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US Air Force's 1950s Supersonic Flying Saucer Declassified 300

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-want-to-believe dept.
MrSeb writes "Tighten the strap on your tinfoil hat: Recently declassified documents show that the US Air Force was working on, and perhaps had already built, a supersonic flying saucer in 1956. The aircraft, which had the code name Project 1794, was developed by the USAF and Avro Canada in the 1950s. One declassified memo, which seems to be the conclusion of initial research and prototyping, says that Project 1794 is a flying saucer capable of 'between Mach 3 and Mach 4,' (2,300-3,000 mph) a service ceiling of over 100,000 feet (30,500m), and a range of around 1,000 nautical miles (1,150mi, 1850km). According to declassified cutaway diagrams, the supersonic flying saucer would propel itself by rotating an outer disk at very high speed, taking advantage of the Coand effect. Maneuvering would be accomplished by using small shutters on the edge of the disc (similar to ailerons on a winged aircraft). Power would be provided by jet turbines. According to the cutaway diagrams, the entire thing would even be capable of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). The fact that there are no disc-shaped aircraft in the skies today, though, suggests that the USAF's flying saucer efforts probably never got past the prototype stage."
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US Air Force's 1950s Supersonic Flying Saucer Declassified

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  • by alen (225700) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:20PM (#41587507)

    the photos look just like some of the descriptions from the last few decades. probably explains the lights too. if its US Government then they have to follow most of their own laws and put lights on an aircraft so others can see it

    why would aliens put flashing lights on an interstellar space craft? what is the point of glass and flashing lights in space other than to be broken by tiny particles

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:22PM (#41587547) Journal

      You assume they'd use glass. You also assume that it's not a 'local' craft that would dock with a carrier for interstellar travel.

      The lights on the craft could serve the same purpose as those on a airplane.

    • by freeze128 (544774) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:34PM (#41587749)
      You assume that they can even see light in visible wavelengths. The light may just be a by-product of something else (shield generators, active sensors, etc...).
    • by Columcille (88542)
      You assume that the space craft is something other than the alien. What if it wasn't a ship but an actual alien that we mistook as spaceships? What if the lights are their means of communicating with one another?
    • by na1led (1030470)
      So all those UFO's (thousands of accounts) threw-out the decades was a single prototype saucer from the 1950's logging thousands of flight hours all this time?
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:08PM (#41588297) Homepage

        No most of the reports were nutjobs with wild imaginations. SOME of the reports were a military prototype.

        • by mikael (484) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:11PM (#41589743)

          Sometimes people do see something, but they just didn't understand the technology at the time. There was some preacher missionary on a Pacific island who reported hearing a buzzing noise and seeing a craft that looked a glass dome on legs hovering above the tree-line, being controlled by a pilot who seemed to be sitting at a chair pushing and pulling levers. They achieved some basic communication where the preacher bowed, and the craft's pilot reciprocated. I hate to say this, but it does sound a bit like a navy helicopter.

    • why would aliens put flashing lights on an interstellar space craft? what is the point of glass and flashing lights in space other than to be broken by tiny particles

      Perhaps the aliens were filming a space opera.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dadelbunts (1727498)
      Not always true. Most sightings dont have blinking lights. I saw something once, looked like a satellite zipping by, then stopped and started doing zig zags, figure 8s, circles, box shapes and moved in other unsatelliteish ways for about 20-30 minutes before it took off. The person i was with also saw whatever it was and watched it with me for the same amount of time. Was definately not a plane, as i have seen many many planes and am familiar with. We looked on her phone as she had a app that told us the na
      • started doing zig zags, figure 8s, circles, box shapes and moved in other unsatelliteish ways for about 20-30 minutes

        So, even aliens have problems with teenage and drunk drivers.

        Imagine you are an alien exploring Earth: "Hey, dude. Look at that Earthling. I will fly in all sorts of crazy patterns to get his attention while you lube up the anal probe. Remind me again why we are doing this? Buttholes stink."

      • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:25PM (#41589891)

        People's brains are not especially good at identifying objects above the horizon. We typically determine the size and distance of distant objects with visual cues because our stereoscopic vision is limited to close range. For example, we are able to determine the distance of a person because we know (generally) how big a person is. If there's something next to him, we can then know it's size (by comparing it's apparent size to the apparent size of the person) and distance (it's about the same distance as the person). But in the absence of these visual cues, we are unable to determine the size and distance (as well as a host of related factors such as velocity and acceleration) of objects. Moreover, even the color of objects is determined by visual cues, since we color correct images to account for differences in lighting.

        This leads to a lot of difficulty in identifying objects in the sky. Since flying objects are not arranged in a plane, we can't use their position in relation to the horizon to approximate their distance. Nevertheless, we often do. The moon seems to be much larger when it's near the horizon because we assume objects near the horizon are much farther away (the moon also appears larger due to atmospheric distortion, but this effect is minor).

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday October 08, 2012 @03:54PM (#41589565)

      why would aliens put flashing lights on an interstellar space craft?

      Why not?

      You saying aliens can't be pimpin their rides?

    • by mikael (484) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:06PM (#41589671)

      what is the point of glass and flashing lights in space other than to be broken by tiny particles

      Don't you just hate it when you are doing 0.99c along an interstellar freeway and some photon is tailgating you?

  • or ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by brenddie (897982) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:21PM (#41587515)

    "The fact that there are no disc-shaped aircraft in the skies today, though, suggests that the USAF's flying saucer efforts probably never got past the prototype stage."

    or they work so good that only blurry and shaky videos exist of them flying around and terrorizing cows

  • I wonder if this is a concept that was before it's time much like the flying wing. Early prototypes of flying wings failed and it was thought that the entire concept was discarded until the B-2 was exposed to the world.

    • by alen (225700)

      the b2 has advantages over other designs. what is the advantage of a flying saucer compared to wing based aircraft? at least on earth

      • by Atzanteol (99067)

        Seems like it would be VTOL. But helicopters already fill that area nicely.

        • by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:46PM (#41587979)

          Helicopters are usually extremely loud and, most importantly, simply unable to fly faster than 300mph or so: any faster and the supersonic shockwaves from the rotors tips (keep in mind those are traveling at helicopter speed + rotational velocity) destroys it's ability to fly. This could go much, much faster, as fast as you want, and probably be a fair bit more maneuverable.

          .

          • by osu-neko (2604)

            Helicopters are usually extremely loud and, most importantly, simply unable to fly faster than 300mph or so: any faster and the supersonic shockwaves from the rotors tips (keep in mind those are traveling at helicopter speed + rotational velocity) destroys it's ability to fly.

            Only the rotors on the side of the helicopter moving in the direction of travel are going aircraft speed + rotational velocity. An equally serious problem is the rotors on the other side are going aircraft speed - rotational velocity. The faster the chopper flies, the more imbalanced it becomes as the lift from one side increases while on the other side it decreases. If the chopper reached the speed of its own blades, it would lose all lift on one side as the blades would be essentially motionless on one

            • by Baloroth (2370816)

              That is another issue, although that problem can largely be solved by using a co-axial rotor system, so it isn't an insurmountable problem.

      • the b2 has advantages over other designs. what is the advantage of a flying saucer compared to wing based aircraft? at least on earth

        The primary thing that made the B-2 doable over previous flying wings is the microprocessor and the ability of modern computers to stabilize the aircraft in flight. The computers make constant changes to the control surfaces that would overwhelm human pilots.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:10PM (#41588317) Homepage

        " what is the advantage of a flying saucer compared to wing based aircraft? at least on earth"

        To completely screw with the enemy.

        Broadcast loudly "ACK! ACKACK!" from loudspeakers while you only use lime green lighting.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:43PM (#41587917)

      ...as in re-arrange those digits and you get 1947, the year of the famous Roswell New Mexico UFO crash.

      Coincidence?

  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by cripkd (709136) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:23PM (#41587551) Homepage
    That's the Coanda [wikipedia.org] Effect.
    • Yeah, Slashdot still thinks Unicode is some fancy new fangled craze that will blow away. So the a with the funny cup on top gets stripped away.

      But what I'm wondering is: how exactly do you use the coanda effect on a spinning saucer? Things spinning around a horizontal axis, like a ping pong ball with backspin, sure, they can provide lift. But spinning around a vertical axis? How does that work? I would think you would need to use blades on the edge or maybe diagonal holes through the spinning part, but I do

  • Unmitigated crap (Score:4, Informative)

    by fnj (64210) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:23PM (#41587553)

    Title of the article is unmitigated crap. The Avrocar, which was actually built, was a miserable failure which could barely lift off the ground, wallowing dangerously, with very poor control. It was abandoned as absolutely useless.

    Yes, some blue sky dreamer in defense probably did dream up the mach 3 flying saucer, but it was never any closer to reality than any comic book or lurid magazine article.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      Indeed. Here's a picture of it doing pretty much all it could do:

      http://www.laesieworks.com/ifo/lib/AVRO-pict/avrocar11.jpg [laesieworks.com]

    • Re:Unmitigated crap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:43PM (#41587907)

      They thought the same about flying wing designs in the 1950s. Indeed, they never did get the design to work right at the time. Turns out, the US Air Force did [wikipedia.org], eventually.

      While the saucer design is a challenge to make work, I'm sure if the Air Force saw some great advantage in it, they would have built it. I'm not sure what the advantage of such a craft would be, though, besides VTOL capability being standard.

      • Re:Unmitigated crap (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:39PM (#41588737)

        > They thought the same about flying wing designs in the 1950s. Indeed, they never did get the design to work right at the time.

        Flying wings have been successfully built and flown since the 1930s. The problems with the B-35 and B-49 were inherent in the platform:

        * Conic Instability - in a banked turn the outer wing goes faster than the inner one and gives more lift with increases the bank angle until it flips over and spins. I have seen film of a B-52 doing that.

        * Nodding - The Northrops were designed for bombing and later for photo work. The wing 'nods' due to lack of pitch stability which makes it impossible to aim using a bomb sight, and difficult to get the photos to overlap correctly.

        * Slewing - with no tail the wing does not care whether it is aligned with the flight path or skewed from it by several degrees. Bomb aiming is thus impossible.

        The planes were actually very successful as flying machines (though the propeller gearboxes failed too often), but useless for the missions they were intended for. The B-2 fixed all those issues with computers compensating for the instabilities.

      • I'm not sure what the advantage of such a craft would be, though, besides VTOL capability being standard.

        Let's see...

        2000-3000 MPH? 100,000 foot ceiling? and VTOL?

        Hell, we can't do that now!

    • Interestingly, if control was a problem, then modern electronics / servos and similar technology could probably mitigate those issues successfully. I think a personal flying saucer, even if it didn't hit Mach 3, would be pretty damned cool.

      The Jetsons!

  • Worst secret ever, I've seen this 'saucer' before, it's been in books and magazines since the 60s I even saw the video of them trying to hover it, which didn't work very well. This thing never worked properly and never made it past the initial design phase. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_VZ-9_Avrocar [wikipedia.org] http://books.google.ca/books?id=Apaa01aJLIcC&pg=PA26&lpg=PA26&dq=Avrocar&source=bl&ots=Qe24u-CGlp&sig=R44-T1xDEeQGMbUkX8YcVU33Q7A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nwtzULChIIfFyAG76I [google.ca]
  • by slazzy (864185) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:25PM (#41587583) Homepage
    Invest in buying more shares in tin foil companies.
  • by metrometro (1092237) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:28PM (#41587619)

    The 1950s were saucer crazy. And apparently the US government was too, at about the same time. So was this leakage from inside the weapons program showing up in Hollywood or were the engineers looking at Ed Wood movies and saying, "Yeah, let's give that a shot"?

    1950: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flying_Saucer [wikipedia.org]
    1956: crazy USAF saucer design
    1959: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_9_from_Outer_Space [wikipedia.org]

  • I wonder if this was an attempt to reverse engineer what the supposed aliens were doing, which didn't produce much usable technology. That is an interesting (if expensive) way to prove or disprove the existence of UFO's.

    • Failing to make something work is not a feasible way to prove that something doesn't work. It only proves that you are currently incapable of doing it.

      See: Microsoft's repeated attempts to make a smartphone that people actually like.

    • by Sentrion (964745) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:52PM (#41590221)

      More likely an attempt to reverse engineer experimental craft or designs for such captured by the allies near the end of WWII. Long range guided missiles, line-of-site remote controlled bombs, helicopter gunships, CCTV, the assault rifle, jet fighters and the Uranium used in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were all conceived, designed, built and with the exception of nuclear weapons, deployed by the Germans. This technology and the scientists who ended up on the western half of the iron curtain were employed to develop America's nuclear deterrent of ICBMs and the space program.

      If Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbor and if Hitler had not attacked Russia, Germany would probably still occupy most of Europe and would have placed a NAZI flag on the moon in 1959.

  • Obviously they are saying "yah it was us not aliens." NOTHING TO SEE HERE PEOPLE!!!! Obviously there are aliens and obviously they've caught them and have then trapped somewhere in new mexico. And obviously the alien army is on its way to earth to rescue it's POWs. Shit just got real.
    • by Columcille (88542)
      No, a battleship blew up their communications array so home base doesn't know where the alien pow's are.
    • by bobbied (2522392)
      There are about 100 movie scripts in that story you are telling. You know that if you see it on the movie screen, it's got to be true!
  • That's what they want you to think!

  • The fact that... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swb (14022) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:32PM (#41587703)

    "The fact that there are no disc-shaped aircraft in the skies today, though, suggests that the USAF's flying saucer efforts probably never got past the prototype stage."

    Or more likely, the fact that it was a huge success led the military to slap top secret over it and any aircraft maker selected to work on it was told of "permanent, irrevocable loss of DoD contracts", "lifetime bans on employment and security clearance", "intrusive FBI investigations and tax audits", "nationalization of defense critical assets" and "extremely likely criminal charges for treason, sedition or aiding the enemy tried in military courts with punishments handed out by military intelligence.."

  • Great, another Ziff Davis [slashdot.org] article.
  • Project 1794?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:53PM (#41588089)
    Oh my god.

    Do you people realize the significance of this? If this Project 1794 was the saucer that crashed 27 miles outside Roswell and was taken to Area 51...1794/(51+27)=

    THE NUMBER TWENTY-THREE!!

  • I presume that these things were not that secret at the time.

    At the end of the story it is revealed that the flying saucer is made by Avro Canada.

    George Adamski's UFO also looks somewhat like this design.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:10PM (#41588321) Homepage

    This project is from Avro (A.V. Roe, a respected Canadian aircraft manufacturer in the 1950s) and is clearly a follow-on to the Avrocar. [wikipedia.org] The Avrocar, of course, really was a flying saucer. But it could barely fly.

    The Avrocar was an interesting idea, but presented control problems that couldn't be solved in the 1950s. Like all thrust-based VTOL craft, it was unstable. It turned out to be really unstable at the transition from ground effect to thrust lift. Getting it out of ground effect without crashing was very hard. Forward motion made the stability problem worse. Despite several redesigns, it remained unflyable.

    A design like that probably could be made to work today, with computers, gyros, and control jets fighting to keep the thing stable. Toy-sized quadrotors are widely available now, and they have many of the same stability problems. It's not clear there's any advantage to a disc shape other than coolness, though.

    Bear in mind why this was built. Nobody knew what a supersonic aircraft needed to look like, so lots of things were tried. The opposite extreme from the Avrocar was the X-3 Stilleto [wikipedia.org], probably the pointiest-nose aircraft ever built. It flew, but couldn't go supersonic. Flying wings were tried - they had stability problems not solveable with 1950s technology. Finally, it was figured out that swept-back wings could be made to behave at both subsonic and supersonic speeds, and that became the standard form for supersonic aircraft.

    • by tgd (2822)

      This project is from Avro (A.V. Roe, a respected Canadian aircraft manufacturer in the 1950s) and is clearly a follow-on to the Avrocar. [wikipedia.org] The Avrocar, of course, really was a flying saucer. But it could barely fly.

      You might want to actually read the article before posting on here, given you can't edit your post and everyone who read the article now knows you didn't. (Although interestingly, a moderator clearly didn't either...)

  • Back in the '90s

    It was unstable out of ground effect, and only got a metre or so off the ground
    Theres no way it would have been seen 'in the skies'

  • by jvkjvk (102057) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:45PM (#41588799)

    "The fact that there are no disc-shaped aircraft in the skies today, though, suggests that the USAF's flying saucer efforts probably never got past the prototype stage."

    Not so! It in fact suggests that the Greys filed a cease-and-desist suit with the Galactic Court to stop humans from producing a craft in that shape. They won, and *that* was when the Americans really sat up and started taking notice of Patents.

    Other galactic species are talking behind their back, though, because the Greys sued with a design patent based on "rounded corners" for a flying saucer...

  • The first thing that comes to mind is that a round craft might be good at hypersonic speeds. Instead of one leading edge taking all the heat, all sides would take a fraction of the heat. I wonder if they've run any models with rotating heat shields for re-entry capsules. Of course, anything that has to move like that is always somewhat risky. AFAIK, variable wing geometry for civilian supersonic transports was rejected for this reason. Variable geometry is used on fighters though, so it's not a total n

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