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Aurora, also known as SR-91 Aurora, is the popular name given to a possibly fictional American secret hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft. There is no substantial evidence that such a plane was ever built or flown, though experimental planes similar to its alleged design have been shown to have at least been considered if not exactly in active development (see "Fact or fiction?" below).
Rumors about the Aurora "black project" started in 1990 after Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine broke the news that the word "Aurora" had been inadvertently included in the 1985 US budget, as an allocation of $455 million for "black aircraft production".
According to Aviation Week, the Aurora project most likely referred to a group of exotic aircraft, and not to one particular airframe. The original report was blacked out and only the word "Aurora" was left available, but its visible content allegedly matched "expectations" of such a spy plane. Other sources indicate that the Aurora program from the report was a different program, and the plane may have used a different codename. However, "Aurora" has been the name that has entered popular culture in connection with this plane.
The Aurora aircraft was supposedly developed in the final years of the Cold War to replace the SR-71 Blackbird (retired in 1998/1999); it is claimed to fly at speeds in excess of Mach 6, and to be the source of an unexplained series of sonic booms recorded in California and Nevada beginning in mid-to-late 1991. It may (or may not) be based at the Groom Lake/Area 51 secret aircraft base in Nevada, as well as Edwards AFB, California, and RAF Machrihanish, Scotland (closed in 2012).
It is typically believed to be a black triangular craft, with an unconventional methane-powered propulsion system. Some "reports" include a pulsing sound on takeoff and contrails which looked like "doughnuts on a rope".
Fact or fiction?
There is no hard evidence that the Aurora ever existed. The US government has consistently denied such an aircraft was ever built (as they do), and former Skunk Works director Ben Rich confirmed that "Aurora" was simply the budgetary code name for the stealth bomber fly-off that resulted in the B-2 Spirit. However, some (non-crank) industry experts still contend that Aurora, or a similar program did exist. The US military did/does actually have "black" aerospace projects, like the Have Blue program of the 1970s, which resulted in the F-117 stealth attack plane. Similarly, some industry experts believe that NASA's current X-37 unmanned space plane project actually operates as an Air Force black project for spying on, and potentially destroying, Chinese and Russian satellites.
The SR-72, an unmanned hypersonic spy plane, has been proposed by Lockheed Martin as a successor to the retired SR-71 Blackbird, but only since 2007 (more than 20 years after the "Aurora project" was "leaked"), and as of 2019 it's still just a project.
Finally, most Aurora "sightings" took place during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the USAF was developing top secret
flying Doritos triangle-shaped stealth military planes such as the B-2 Spirit and the canceled A-12 Avenger II.
- Area 51
- Black helicopter
- Black triangle
- Nazi UFOs
- The X-Files - the Aurora project is referenced in the season 1 episode "Deep Throat"
- Muradian, Vago (17 June 2007). "An SR-72 in the works?" (PDF). Air Force Times: p. 7.
- Aurora Timeline
- LATEST U.S. STEALTH TECHNOLOGY MOVES TO WESTERN SCOTLAND
- The Aurora Aircraft Page