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Aurora Again: USA To Russia In About An Hour?
Code name, Aurora, once thought to belong to the B-2 Bomber
or to the F-117A Nighthawk programs, is now known to refer
to a super-secret hypersonic long-range stealth aircraft
designed and built for the USAF and CIA at Lockheed's ADP
facility in Burbank, California. A number of sources have
reported Aurora flying from Nellis AFB's Watertown Strip
(Area 51) at Groom Dry Lake, Nevada.
Officially, Aurora's top speed has been set at 3,800 miles
per hour with a cruise range of 5,750 miles and an
operational ceiling of 150,000 feet (28.4 miles). Some
independent information places Aurora's top speed closer to
5,000 miles per hour and the operational ceiling at about 40
With these impressive figures, it is obvious the Aurora was
designed to replace the now decommissioned SR-71 strategic
According to reports from various aviation authorities,
since 1980, Lockheed and the USAF have been testing a Mach 6
hypersonic research, air-breathing, manned aircraft from the
secret test range at Area 51 and that Aurora was derived
from that research.
The USAF began reducing the numbers of the aging SR-71s
during the mid-1980s so watchers of stealth aircraft knew
something was up. Air Force Secretary Edward Aldridge, while
explaining the SR-71 retirements, noted that the USAF was
interested in developing a manned reconnaissance aircraft
incorporating the latest stealth technology.
Aurora's engines run on liquid methane. After taking off
from Watertown Strip and refueling once in flight, Aurora
can cross the Pacific Ocean in about two hours!
Allocated $2.3 billion in 1985, there are now at least 25
operational hypersonic spy planes flying from Tonopah Base
Area 30 in Nevada.
Two or three personnel, seated in tandem cockpits, operate
the Aurora. Its external shape is double delta design with a
conformal fuselage/wing blending. Aurora's radar signature
is low, probably near that of the F117, which is from 0.1 to
.203 square meter.
According to one retired DOD official, "With the SR-71
Blackbird, they knew we were there but they couldn't touch
us. With Aurora, they won't even know we're there!"
Lockheed has been studying hypersonic aircraft, Mach 4 to
Mach 7, with operational ceiling of up to 250,000 feet (47.3
miles) for years, so it should come as no surprise that
squadrons of Auroras are now flying.
Designed and built by the Phalanx Organization, Inc., based
in Long Beach, California, the Dragon is a VTOL two-engine
aircraft with a 650 knot maximum speed, 30 to 40 knots
reverse speed, 2,600 nautical mile range with a payload of
about 1,800 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 10,000
pounds. The MP-21 Dragon will be manned by up to three
personnel and powered by two 4,500/5,000 pound Garrett 731-3
turbine engines. Thrust nozzles similar to those on Harrier
jumpjets will be utilized; four for each engine for a total
of eight thruster nozzles. Single engine horizontal flight
will be possible since each engine nozzle extends to both
sides of the aircraft, however, the plane would not be able
to hover or reverse if one engine was disabled by enemy
Low fuel consumption, projected to be .485 pounds per pound
per hour, is maintained by varying the size of the nozzles'
outlets to keep the proper 1,100 to 1,200 foot-per-second
exhaust velocity for maximum efficiency.
This information is provided as a public service, but we cannot guarantee that the information is current or accurate. Readers should verify the information before acting on it.