Possibility of Aurora legend being a cover for the Quartz project

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Message posted by Vahe Demirjian (Member since 04/28/2022) on March 06, 2023 at 20:33:16 PST:

I know that in early 1988 reports surfaced in the press that Lockheed was developing a Mach 6 spyplane that many publications associated the codename Aurora with, yet one glaring detail in these reports is mention of Lockheed receiving $1.1 billion in government funding for 1988, which along with mention of the codename Aurora in the 1985 P-1 document next to TR-1 and SR-71 led to the belief that Aurora was the codename for an SR-71 successor. Since we now know that rumors of a Mach 6 replacement for the SR-71 were turned out to be founded, the $1.1 billion in government funding for 1988 allotted to Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Group for unspecified research and development was most probably used to fund Lockheed design studies for the Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System (AARS) (aka Quartz) because the AARS itself was intended by the CIA and USAF as a subsonic successor to the SR-71, and Lockheed was a participant in the AARS competition. Although this doesn't change the fact that Lockheed in 1979 conceived design studies for an SR-71 replacement capable of traveling a Mach 4 or more, a statement by US Air Force Undersecretary James F. McGovern in 1988 that the USAF was not planning to replace the SR-71 with a manned reconnaissance aircraft strongly hinted that any replacement for the SR-71 would be unmanned.

Since the money saved by retiring the SR-71 in 1990 was puny compared to the cost of operating spy satellites (as noted by Bill Sweetman in an article about the alleged Aurora spyplane in a 1993 Popular Science magazine) despite the U-2 being cheaper to operate than the SR-71, the impending AARS/Quartz program might have been the reason for a lack of opposition to the SR-71's retirement within the US Air Force. If so, the role of the unbuilt AARS as an intended SR-71 replacement can be reconciled with the fact that rumors of a Mach 6 successor to the Blackbird were met with skepticism by many aviation gurus due to scramjet technology for aircraft was completely immature. In other words, the cancellation of the AARS in December 1992 may help explain why the SR-71 was brought back into service in 1995 after its initial retirement in 1990 received unanimous support in the USAF, because Congress in 1993 looked at the question of whether the SR-71 should be brought back into service due to foreign policy challenges in the post-Cold War world.

That said, although media outlets in early 1988 quoted defense analysts as saying that a hypersonic spyplane was being developed by Lockheed based on analysis of unexplained budget holes in Lockheed's annual budget for 1988, cryptic remarks by Air Force Undersecretary James F. McGovern, the fact that details of the AARS (Quartz) program did not come to light until the 1990s and early 2000s, and the general immaturity of scramjet technology in the 1980s and 1990s show that even though the USAF was indeed shopping for an SR-71 replacement in the late 1980s, it deemed a large subsonic flying wing to be more technologically feasible for this role than a hypersonic aircraft and intended for the SR-71 replacement to be unmanned rather than manned as claimed in the New York Times, LA Times, and High Technology Business articles from January and April 1988.

Attached link: https://archive.org/details/high-technology-business-1988-04/page/8/mode/2up?q=stealth; https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-01-11-mn-23285-story.html; https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA525674.pdf


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