This is the second in a two-part series on radioactive stealth from exotic weapons guru David Hambling. Check out part one here.Back in the 60's, there was considerable work done on developing radioactive coatings which would have the double benefit of absorbing radar and reducing drag. We know that from the patents we looked at in part one. What aircraft would have had such coatings?In the late 1950s there had been several attempts to reduce the radar cross-section of the U2 spy plane under the name Project Rainbow, detailed here. These included the trapeze, an arrangement of poles and wires, and wallpaper, material printed with with radar-aborbent circuitry. The results were not satisfactory Kelly Johnson called the modified U2s dirty birds because of the effect on their aerodynamics which lost them several thousand feet. Even worse, the wallpaper caused overheating with the loss of one aircraft and the death of test pilot Robert Sieker.A coating that reduced radar returns and improved aerodynamics would have been the answer but at the price of a visible glow at night. So, were there any sightings of mysterious glowing U2s? A CIA report on the CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90 states:
According to later estimates from CIA officials who worked on the U-2 project and the OXCART (SR-71, or Blackbird) project, over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights (namely the U-2) over the United States. (45) This led the Air Force to make misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay public fears and to protect an extraordinarily sensitive national security project.Why would anyone report a U2 as a UFO?
The early U-2s were silver (they were later painted black) and reflected the rays from the sun, especially at sunrise and sunset. They often appeared as fiery objects to observers below.I leave it to those who compile statistics on flying saucers to say how many glowing UFOs were sighted under these conditions and how many appeared to be luminous on their own account. Note also the wording in Patent 3,713,157 which says that the plasma cloud produces a combination of absorbtion, reflection, refraction and diffraction across frequencies including visible spectrum, which would certainly alter the appearance of an aircraft, perhaps to the point of making it an unrecognisable blob.A radioactive coating would be unlikely to be applied to the entire aircraft as Martin Streetly of Janes pointed out to me, this would immediately block the aircraft's own radar, communications and navigation aids. However, a coating on the locations contributing most to radar returns inlets and wing-body junction would have a significant effect, and a coating along the leading edge would give the desired reduction in drag. It might even be possible to have coated surfaces which could be covered or uncovered as needed.Radioactive coatings would cause a major disposal problems. It is alleged that workers at Groom lake - 'Area 51' - were harmed by carcinogens dumped there. The suit was dismissed in 1996 because for reasons of security the materials involved could not be disclosed; but the suggestion is that the material was chemical waste rather than radioactive.Given that the radioactive plasma coating was known to improve aerodynamics and stealthiness in the 1960s, we would expect the next step to be a way of achieving the same benefits without radioactivity.This brings us to the B-2, an aircraft with has long been the subject of speculation. Even respected aviation writer Bill Gunston has commented on suggestions that the B-2 employs a system which charges the leading wing edge to millions of volts. (Interestingly, most such speculation is tied up with ideas of electrogravitics, anti-gravity and alien technology, which belong firmly in the disinformation category).This would chime with a comment in Ben Richs book about the Skunk Works . He could not believe that Northrops stealth bomber design was 10% more aerodynamically efficient than Lockheeds competing design, which was externally similar (page 338 in the Warner edition). Perhaps Northrop were exagerating, as Rich suggests; but perhaps their plane had a secret advantage.Many have commented on a photograph of a B-2 from Edwards AFB (published in Air Forces Monthly in October 2000) in which the wing seems to be enveloped in a faint glowing cloud. This was explained by the Air Force as water vapor, but some commentators have argued that such a cloud would not form simultaneously above and below the wing.See also the discussion and perhaps anomalous picture here.The USAF appears to have been using plasma aerodynamics for decades. The Russians certainly know all about it , as does anyone who has bought the technology off them. According to the patents it has additional benefits too it can muffle the noise produced by engines as well as preventing contrails from forming.The only people not enjoying its benefits are the civilian taxpayers who funded it in the first place.(If youre interested in more, theres a chapter on secret aircraft and UFOs in my book Weapons Grade, out this week in paperback, and chapters on new military developments in other fields from nanotechnology to artificial intelligence).-- David Hambling