REAL UFO PLANES
In the ever-evolving realm of aviation design, a captivating and enigmatic phenomenon has taken flight – UFO Planes that bear an uncanny resemblance to unidentified flying objects (UFOs). While the skies have long been a canvas for human ingenuity, a new wave of aircraft aesthetics has emerged, blurring the lines between science fiction and reality. These futuristic flying machines not only challenge our perceptions of traditional aviation but also ignite the imagination with their otherworldly appearance. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of aircraft and planes that defy convention, exploring the reasons behind their unconventional designs, the engineering marvels that make them possible, and the impact they have on our perceptions of the possible in aviation innovation.
Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake”
In development from 1939 / Operational 1942 – 1947
The Vought V-173 or ‘The Flying Pancake’ was an experimental WWII test aircraft built by the USA as part of the Navy fighter aircraft program. It had a daring, almost circular, “all-wing” design. The project was initiated in 1939 and flight tested by Chief Test Pilot Boone Guyton on the 23 November 1942. Evaluation of the V-173 carried on throughout 1942 and 1943. A total of 190 flights were undertaken prompting numerous UFO reports from worried Connecticut residents. The final test flight took place in 1947. Overall, the project contributed greatly to the understanding of aerodynamics and the possibility of near vertical take offs.
McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
In development from 1942 / First Flight: 1948 / Cancelled: 1949
From the start of America’s involvement in World War II there was concern that US bombers would need long range fighter support. The problem was tackled in two ways. Firstly, the USA developed the Flying Fortress which was meant to be able to defend its formation on its own. Secondly, the USAF wanted to develop a fighter that could be carried by the bombers in their bomb bays. The program to develop a small (parasite) fighter started in 1942. The program was accelerated after the Flying Fortresses suffered catastrophic damage during the infamous Schweinfurt raids of late 1943 but slowed down again with the development of the P51 Mustang long-range fighter. As time went on the specification for the new aeroplane was changed from propeller to jet engine. Project authorisation was slow and the war in Europe was over before prototype development began in earnest. The aircraft showed promise but instability issues, particularly with regard to reconnecting with the mother bomber proved overwhelming. After a series of accidents the project was cancelled during 1949.
Horten Ho-229 Flying Wing
In development from 1943 / Testing: 1945 / Project Transferred to USA: 1945
During 1943 during the height of World War II, Herman Göring, the Head of the German Luftwaffe demanded that Deutsche industry should design and build a fighter bomber capable of carrying 1,000 kilograms of explosives to targets 1000km from their bases at a speed of 1000 kilometres per hour. The Ho 229, designed by by Reimar and Walter Horten was the only plane that came close to the specifications set by the German military. Without unnecessary external control surfaces, powered by two Jumo 004C engines, and with a flying wing configuration it was effectively the first stealth aircraft to be invented. The plane never made it into full combat before the Allies forced Germany to surrender after the fall of Berlin. The designs and components of the HO 229 were smuggled back to America as part of Operation Paperclip. Tests later revealed that while it had a significantly reduced radar signal but would still have been visible to medium range detection systems.
Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar
In development from 1951 / Testing: 1959 – 1961 / Project Cancelled: 1961
The Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar was a top secret and experimental “proof-of-concept” VTOL vehicle designed and built in Canada and intended for use by the US Military. Powered by a single “turborotor” the aircraft was strikingly similar to the Flying Saucers that were being featured both in serious news reports and children’s comics. Although fascinating to look at and intellectually captivating, the UFO plane never performed sufficiently well to warrant further development. The project was cancelled in in September 1961. It has been suggested that the project was actually never more than a disinformation programme designed to confuse overseas observers and US citizens. Some UFO researchers have even claimed it was part of the Blue Book cover up to be used as an explanation for the large number of ‘unexplained’ UFO sightings that were occurring during the 1950’s
Convair XFY-1 Pogo VTOL
In development from 1951 / Testing: 1954 / Project Cancelled: 1955
The Convair XFY Pogo tail-sitter was an attempt to create a VTOL fighter that could fly from any small warship. These concept aircraft was designed to prove that forward, contra-rotating, propellers would act like the blade of a helicopter and provide sufficient lift to raise the fighter into the air. Although the aircraft did fly its stability was never considered fully acceptable and landing the craft was near impossible. However, the main problem was the plane’s inability to slow down once it had reached combat speeds. To make matters worse, the plane was no match for other fighters being developed at the time and the project was cancelled during May 1955.
In development from 1956 / First Flight: 1958 / Project Cancelled: 1959
The SNECMA Coléoptère has to be one of the weirdest looking aircraft ever to be designed and looked like a UFO from the start. It was developed by the French during the 1950’s as a single-pilot VTOL plane with an annular wing configuration. In many ways it has a striking resemblance to ‘Thunderbird One’ of the popular puppet TV series by the same name which has led to speculation that it may have been the inspiration for the aircraft/spaceship piloted by Scott Tracey. On its ninth test flight it suffered a devastating crash caused by basic instability. The project was subsequently cancelled in 1959.
Moller 200 X
In development from 1976
The M200G Volantor was built as proof of concept for a saucer-shaped craft that would eventually operate as both a plane and a hovercraft. Looking very much like the UFO’s of 1950’s comics, it has eight computer-controlled fans which will allow it hover up to 10ft in the air. The project may have started as early as 1976 but, as of 2015, has yet to deliver a commercially available product. The Volantor was the brainchild of Paul Moller – aeronautics engineer from British Columbia, Canada.
Boeing: Bird of Prey
(Technology Demonstrator – Area 51) In development from +/- 1992 / First Flight: 1996 / Project Transferred to X-45 1999
This ‘black-project’ was actually named after an alien spacecraft – namely the Klingon ‘Bird-of-prey’ from the popular Star Trek film and television series. It’s one of the few aircraft that was actually meant to look like a UFO. It should come as no surprise that it was developed at Boeing’s ‘Phantom Works’ located at Area 51 in the Nevada desert. It was never intended as a finished aircraft but rather as a testbed for stealth related technologies, much of which would later be used on the X-45 Combat UAV. It represented a significant advance in aircraft camouflage technology and was eventually transferred to National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
In development from +/- 1996 / First Flight: 2002 / Project Suspended 2008
The Boeing X-45 was an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defence Systems. It was created as a concept demonstrator for the next generation of wholly autonomous military aircraft. As with the Boeing ‘Bird of Prey’ – on which it was based – it was developed at the Phantom Works within Area 51, Nevada. The X-45A made its first flight on May 22, 2002. Testing and research continued until 2006 when the project was suspended in favour of the developing the aircraft for the US Navy. In 2008 Boeing lost the completion and the Navy continued the project with the Northrop Grumman N X-47. A Variation of the X-45 project remains partially active as a ‘non-commissioned’ development known as ‘Phantom Ray’.
Northrop Grumman Navy X-47B
In development from 2000 / First Flight: 2011 / Project Active
This plane, that looks distinctly like a UFO, is an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for use on the US Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is a jet-powered aircraft capable of semi-autonomous ops and aerial refuelling. The body is based on a blended-wing design and is completely without a vertical control (tail). It will be developed into a battle-ready aircraft for the (UCLASS) ‘Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike’ system. It is expected to be fully combat operational by 2022. In 2015 the US Navy has made the unusual decision to retain the two prototypes in flight condition rather than allowing them to become museum exhibits. The aircraft has very advanced electronic warfare systems and on-board counter measures. It has already received two major design awards. As a full-sized aircraft it is almost certainly going to spark a frenzy of UFO sightings once it starts to appear in the skies around the world.
And this one has been included because readers kept writing in to say that it had been left out of the original ten …
Mysterious USAF Saucer Plane
On the Internet since +/- 2007
This is the ‘Plane with no Name’. Given how it looks this would definitely be the winner of the ‘Plane that looks like a UFO’ category except for the fact that this is almost certainly a hoax. What makes it so believable to so many people is there are at least six different images of the aircraft in different locations. However, it seems as if the plane is a carefully made model that has been isolated and then very carefully superimposed over the various backgrounds. Researchers have actually uncovered the original images that were used – without the saucer craft in them. So … the photos are fake but who created them. Some say they were produced by the US Government as part of a disinformation campaign, but the truth is, they were probably just put together by a model maker who was also extremely good with Photoshop. It’s a pity, but that’s what it seems to be.