SR-91 Aurora: The Mach 5 Spy Plane That Never Existed?

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Question: Was the SR-91 real? It was way back in the 1980s when the U.S. military first detailed plans to develop and construct a hypersonic spy plane that could eclipse Mach 5+—which would have made it the fastest manned aircraft ever to take to the skies.

As exciting as this plan for the hypothesized American reconnaissance aircraft was, some experts believe that this next-gen plane—known as SR-91 Aurora—never made it past the concept stage.

But if it did exist, some have estimated that it could tap into that mind-bending speed and still fly at a top altitude of one hundred thirty-five thousand feet and cruise at about ninety thousand feet.

Witness Accounts

According to Fighter Jets World, a “well-known instance which provides evidence of such an aircraft’s existence is the sighting of a triangular plane over the North Sea in August 1989 by oil-exploration engineer Chris Gibson.”

It continues: “In another incident of the famous ‘sky quakes’ heard over Los Angeles since the early 1990s, found to be heading for the secret Groom Lake (Area 51) installation in the Nevada desert, numerous other facts provide an understanding of how the aircraft’s technology works. Rumored to exist but routinely denied by U.S. officials, the name of this aircraft is Aurora.”

As for another sign of the existence of the SR-91 Aurora, the site notes that “on 6 March 1990, one of the United States Air Force’s Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spyplanes shattered the official air speed record from Los Angeles to Washington’s Dulles Airport. There, a brief ceremony marked the end of the SR-71’s operational career. Officially, the SR-71 was being retired to save the $200-$300 million a year it cost to operate the fleet. Some reporters were told the plane had been made redundant by sophisticated spy satellites.”

However, “a British Ministry of Defense report released in May 2006 refers to USAF priority plans to produce a Mach 4-6 highly supersonic vehicle, but no conclusive evidence had emerged to confirm the existence of such a project.”

There are plenty of opinions on why the Aurora project could have been canceled, but some experts believe that it was “due to a shift from spy-planes to high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites which can do the same job as a spy plane, but with less risk of casualties.”

Successor in Works, Sort of…

Whether the SR-91 Aurora existed or not, know that there really is a successor to the SR-71 Blackbird. It’s called the SR-72—also known as the “Son of Blackbird”— a hypersonic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) concept that is currently being developed under Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works or Advanced Development Programs.

This aircraft has the potential to reach Mach 6 or even Mach 7, which would enable it to depart from a base located on the continental United States to hit specific targets across the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans in approximately ninety minutes.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

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