Original source : http://www.stormclimb.comPosted : June 2011
(Photo courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org)
Top secret aircraft, also known as black projects, can be powerful assets to the countries operating them, in this case the United States. But crashes can have dire consequences both in terms of technology and diplomacy. Usually when a black aircraft crashes, a cover story is issued and a veil of secrecy shrouds the incident. But when a jet is still recognisable, cover stories go out the window and technology is left open to exploitation – or simply observation. Here are five examples of secret aircraft (not all black) that have retained their overall appearances after crashing, though thankfully not all in enemy territory.
(Image: radio53, reproduced with permission)
The U-2 entered service as a top secret reconnaissance aircraft, designed by the Lockheed Skunk Works to fly higher than Soviet fighters and missiles could reach. But the spy plane’s existence became public knowledge when CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia in May 1960. Following “the U-2 incident“, five aircraft belonging to the Black Cat Squadron – a top secret CIA-sponsored Taiwanese unit – were shot down over mainland China. The U-2 wreck above is one of those aircraft. Remarkably intact, much to the chagrin of the U.S., the U-2 is displayed at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing.
Lockheed A-12 (Code Name “Oxcart”)
(Image: CIA via Pangloss Films and National Geographic)
The unmistakable shape of the Lockheed A-12 spy plane is plain to see in this recently declassified CIA photograph. The A-12 crashed near Wendover, Utah in 1963 after entering an unrecoverable flat spin. Pilot Ken Collins ejected and successfully deterred three locals, who came to his aid, from the crash site by telling them it was an F-105 with a nuclear weapon onboard. The CIA later administered sodium pentothal to ensure Collins had divulged the full details of the incident. When agents later carried him home, his wife angrily assumed he’d been out drinking with the guys. It would be several decades before he could tell her the truth!
Lockheed Have Blue (Technology Demonstrator)
(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)
The Lockheed Skunk Works’ revolutionary Have Blue proof-of-concept aircraft tested a new form of low observable technology known as faceting from 1977 to 1979. The success of Have Blue paved the way for a programme called Senior Trend, under which the F-117 Nighthawk was developed, forever changing the course of air warfare. Two Have Blue technology demonstrators were built, both of which crashed during testing. The aircraft were buried at Groom Lake (Area 51), but the second Have Blue was reportedly intact. Several attempts have been made to locate the buried airframe for display, but so far none have been successful.
Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk (Stealth Fighter)
(Photos courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org)
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber)
(Image: Federal Aviation Administration, public domain)