Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: U.S. Federal Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Often eclipsed by its more famous relative the F-117A Nighthawk (aka Stealth Fighter), for which it served as a proof-of-concept vehicle, Lockheed’s small Have Blue technology demonstrator remains a shadowy aircraft to this day. Relatively few photographs exist in the public domain, and a crashed article that had once been earmarked for display remains buried in an unmarked grave at the Groom Lake test facility in Nevada, popularly known as Area 51.

lockheed have blue xst 1  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake

lockheed have blue xst 2  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Images: DARPA/US Air ForceU.S. Government via Lockheed, public domain)

Designed and built by the famous Skunk Works and test flown in total secrecy from 1977 to 1979, Have Blue demonstrators XST-1 and XST-2 tested the angular, faceted design that gave the F-117A its sinister appearance and low observability.

Despite the loss of both aircraft (with pilots ejecting to safety) the programme was deemed a success and development of the larger Nighthawk went ahead. Meanwhile, both Have Blue wrecks were quietly buried in anonymous graves within the boundaries of the Nellis Test Range.

near have blue resting place  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: Google Earth)

One of the demonstrators was reportedly interred at Groom Lake, immediately south of the former A-12 Oxcart hangar complex (above). Years later, when Have Blue’s existence had finally been made public, Lockheed engineers set about trying to unearth the relatively intact wreck for restoration as a static display article.

lockheed have blue in flight  Have Blue: The Still-Shadowy Lockheed Jet Buried at Groom Lake(Image: USAF, public domain)

But their efforts went unrewarded. Some reports say they couldn’t find it, while others assert that the search was cancelled when engineers began unearthing the shattered components of other classified programmes. Whatever the truth may be, it’s thought that the wreck now lies beneath a paved section of recently constructed taxiway. If this is the case, Have Blue is unlikely to see the light of day any time soon – if ever!

Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?

Boeing F A XX1  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image: Boeing via YouTube)

For several years black project researchers have debated the possible existence of a classified aircraft called the YF-24, which was referenced in the bio of test pilot Colonel Joseph Lanni. It was later redacted, causing speculation that the plane could be a foreign jet under evaluation by the US Air Force, a one-of-a-kind technology demonstrator or stealth prototype, or simply a typo.

The Pentagon has denied the existence of a YF-24, while some stealth watchers remain similarly unconvinced. But others have speculated that it could be linked to the ill-fated Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) programme or early Joint Strike Fighter studies.

Boeing Model 24F  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Boeing/US Air Force study)

Dave Majumdar recently posted this interesting article on the DEW Line, citing an engineering paper for a Boeing Multirole Fighter concept dating back to the 1990s. The design – known as the Model-24F – shares commonalities with Boeing concepts for the Advanced Tactical Fighter programme, the unsuccessful X-32 demonstrator, and artist impressions of the future F/A-XX programme.

According to Majumdar, the design reflects a more agile aircraft than the current Lockheed Martin F-35 and “has provisions for two-dimensional thrust vectoring and some other interesting features. The design matches the Raptor’s top speed of about Mach 2.2 though it doesn’t cruise supersonically like the F-22.”

Boeing MRF 24X  Could Mystery YF-24 Aircraft be Related to a Future Fighter?(Image via Key Publishing Aviation Forum)

Interestingly, a more recent study shows what appears to be a tailless version of the same aircraft, with vertical and horizontal stabilisers removed and a redesigned back-end. The earlier Model-24F design apparently utilises 1998 technology, while the MRF-24X (above) study incorporates 2003 technology and appears to be a step closer to more recent Boeing F/A-XX concepts.

Whether Boeing built and flight tested a full scale demonstrator aircraft based on the Model-24F during the 1990s, and indeed whether it was related to the mysterious YF-24, remains unknown. If nothing else, these intriguing engineering studies may help map the evolution of an aircraft design from early concepts to a future air superiority fighter.

Plane Spotting: Storm Climb’s New Weekly Link Round-up

boeing x 20  Plane Spotting: Storm Climb’s New Weekly Link Round-up(Image: NASA, public domain)

Welcome to Plane Spotting, a new weekly link round-up article from Storm Climb.  We chose the name based on our passion for aviation combined with finding – or spotting – fascinating stories from aircraft websites, blogs, magazines across the internet.  Here are 11 interesting stories to get us started, but please do get in touch if you know of anything you feel we should cover.  Until then, enjoy!

9 Lost and Found Airplanes (Mental Floss)

Abandoned World War Two Aircraft in the Pacific (Pacific Wrecks)

Top Secret Technology Demonstrator Aircraft that are Now Declassified (Urban Ghosts)

12 Awesome Hot Air Balloons (Oddee)

Takeoff Mistakes: The Critical Minute (Plane & Pilot)

Big Fuel Savings Demand New Configurations (Aviation Week & Space Technology)

Loser X-Planes (Air & Space Magazine)

Top Secret Aircraft and Classified Technology (Beyond Black Projects)

Splendid Abandoned Airplanes (Dark Roasted Blend)

The Wing House is Complete (re-nest)

Retired 747 Airplane Transformed into Striking Malibu Home (inhabitat)

Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing

crashed f 1172  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(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.

Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady

crashed u2 beijing  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(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”)

a 12 oxcart crash  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(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)

have blue technology demonstrator  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(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)

crashed f 117a  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(Photos courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org)

Despite several aircraft lost in training accidents over the United States, only one F-117 Stealth Fighter was lost in combat.  On March 27, 1999, F-117 82-0806 was shot down by a surface to air missile during the Kosovo War.  Pilot Dale Zelko was rescued, but the battered F-117 lay inverted in a field, destroyed yet alarmingly intact.  The Stealth Fighter’s canopy was displayed in Belgrade, while the rest of the wreckage was allegedly inspected by Russian personnel.  Although no longer a black project, it has been asserted that the F-117’s low observable technology helped in the development of Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft.  Others, however, dispute this on the grounds that the F-117’s stealth was more than 20-years-old at the time of the crash.

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber)

b 2 spirit crash  Secret U.S. Planes That Remained Relatively Intact After Crashing(Image: Federal Aviation Administration, public domain)

While the B-2 Spirit originated from the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) black project of the late 1970s, the production aircraft was acknowledged early on.  Even so, certain aspects of the Stealth Bomber‘s design remain classified to this day, which goes some way to explaining its hefty price tag.  Fortunately, only one has crashed and both crew members ejected safely.  The B-2’s unmistakable flying wing design and stealthy contours are apparent, despite the aircraft, named “Spirit of Kansas”, being gutted by fire.  Luckily for the U.S. government, the wreck remained within the perimeter of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.  The $1.4 billion crash was even caught on video.  Find out more at Gizmodo.

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