Advanced Flying Machines

Area 51, a super-secret airbase at Groom Dry Lake in central Nevada, has long been a testing site for America's most advanced aircraft, including some that officially don't exist. Perhaps for this reason, Area 51 is also a hotspot for UFO sightings. Years before the strange-looking F-117a Stealth Fighter was publicly shown, it was spotted by ranchers and UFO-watchers in the high desert. Flying almost silently and looking like something fit for Darth Vader, there can be no doubt that this bizarre plane pro voked some perfectly sincere UFO reports. And why not? If a person saw it swoop by and then called the Air Force, they would have been told that no such thing exists. If it doesn't exist, it can't very well be identified -- and that makes it an unidentifi ed flying object, or UFO.

Similar reports were generated by the weird, bat-shaped B-2 Stealth Bomber, another plane that officially did not exist during its testing phase some years ago. Is it possible that other strange aircraft, still top-secret, are being tested today? Most civ ilian analysts say yes. The most-often named example is the so-called Aurora, which is thought to be a super-secret, super-fast replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft. Two of the most authoritative aerospace magazines -- Aviation Week & Space Technology, and Jane's Defence Weekly -- have both declared that the Aurora does exist and is flying. Yet, the U.S. government insists there is no such aircraft. When will we know the truth? That's hard to say. Meanwhile, if anyone actually sees the Aurora, it qualifies as a human-built UFO.

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