For years, rumors have circulated to the effect that some UFOs are the result of classified, man-made projects, rather than the product of bug-eyed aliens from the other side of the galaxy.
Certainly, the most famous domestic flying saucer was the Avrocar. In 1953, it was revealed by the Toronto Star that Avro Canada was working to perfect its very own flying saucer. As a result, the Avrocar made its first – and distinctly unsuccessful – “flight” in December 1959. Two years later it was barely in the air; and the US Department of Defense – which had shown a lot of interest in the project and had been working closely with Avro – severed its ties with the project, as the following DoD document notes:
“From 1958 on, Aircraft Lab had many doubts about feasibility as expressed in correspondence and project reviews. On basis of various tests, the Aircraft Lab noted in Feb 1958 that the Avrocar probably would not be capable of supersonic flight. A few months later, Aircraft lab statements [said] that the concept was feasible, but that much work had to be done before it would ever be operational – serious mechanical problems, engine problems, aerodynamic problems, and flight factors unknown.”
However, there is intriguing evidence that has led some commentators to suggest that the Avrocar was nothing more than an ingenuously crafted cover for far more classified US programs designed to build and – possibly – fly UFO-like aircraft. In other words, the Avrocar project was a planned failure from the very beginning, designed to create the impression with the Soviets that the US military had failed to successfully develop and put into service such a particularly unique aircraft. But can such claims be validated? Yes: to a degree, at least.
From 1952 to 1961, a Special Projects Group from Avro worked on a series of Flying Saucer programs that were miles ahead of the Avrocar. One such project, known as Y2, was purchased by the US Air Force and renamed Project Silver Bug. A technical report on Silverbug prepared on 15 February 1955 by the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, reveals the extent to which potentially groundbreaking research was being undertaken at the time. The report clearly spells out its purpose:
“This report presents factual technical data on A. V. Roe, Canada, Limited, proposed development, Project Y2 (Secret). This proposal is the second of two designs which can be classified as radical aircraft designs. The ultimate purpose of presenting this is two-fold; to correct the distorted picture presented in previous releases, both classified and unclassified, and to acquaint the intelligence community with the current state-of-the-art facts thereby alerting them to any air intelligence information which may become available indicating Soviet interest in this specialized field.”
Interestingly, there was a strong desire on the part of those involved in the project to disassociate themselves with the inevitable flying saucer comparisons, as the document demonstrates clearly:
“[The design] should in no way be associated with any science fiction for Flying Saucer stories because of its external appearance. The configuration was a result of an engineering investigation into the solution of a particular problem. An examination of the AVRO proposal shows that the potential for a very high performance weapon system exists in the not-to-distant future.
Although this proposal offers the USAF a potentially advanced weapon system having both vertical take-off and military performance capabilities, there are numerous technical problems which must be solved before a successful development can be realized. The proposal is for the design of a supersonic research aircraft having a circular planform and VTO characteristics. One version provides for the use of several conventional radial-flow type engines. Another unusual feature of this proposal is that the control of the aircraft is accomplished by selective direction of the exhaust gases which eliminates the necessity of conventional aerodynamic control surfaces.”
The extract of the document that follows reveals why the Air Force felt that the construction of such a device would be of great benefit to the US military:
“This proposal offers a possible solution to the USAF requirement for achieving dispersed base operations. There appears to be no fundamental reason why this proposal should not ultimately result in a weapon system; however there are several technical areas which must be investigated before a full-scale development program is initiated. The simplicity of airframe construction should alleviate many of the manufacturing and logistic problems normally associated with new aircraft developments. Based on the above conclusions, a two-fold intelligence program is justifiable. A: The technical information on this project should be followed by direct liaison between WADC and ATIC personnel. B: A collection effort should be initiated to determine whether the Soviet Bloc is or has been conducting research efforts on a similar project, when this work began, and the present state of the Soviet development.”
“There is a USAF requirement to develop a means of operation from dispersed bases. This requirement stems from the growing and possibly catastrophic vulnerability of conventional air bases. The major feature of conventional air bases is the runway, which has grown wider, thicker, and longer as aircraft have become heavier and faster. The operational necessity of runways leads to concentrations of aircraft which have become critical targets.
The logical approach to dispersed base operation would appear to be toward reducing the length of runways or to their total elimination. Numerous schemes have been proposed, investigated, and some developed to reduce the take-off distance of aircraft. Among them are water ejection, afterburning, and RATO. Drag chutes and methods of thrust reversal have been developed for reducing landing requirements. Attempts to eliminate runways completely have resulted in helicopters, convertiplanes and what is known as VTO aircraft.
There are two general types of VTO aircraft – tail sitters and flat risers. A flat-riser takes off in the vertical direction in a normal horizontal flight attitude, while the tail-sitter takes of vertically from a position which is 90 degrees to a normal horizontal flight attitude.
Examples of tail-sitters are the United States Navy projects with Lockheed and Convair which utilize a turboprop power plant, and the USAF project with Ryan Aeronautical Corporation utilizing turbojet power plants. Examples of the flat-riser are the Rolls-Royce Flying Bedstead and the Bell VTO aircraft. The basic design problem associated with any aircraft of this type becomes one of achieving in a single vehicle VTO and military performance capabilities. A possible solution to this problem has been proposed by A. V. Roe, Canada, Limited, in the form of their Project Y2 (Secret).”
There were, the authors of the document stated, two versions of small research VTO aircraft, that had been designed by the contractor, and that were designated as Project Y, a tail-sitter; and Project Y2, a flat-riser.
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