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Mothership

Some observers also claim that another larger and more agile aircraft has been cruising the California desert. This aircraft reportedly has a wingspan close to 150 feet. While this dimension is roughly equivalent to that of the B-2 bomber, observers insist that they can distinguish it from the B-2 at night. Unlike the B-2 and the aircraft flying in F- 117A formation, this vehicle appeared highly maneuverable. One is said to have turned 90 degrees on its wingtip.<1>

According to reports, since September 1990 this large light-colored aircraft, with a planform similar to the XB-70 supersonic bomber, has been seen near Edwards AFB, CA by residents of Mojave, CA, and workers at Edwards AFB. A total of five separate sightings of this vehicle were reported to Aviation Week and Space Technology. <2>
Observers said they first saw a large, primarily delta-shaped aircraft at night during the summer of 1990. On Sept. 13, 1990, and Oct. 3, 1990, the same type of aircraft was seen flying near Mojave, Calif., in the late evening. Mojave is about 16 naut. mi. northwest of Edwards AFB.

Engine noise associated with the aircraft seen on Sept. 19 was described as a low-pitched rumble. However, noise from two chase aircraft - one was an F-16, the other was not identified - may have combined with that of the large aircraft, distorting the latter's sound. Afterburner flames from twin exhaust ports located under the wing trailing edge and immediately outboard of the aircraft centerline during the Oct. 3 sighting.

A similar aircraft was seen in April, 1991, at about 11 a.m., flying north of Edwards AFB at an estimated altitude of 5,000-10,000 ft. An observer said it was large - dwarfing an F-16 chasing it - and was light colored, possibly white.

The first sighting this year was near Atlanta, Ga., on May 10. Glenn Emery, now a writer associated with Cable News Network, said a large, unidentified aircraft was flying eastbound at about 5 p.m. Because its size was unknown, its altitude was difficult to judge, but was estimated to be 10,000-15,000 ft. The vehicle was clearly higher and faster than the airline traffic descending for landing at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

Another sighting, on July 12 at 11:45 p.m., occurred near a Lockheed-operated radar cross section (RCS) test range in the Mojave desert. Described as an "XB-70-like" shape, the aircraft tuned its landing lights on while at fairly high altitude, then descended quickly, following an S-pattern flight track. It made a final turn at about 200 ft. above a road, crossing less than a mile in front of a motorist who had watched its descend. Ambient noise masked any sounds from the aircraft.

According to Aviation Week, the aircraft's features include: This vehicle is frequently interpreted as a "mother ship" for launching a smaller air-launched hypersonic aerospace plane. (See Two-Stage-to-Orbit 'Blackstar' System Shelved at Groom Lake? by William B. Scott, Aviation Week, March 5, 2006).




REFERENCES

<1> "One on One," Defense News, 25 June 1990, page 38.

<2> AW&ST, August 24, 1992

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