar pattern: a
loud and inexplicable boom. The phantom boomers appear to avoid
densely populated areas, and the stories usually go no further than
the local paper. Only a few local papers have a searchable website,
so it is highly probable that only a minority of boom events are
reported outside the affected area.
The first conclusion from this data is that supersonic aircraft
are operating over US. Secondly, we may conclude that the USAF and
other services either cannot identify them, or that they are misleading
the public because the operations are secret.
The latter case is supported by the existence of a massive secret
structure, which can truly be described as a 'shadow military',
and which exists in parallel with the programs that the Department
of Defense (DoD) discloses in public. It is protected by a security
system of great complexity. Since 1995, two high-level commissions
have reported on this system, and have concluded that it is too
complex; that it is immensely expensive, although its exact costs
defy measurement; that it includes systematic efforts to confuse
and disinform the public; and that in some cases it favors security
over military utility. The defense department, however, firmly resists
any attempt to reform this system.
As the Clinton administration begins its last year in office,
it continues to spend an unprecedented proportion of the Pentagon
budget on 'black' programs - that is, projects that are so highly
classified they cannot be identified in public. The total sums involved
are relatively easy to calculate. In the unclassified version of
the Pentagon's budget books, some budget lines are identified only
by codenames. Other classified programs are covered by vague collective
descriptions, and the dollar numbers for those line items are deleted.
However, it is possible to estimate the total value of those items
by subtracting the unclassified items from the category total.
In Financial Year 2001 (FY01), the USAF plans to spend US$4.96
billion on classified research and development programs. Because
white-world R&D is being cut back, this figure is planned to reach
a record 39% of total USAF R&D. It is larger than the entire army
R&D budget and two-thirds the size of the entire navy R&D budget.
The USAF's US$7.4 billion budget for classified procurement is more
than a third of the service's total budget.
Rise and rise of SAP
Formally, black projects within the DoD are known as unacknowledged
Special Access Programs (SAPs). The Secretary or Deputy Secretary
of Defense must approve any DoD-related SAP at the top level of
the defense department. All SAPs are projects that the DoD leadership
has decided cannot be adequately protected by normal classification
measures. SAPs implement a positive system of security control in
which only selected individuals have access to critical information.
The criteria for access to an SAP vary, and the program manager
has ultimate responsibility for the access rules, but the limits
are generally much tighter than those imposed by normal need-to-know
For example, an SAP manager may insist on lie-detector testing
for anyone who has access to the program. Another key difference
between SAPs and normal programs concerns management and oversight.
SAPs report to the services, and ultimately to the DoD and Congress,
by special channels which involve a minimum number of individuals
and organizations. In particular, the number of people with access
to multiple SAPs is rigorously limited.
In 1997, according to the report of a Senate commission (the Senate
Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy), there
were around 150 DoD-approved SAPs. These included SAPs initiated
by the department and its branches and those initiated by other
agencies (for example, the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] or
the Department of Energy) in which the DoD was involved. SAPs are
divided into three basic types: acquisition (AQ-SAP), operations
and support (OS-SAP) and intelligence (IN-SAP). Within each group
are two major classes - acknowledged and unacknowledged.
Some of the acknowledged SAPs - most of them - started as unacknowledged
programs. This is the case with the F-117 and B-2, and (on the operations
side) with army's 160th Special Operations Air Regiment (SOAR).
The existence of these programs is no longer a secret, but technical
and operational details are subject to strict, program-specific
An unacknowledged SAP - a black program - is a program which is
considered so sensitive that the fact of its existence is a 'core
secret', defined in USAF regulations as "any item, progress, strategy
or element of information, the compromise of which would result
in unrecoverable failure". In other words, revealing the existence
of a black program would undermine its military value.
The Joint Security Commission which was convened by then-deputy
Secretary of Defense Bill Perry in 1993, and which reported in 1995,
concluded that SAPs had been used extensively in the 1980s "as confidence
in the traditional classification system declined". By the time
the report was published, however, the DoD had taken steps to rationalize
the process by which SAPs were created and overseen. Until 1994,
each service had its own SAP office or directorate, which had primary
responsibility for its programs. The Perry reforms downgraded these
offices and assigned management of the SAPs to a new organization
at defense department level. This is based on three directors of
special programs, each of whom is responsible for one of the three
groups of SAPs - acquisition, operations and intelligence. They
report to the respective under-secretaries of defense (acquisition
and technology, policy and C4ISR).
The near-US$5 billion in black programs in the USAF research and
development budget are in the acquisition category. They are overseen
within the DoD by Maj Gen Marshal H Ward, who is director of special
programs in the office of Dr Jacques Gansler, under-secretary of
defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. Gen Ward heads
an SAP Coordination Office and, along with his counterparts in the
policy and C4ISR offices, is part of an SAP Oversight Committee
(SAPOC), chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, John Hamre,
with Dr Gansler as vice-chair. The SAPOC is responsible for approving
new SAPs and changing their status; receiving reports on their status;
and, among other things, making sure that SAPs do not overlap with
each other. This was a major criticism in the 1995 report: "If an
acquisition SAP is unacknowledged," the commissioners remarked,
"others working in the same technology area may be unaware that
another agency is developing a program. The government may pay several
times over for the same technology or application developed under
different special programs."
This problem was particularly prevalent in the case of stealth
technology: in the lawsuit over the A-12 Avenger II program, McDonnell
Douglas and General Dynamics charged that technology developed in
other stealth programs would have solved some of the problems that
led to the project's cancellation, but that the government did not
supply it to the A-12 program. Today, Gen Ward is the DoD-wide overseer
for all stealth technology programs. The SAPOC co-ordinates the
reporting of SAPs to Congress. Whether SAPs are acknowledged or
not, they normally report to four Congressional committees - the
House National Security Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee,
and the defense subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations
committees. Committee members and staffs are briefed in closed,
However, there are several serious limitations to Congressional
reporting of SAPs. One of these is time. In the first quarter of
1999, the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee
scheduled half a day of hearings to review 150 very diverse SAPs.
Another issue, related to time and security, is that the reporting
requirements for SAPs are rudimentary and could technically be satisfied
in a couple of pages.
A more substantial limitation on oversight is that some unacknowledged
SAPs are not reported to the full committees. At the Secretary of
Defense's discretion, the reporting requirements may be waived.
In this case, only eight individuals - the chair and ranking minority
member of each of the four defense committees - are notified of
the decision. According to the 1997 Senate Commission, this notification
may be only oral. These "waived SAPs" are the blackest of black
How many of the SAPs are unacknowledged, and how many are waived,
is a question which only a few people can answer: eight members
of Congress, the members of SAPOC (including the Deputy Secretary
of Defense), and the Secretary of Defense.
A final question is whether SAP reporting rules are followed all
the time. Last summer, the House Defense Appropriations Committee
complained that "the air force acquisition community continues to
ignore and violate a wide range of appropriations practices and
acquisition rules". One of the alleged infractions was the launch
of an SAP without Congressional notification. In their day-to-day
operations, SAPs enjoy a special status. An SAP manager has wide
latitude in granting or refusing access, and because their principal
reporting channel is to the appropriate DoD-level director of special
programs. Each service maintains an SAP Central Office within the
office of the service secretary, but its role is administrative
- its primary task is to support SAP requests by individual program
offices - and its director is not a senior officer.
Within the USAF, there are signs that SAPs form a 'shadow department'
alongside the white-world programs. So far, no USAF special program
director has gone on to command USAF Materiel Command (AFMC), AFMC's
Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC), or their predecessor organizations.
These positions have been dominated by white-world logistics experts.
On the other hand, several of the vice-commanders in these organizations
in the 1990s have previously held SAP oversight assignments, pointing
to an informal convention under which the vice-commander, out of
the public eye, deals with highly sensitive programs. The separation
of white and black programs is further emphasized by arrangements
known as 'carve-outs', which remove classified programs from oversight
by defense-wide security and contract-oversight organizations.
A similar parallel organization can be seen in the organization
of the USAF's flight-test activities. The USAF Flight Test Center
(AFFTC) has a main location at Edwards AFB, which supports most
USAF flight-test programs. Some classified programs are carried
out at Edwards' North Base, but the most secure and sensitive programs
are the responsibility of an AFFTC detachment based at the secret
flight-test base on the edge of the dry Groom Lake, Nevada, and
known as Area 51. The USAF still refuses
to identify the Area 51 base, referring to it only as an 'operating
location near Groom Lake'. It is protected from any further disclosure
by an annually renewed Presidential order.
Area 51's linkage to Edwards is a form of 'cover' - actions and
statements which are intended to conceal the existence of a black
program by creating a false impression in public. The 1995 Commission
report concluded that cover was being over-used. While conceding
that cover might be required for "potentially life-threatening,
high-risk, covert operations", the report stated baldly that "these
techniques also have increasingly been used for major acquisition
and technology-based contracts to conceal the fact of the existence
of a facility or activity". The report added that "one military
service routinely uses cover mechanisms for its acquisition [SAPs],
without regard to individual threat or need".
Cover mechanisms used by the DoD have included the original identification
of the U-2 spyplane as a weather-research aircraft and the concealment
of the CIA's Lockheed A-12 spyplane behind its acknowledged cousins,
the YF-12 and SR-71. Another example of cover is the way in which
people who work at Area 51 are nominally assigned to government
or contractor organizations in the Las Vegas area, and commute to
the base in unmarked aircraft.
After the first wave of 'skyquake' incidents hit Southern California
in 199192, and preliminary results from US Geological Service seismologists
suggested that they were caused by overflights of high-speed aircraft,
the USAF's Lincoln Laboratory analyzed the signatures from one boom
event and concluded that it was caused by navy fighter operations
offshore. The confirmed DoD use of cover makes it impossible to
tell whether the USAF report is genuine or a cover story. The fact
that cover is extensively used to protect black programs adds weight
to the theory that some white-world projects may, in fact, be intended
as cover. One example is the X-30 National Aerospaceplane (NASP)
project, which was launched in 1986, cut back in 1992 and terminated
in 1994. In retrospect, the stated goal of NASP - to develop a single-stage-to-orbit
vehicle based on air-breathing scramjet technology - seems ambitious
Considered as a cover for a black-world hypersonic program, however,
NASP was ideal. NASP provided a credible reason for developing new
technologies - such as high-temperature materials and slush hydrogen
- building and improving large test facilities, and even setting
up production facilities for some materials. These activities would
have been hard to conceal directly, and would have pointed directly
to a classified hypersonic program without a cover story.
Vanishing project syndrome
Intentional cover is supported by two mechanisms, inherent in
the structure of unacknowledged SAPs, that result in the dissemination
of plausible but false data, or disinformation. Confronted with
the unauthorized use of a program name or a specific question, an
'accessed' individual may deny all knowledge of a program - as he
should, because its existence is a core secret, and a mere "no comment"
is tantamount to confirmation. The questioner - who may not be aware
that an accessed individual must respond with a denial - will believe
that denial and spread it further.
Also, people may honestly believe that there are no black programs
in their area of responsibility. For example, Gen George Sylvester,
commander of Aeronautical Systems Division in 1977, was not 'accessed'
into the ASD-managed Have Blue stealth program, even though he was
nominally responsible for all USAF aircraft programs. Had he been
asked whether Have Blue existed, he could have candidly and honestly
denied it. Presented with a wall of denial, and with no way to tell
the difference between deliberate and fortuitous disinformation,
most of the media has abandoned any serious attempts to investigate
The process of establishing an SAP is, logically, covert. To make
the process faster and quieter, the DoD may authorize a Prospective
SAP (P-SAP) before the program is formally reviewed and funded:
the P-SAP may continue for up to six months. The P-SAP may account
for the 'vanishing project syndrome' in which a promising project
simply disappears off the scope. Possible examples include the ultra-short
take-off and landing Advanced Tactical Transport, mooted in the
late 1980s; and the A/F-X long-range stealth attack aircraft, ostensibly
cancelled in 1993.
A further defense against disclosure is provided by a multi-level
nomenclature system. All DoD SAPs have an unclassified nickname,
which is a combination of two unclassified words such as Have Blue
or Rivet Joint. (Have, Senior and Constant are frequently used as
the first word in Air Force programs, Tractor in the army and Chalk
in the navy.) Even in a program that has a standard designation,
the SAP nickname may be used on badges and secured rooms to control
access to information and physical facilities.
A DoD SAP may also have a one-word classified codename. In this
case, full access to the project is controlled by the classified
codename. The two-word nickname, in this case, simply indicates
that a program exists, for budgetary, logistics or contractual purposes.
The purpose, mission and technology of the project are known only
to those who have been briefed at the codename level. Therefore,
for example, Senior Citizen and Aurora could be one and the same.
Both the 1995 and 1997 panels recommended substantial changes
to the classification system, starting with simplification and rationalization.
SAPs are not the only category of classification outside the normal
confidential/ secret/top secret system: the intelligence community
classifies much of its product as Sensitive Compartmented Information
(SCI) and the Department of Energy uses Restricted Data (RD) and
Critical Nuclear Weapons Design Information (CNWDI). The panels
called for a simplified system that would encompass SAPs, SCI and
the DoE standards.
Both commissions also accused the DoD and other agencies of protecting
too much material within special access boundaries, and doing so
in an inconsistent manner. As the 1995 report put it: "Perhaps the
greatest weakness in the entire system is that critical specially
protected information within the various compartments is not clearly
One general told the commission that an SAP was like "trying to
protect every blade of grass on a baseball field. He had to have
a hundred players to guard the entire field, when only four persons
to protect home plate would suffice."
Different services used different standards to determine how and
when to establish SAPs, according to the 1995 commission. In one
case, two services and the DoE were running concurrent programs
with the same technology. One military service classified its program
as Top Secret Special Access and protected it with armed guards.
The other military service classified its program as Secret Special
Access with little more than tight need-to-know protection applied.
The DoE classified its program as Secret, adopting discretionary
need-to-know procedures. "This problem is not uncommon", the report
The commission gave up on efforts to measure the direct costs
of security, saying that "no one has a good handle on what security
really costs". Direct costs, the commission estimated, ranged from
1% to 3% of total operating costs in an acknowledged SAP, and from
3% to 10% on a black project, although one SAP program manager estimated
security costs could be as high as 40% of total operating costs.
The commission found that there was no way to estimate the indirect
costs of security, such as the lost opportunities to rationalize
The 1995 commission also pointed out that the military utility
of a breakthrough technology is limited if commanders do not know
how to use it. A senior officer on the Joint Staff remarked that
"we still treat certain capabilities as pearls too precious to wear
- we acknowledge their value, but because of their value, we lock
them up and don't use them for fear of losing them". The report
implied that the SAP world keeps field commanders in the dark until
the systems are ready for use and even then, "they are put under
such tight constraints that they are unable to use [SAP products]
in any practical way".
Both the DoD's own commission and the later Senate commission
pushed for a simpler system, with more consistent rules, and based
on the principle of risk management: that is, focusing security
efforts to protect the information that is most likely to be targeted
and would be most damaging if compromised.
Since 1995, the US Government has declassified some programs.
Northrop's Tacit Blue, a prototype for a battlefield surveillance
aircraft, was unveiled in 1996, but it had made its last flight
in 1985 and had not led to an operational aircraft. The USAF publicly
announced the acquisition of MiG-29s from Moldova in 1998 - however,
the previous history of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron,
which has flown Soviet combat aircraft from Area 51 since the 1970s,
Some recent programs appear to combine an unclassified and a SAP
element. One example is the Boeing X-36 unmanned test aircraft.
The X-36 itself was disclosed in March 1996, when it was nearly
complete: at the time, it was a McDonnell Douglas project, and it
clearly resembled the company's proposed Joint Strike Fighter design.
However, it was also a subscale test vehicle for an agile, very-low-observables
combat aircraft, incorporating a still-classified thrust vectoring
system with an externally fixed nozzle. The nozzle itself remains
classified, and it is likely that a full-scale radar cross-section
model of the design was also built under a secret program.
Another hybrid is the USAF's Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV), originated
by Rockwell but a Boeing project. This appears to have been black
before 1997, with the designation X-40. (The USAF has reserved the
designations X-39 to X-42 for a variety of programs.) A subscale,
low-speed test vehicle was revealed in that year; it was described
as the Miniature Spaceplane Technology (MiST) demonstrator and was
designated X-40A, a suffix that usually indicates the second derivative
of an X-aircraft. Late last year, Boeing was selected to develop
a larger SMV test vehicle under NASA's Future-X program - this effort
is unclassified, and is designated X-37. The question is whether
the USAF is still quietly working on a full-scale X-40 to explore
some of the SMV's military applications, including space control
Another indication of greater openness is the fact that the three
reconnaissance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) programs launched in 199495
- the Predator, DarkStar and Global Hawk - were unclassified. The
General Atomics Gnat 750, which preceded the Predator, was placed
in service under a CIA black program, and the DarkStar and Global
Hawk, between them, were designed as a substitute for a very large,
long-endurance stealth reconnaissance UAV developed by Boeing and
Lockheed and cancelled in 1993. However, the budget numbers indicate
that unacknowledged SAPs are very much alive. Neither has the DoD
taken any drastic steps to rationalize the security system. Recent
revelations over the loss of data from DoE laboratories have placed
both Congress and Administration in a defensive posture, and early
reform is unlikely.
A telling indication of the state of declassification, however,
was the release in 1998 of the CIA's official history of the U-2
program. It is censored to remove any mention of the location of
the program. However, an earlier account of the U-2 program, prepared
with the full co-operation of Lockheed and screened for security,
includes a photo of the Area 51 ramp area. It shows hangars that
can still be located on overhead and ground-to-ground shots of the
base, together with terrain that can be correlated with ridgelines
in the Groom Lake area.
However, the DoD has opposed legislation - along the lines of
the 1997 Senate report - that would simplify the current system
and create an independent authority to govern declassification.
In the summer of 1999, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said
that the DoD was opposed to the entire concept of writing all security
policies into law, because it would make the system less flexible.
The DoD is also against the idea of a "balance of public interest"
test for classification. Another major concern was that an independent
oversight office would be cognizant of all SAPs.
Hans Mark, director for defense research and engineering, defended
the current level of SAP activity in his confirmation hearing in
June 1998. SAPs, Mark said, "enable the DoD to accomplish very sensitive,
high payoff acquisition, intelligence, and operational activities".
Without them, he said, "many of these activities would not be possible,
and the effectiveness of the operational forces would be reduced
as a result. I am convinced that special access controls are critical
to the success of such highly sensitive activities."
Not only have SAPs held their ground, but their philosophy has
also spread to other programs and agencies. NASA's 'faster, better,
cheaper' approach to technology demonstration and space exploration
has been brought to the agency by its administrator, Dan Goldin,
who was previously involved with SAPs with TRW. The Advanced Concept
Technology Demonstration (ACTD) programs conducted by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are also based on similar
principles to SAPs. In some cases - such as Frontier Systems' A160
long-endurance helicopter demonstrator - DARPA contractors are providing
effective security outside a formal SAP framework.
SAPs are visible in the prosperity of special-program organizations
within industry. Boeing's Phantom Works, founded in 1992 on the
basis of existing black-program work at McDonnell Douglas but with
an added emphasis on low-cost prototyping, has been expanded by
the new Boeing to include facilities and people at Palmdale and
Seattle. While the headquarters of the Phantom Works is being moved
to Seattle, this move directly affects only a small staff, and the
St Louis operation still appears to be active. Its main white-world
program has been the construction of the forward fuselages of the
X-32 prototypes, but this only occupies one of many secure hangar
bays. The X-32 prototypes are being assembled at Palmdale, in a
hangar divided by a high curtain. Another test vehicle is being
assembled in the same hangar, behind a high curtain, and background
music plays constantly to drown out any telltale conversations.
In the early 1980s, Boeing expanded its military-aircraft activities
and built large new facilities - including an engineering building
and indoor RCS range at Boeing Field - which were specifically designed
to support SAPs, with numerous, physically separate 'vaults' to
isolate secure programs from each other. Boeing's black-projects
team at Seattle is considered to be one of the best in the industry.
Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has changed in character since the
1970s. The original Advanced Development Projects (ADP) unit was
built around a core group of engineering leaders, who would tap
people and resources from the 'white-world' Lockheed-California
company when they were needed. In the 1980s, the Skunk Works grew
in size and importance, while Lockheed-California diminished. Today,
the Skunk Works is a large, stand-alone organization with 4,000-plus
employees. As far as the world knows, its output in the past 10
years comprises two YF-22 prototypes, parts of two DarkStar prototypes,
the X-33 RLV and the two X-35 JSF demonstrators.
In mid-1999, Lockheed Martin disclosed that a new advanced-technology
organization had been set up within the Skunk Works, headed by veteran
engineer Ed Glasgow, to explore the potential or revolutionary technologies.
In the unclassified realm, these include a hybrid heavy-lift vehicle
combining lighter-than-air and aerodynamic principles, and a supersonic-cruise
vehicle with design features that virtually eliminate a sonic boom
signature on the ground.
The Skunk Works' renown has overshadowed another Lockheed Martin
organization with a long-standing connection with SAPs, located
within Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems (LMTAS) at Fort
Worth. This group has existed since the late 1950s, when General
Dynamics sought special-programs work to keep its engineering workforce
together between major projects. Notable projects include Kingfish,
which was the ramjet-powered rival to Lockheed's A-12 Blackbird
and continued in development into the early 1960s, and the RB-57F,
a drastically modified Canberra designed for high-altitude reconnaissance
More recently, the group worked on early stealth concepts - including
the design which led to the Navy's A-12 Avenger II attack aircraft
- and has modified transport-type aircraft for sensitive reconnaissance
missions under the USAF's Big Safari program.
Northrop Grumman's major involvement in manned-aircraft SAPs may
be winding down as the Pico Rivera plant - which housed the B-2
program - is closed down and its workforce disperses. However, the
company's acquisitions in 1999, including Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical
(TRA) and California Microwave, indicate that it will remain a force
in UAV programs, including SAPs. TRA has a long association with
SAPs and SAP-like programs, dating back to Vietnam-era reconnaissance
UAVs and the AQM-91 Firefly high-altitude, low-observable reconnaissance
drone tested in the early 1970s.
Raytheon has acquired important SAP operations through acquisitions.
The former Hughes missile operation was presumably involved in the
classified air-breathing AMRAAM variant that was apparently used
in Operation 'Desert Storm', and in subsequent extended-range air-to-air
missile programs. Texas Instruments developed the ASQ-213 HARM Targeting
System pod under a black program between 1991 and 1993, when it
was unveiled. (HTS was a classic example of a 'vanishing' program:
briefly mentioned in early 1990, it turned black shortly afterwards.)
The former E-Systems has been heavily involved in intelligence programs
since its formation.
One likely strategic goal of current SAPs is the pursuit of what
one senior engineer calls "the next stealth" - breakthrough technologies
that provide a significant military advantage. Examples could include
high-speed technology - permitting reconnaissance and strike aircraft
to cruise above M45 - and visual and acoustic stealth measures,
which could re-open the airspace below 15,000ft (4,600m) to manned
and unmanned aircraft.
The existence of high-supersonic aircraft projects has been inferred
from sighting reports, the repeated, unexplained sonic booms over
the US and elsewhere, the abrupt retirement of the SR-71 and from
the focus of white-world programs, such as NASP and follow-on research
efforts such as the USAF's HyTech program. The latter have consistently
been aimed at gathering data on speeds in the true hypersonic realm
- well above M6, where subsonic-combustion ramjets give way to supersonic-combustion
ramjets (scramjets) - implying that speeds from M3 to M6 present
no major unsolved challenges.
One researcher in high-speed technology has confirmed to IDR that
he has seen what appear to be photographs of an unidentified high-speed
aircraft, obtained by a US publication. In a recent sighting at
Area 51, a group of observers claim to have seen a highly blended
slender-delta aircraft which closely resembles the aircraft seen
over the North Sea in August 1999. Visual stealth measures were
part of the original Have Blue program, and one prototype was to
have been fitted with a counter-illumination system to reduce its
detectability against a brightly lit sky. However, both prototypes
were lost before either could be fitted with such a system. More
recent work has focused on electrochromic materials - flat panels
which can change color or tint when subjected to an electrical charge
- and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is known to have co-operated with
the DoE's Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on such materials.
Yet, the plain fact is that the public and the defense community
at large have little idea of what has been achieved in unacknowledged
SAPs since the early 1980s. Tacit Blue, the most recently declassified
product of the black-aircraft world, actually traces its roots to
the Ford Administration. If nothing else, the dearth of hard information
since that time, shows that the SAP system - expensive, unwieldy
and sometimes irrational as it might seem - keeps its secrets well.
Whatever rattled the dinner tables of Delaware a year ago may remain
in the shadows for many years.
'The government may pay several times over for the same technology
or application developed under different special programs.'
'Presented with a wall of denial, most of the media has abandoned
any serious attempts to investigate classified programs.'
(reprinted with permission)