Possible RQ-180 sighting

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Message posted by Joerg (Webmaster) (Member since 10/17/2000) on October 31, 2021 at 12:11:33 PST:

A friend who wishes to remain anonymous and I were at the Groom Lake Road gate yesterday. I heard a faint aircraft noise and noticed a contrail straight above us, inside the Area 51 restricted airspace, heading roughly SSW. Through my IS binoculars I first thought I was looking at a B-2, until I realized it had a POINTED tail. The B-2 has a serrated tail. My friend took the enclosed photo (two enhanced versions super imposed). It is clearly a twin engine aircraft.

The photo was taken with a Canon 20Mpix camera with a 1600mm equivalent focal length.

I did some reference shots with the same configuration later to establish the lens geometry. With a wing span of 400 pixels in the photo I came up with the formula:

Altitude = 586 * Wingspan

Contrails typically form between 25,000 and 40,000 feet. We estimated the altitude to be around 40,000ft. That would give the aircraft a wingspan of just under 70ft.

The photo clearly resembles similar recent shots of aircraft over CA and the Philippines. For lack of a better match we believe it to be a candidate for the still super secret RQ-180. Unless the aircraft was much higher than estimated that would mean the RQ-180 is smaller than the 130 feet that is sometimes used as a best guess.

The RQ-180 is believed to be operating from Edwards South Base. A link to our recent photos of that base is attached. The flight path we observed would bring the aircraft right to Edwards AFB.

As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Attached link: Aerial photos of Edwards AFB South Base


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