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Background

The Aurora legend started in March
1990, when Aviation Week & Space
Technology magazine broke the news
that the term "Aurora" had been
inadvertently included in the 1985
U.S. budget, as an allocation of
$455 million for "black aircraft
production" in FY 1987.

According to Aviation Week, Project
Aurora referred to a group of exotic
aircraft, and not to one particular
airframe.

Funding of the project allegedly
reached $2.3 billion in fiscal 1987,
according to a 1986 procurement
document obtained by Aviation Week.
In the 1994 book Skunk Works,
Ben Rich, the former head of Lockheed's
Skunk Works division, wrote that the
Aurora was the budgetary code name
for the stealth bomber fly-off that
resulted in the B-2 Spirit.

Detailed examinations of the U.S.
defense budget claimed to have found
money missing or channeled into black
projects. By the mid-1990s, reports
surfaced of sightings of unidentified
aircraft flying over California and the
United Kingdom involving odd-shaped
contrails, sonic booms and related
phenomena that suggested the US had
developed such an aircraft. Nothing
ever linked any of these observations
to any program or aircraft type,
but the name Aurora was often tagged
on these as a way of explaining the
observations.

In late August 1989, while working as
an engineer on the jack-up barge GSF
Galveston Key in the North Sea, Chris Gibson
and another witness saw an unfamiliar
isosceles triangle-shaped delta aircraft,
apparently refueling from a Boeing
KC-135 Stratotanker and accompanied
by a pair of F-111 fighter-bombers. Gibson
and his friend watched the aircraft for
several minutes, until they went out of
sight. He subsequently drew a sketch
of the formation.

Gibson, who had been in the Royal
Observer Corps' trophy-winning
international aircraft recognition team
since 1980, was unable to identify
the aircraft. He dismissed suggestions
that the aircraft was an F-117, Mirage IV
or fully swept wing F-111.

When the sighting was made public in
1992, the British Defence Secretary
Tom King was told, "There is no knowledge
in the MoD of a 'black' program of this
nature, although it would not surprise the
relevant desk officers in the Air Staff and
Defence Intelligence Staff if it did exist."

A crash at RAF Boscombe Down on 26
September 1994 appeared closely linked
to "black" missions, according to a report
in AirForces Monthly.

Further investigation was hampered by
aircraft from the USAF flooding into the
base. The crash site was protected from
view by firetrucks and tarpaulins and the
base was closed to all flights soon after.



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