Mystery Aircraft Over Texas
The identity of what appears to be a blended wing-body aircraft type photographed over Amarillo, Texas, on March 10 remains uncertain, with the U.S. Air Force declining any comment on the aircraft.
Three aircraft were observed flying in formation southwest of Amarillo around 4:20 p.m. CDT, by photographers on the fence line of the city’s international airport. IbOne of the aircraft could be a B-2, but the clearest color photos and monochrome images enhanced (for contrast and resolution) with commercial software suggest a blended shape with a straight trailing edge. Steve Douglass, one of the photographers and an experienced aircraft observer, says the aircraft were “larger than fighter-size” and appeared similar in wingspan to commercial traffic.
The formation was not using Mode S transponders, according to a review of records at the Flightradar24 air-traffic-tracking site. Radio transmissions apparently associated with the flight were intercepted and recorded, possibly including the call sign “Sienna.”
An Air Force representative in Washington responded to queries about the aircraft, and about flight activities at that time and place, with the statement “I have nothing for you,” a phrase long associated with responses to queries about classified programs and operations. The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., home of the Air Force’s B-2 fleet, says that none of its aircraft were operating near Amarillo on March 10. However, test units have also flown B-2s.
The fact that three aircraft were in formation suggests an aircraft that is operational or close to reaching that status. The unidentified aircraft are not likely to have been examples of the Northrop Grumman stealth reconnaissance drone known as the RQ-180 (AW&ST Dec. 9, 2013, p. 20) because unmanned air systems are seldom flown in formation of any kind. Likewise, the Lockheed Martin demonstrator that is reportedly being built to support the Long Range Strike-Bomber program is likely to be a one-off product.
For a closer look at the images and more about the photographing of these and other classified aircraft, check out Bill Sweetman’s post on Ares at: