It was born in the Cold War era as a possible way of hiding high performance aircraft from Russian A-bombs, but it remains shrouded in mystery. The only mention the Air Force makes of that project is in The Report on Project Silver Bug, written in 1955 by the Air Technical Intelligence Center and Wright Air Development Center, It proposed the mounting of a research and development project into the building of a jet-propelled flying saucer, capable of both vertical takeoff and landing along with supersonic speeds up to 1,500 mph. If successful, the craft would have been based underground, thus avoiding the need for long runways and easily-distinguished bases which would have been easily taken out by a single nuclear bomb or missile warhead.
It was a great idea, actually. The U.S. government had taken the idea seriously enough to import a group of German aeronautical experts to this country after World War II. Some of those German experts had allegedly worked on similar projects under Hitler during the war. Hopefully, they would be capable of building a combat saucer for us under Operation Paperclip, the program which brought them to the United States.
The entire Silver Bug project remained clouded in secrecy and security classifications until the decade of the 1990s, when the one report was finally declassified and released by the Air Force. There is a semi-official story floating around that the Silver Bug project resulted in the ill-fated Avro Car, which only got a few feet off the ground, and the project was ultimately scrapped due to instability of the craft and an inability to fly. But public information officers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, when asked if further reports on Project Silver Bug are available and if the project ever resulted in an operational aircraft, said no further reports on that project are currently declassified.
Persons who have investigated the Silver Bug project find that Air Force statement quite interesting, since it was not a flat denial that anything operational was ever produced from that R&D project ... if the project was a failure, why are any other reports on it still classified? A lot of experimental test aircraft have been checked out by the Air Force, are found to be failures, and are scuttled. Some of those investigators are convinced that Silver Bug actually flew, and that at least some of the resulting craft were and are in existence.
Whether or not the craft actually turned out to be powered by jet aircraft or some other propulsion system is unknown, as well as other aircraft features including size and the use the Air Force would put the aircraft to.
Those questions, as well as others, have no publicly known answers. What the investigators and everybody else are left with at present are only sketchy facts and a lot of speculation ... as well as some sightings of strange aircraft that could be of something Silver Bug resulted in.
What Project Silver Bug was set to begin work on in 1955 was the research and development project to field jet propelled flying saucers which could be dispersed underground in an attempt to get away from the air bases of the day which featured long runways. The jet-propelled disks were to be capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, and would be capable of Mach 3.48--faster than the SR-71 Blackbird.
What Batts and his buddy Joe saw at a range of approximately 200 yards in 1977 was a 200-foot diameter flying disk rising out of the ground of the desert with a bright light on its belly and flashing sequential lights at its center. It was silver in colour and Batts says there is no way it could have been a case of mistaken identity through swamp gas or a multitude of other common UFO debunking postulations put forward by debunkers.
The Report on Project Silver Bug, dated Feb.15, 1955, and declassified on March 29, 1995, proposed the development of such a disk-shaped interceptor aircraft. The proposed craft would be capable of vertical takeoff and landing; a maximum level speed of 2,300 mph with reheat (afterburners); a ceiling of 80,600 feet; and a climb rate of 1.76 minutes to 36,090 feet.
Those performance figures were very advanced for 1955, and are not too shabby today. Top speeds of American fighter-interceptor aircraft of 1955 were around 1,000 mph, and they had a lower ceiling than what the disk would have. But the big thing as far as the Air Force was concerned was the potential such flying disks had for being dispersed in underground facilities.
The Report on Project Silver Bug was issued by the Air Technical Intelligence Center along with the Wright Air Development Center at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. While the Silver Bug project has been officially claimed to have resulted in the ill-fated Avro Car, which turned into perhaps the world's first air cushion vehicle instead of a supersonic interceptor disk, UFO researchers have long questioned whether the project actually came to a sudden stop with development of the Avro Car, which was a flop at flight.
Recent enquiries to the Public Information Office at Wright-Patterson prior to Batts' account garnered the response that no further information on the Silver Bug project has been declassified at this time. That is not quite the same as an outright denial that Project Silver Bug actually came up with a workable prototype craft, or an operation disk-shaped interceptor. Nor does it rule out whether or not the project originally resulted in a flop at first with continued research into making a flying saucer actually work.
The Silver Bug report noted that a pair of ongoing U.S. projects involving the building of vertical takeoff aircraft had already occurred, after a discussion of the perceived need to get away from long, vulnerable runways was addressed briefly. The report noted that vertical takeoff craft were the way to get around the vulnerability of conventional air bases but ``tail sitter'' types of aircraft, equipped with turboprop engines, were found to lack the ability to join VTO and landing abilities with the high performance of a fighter aircraft.
The report was more enamoured of a proposed classic flying disk aircraft, which exhibited performance characteristics that were greatly advanced even by current standards. The largest of the proposed disks weighed 26,000 pounds, was powered by a radically new type of jet engine, and could climb to 36,090 feet in approximately one minute and 45 seconds. This is in the performance range of the current F-15 fighter the Air Force uses, and was attributed to a machine in 1955, some 20 years prior to the F-15's first flight.
But the Silver Bug report was not the only publication in 1955 that contained information relating to the development of flying saucers by the federal government.
Look Magazine, in June 1955, said in an article that persistent and fairly credible accounts claimed that A.V. Roe, Canada, Ltd., a Canadian aircraft manufacturer, had a saucer design under development since 1953. It had been abandoned since the cost factor was too high for the Canadians--over $75 million to get a prototype model into the air.
That 1955 issue of Look also noted that at a meeting of engineers it was indicated that while flying saucer or sphere projects might have been purely hypothetical then, new air defence problems were setting up requirements for aircraft performance which would apparently be best met by a saucer aircraft.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Kelsey, deputy director of research and development for the Air Force, was quoted as saying that ``Airplanes today spend too much time gathering speed on the ground and not enough time flying in the air.'' The fighters of that time, Kelsey said, needed extremely long runways and there were few in existence then that were long enough.
Those few, he said, and the concentration of planes using them, provided a worthwhile target for an A-bomb. With one blow, the enemy might cripple a substantial portion of the American air defence.
Vertical takeoff planes would not need long runways, he said, and could be dispersed widely and safely. Future airports built for vertically rising flying saucers would have no need of the many vulnerable runways the fighters of 1955 (and of today) require. The complete operation could go underground, the Look article noted, with tunnels with takeoff shafts set in the ground, complete with maintenance bays, fuel, and crew quarters.
Those underground bases, the article said, would be bombproof shelters for a saucer squadron. The shafts would be sealed after takeoff for camouflage and protection. The Look article also detailed what some of the requirements of an ideal defence fighter would be. Those attributes would be the ability to take off and land vertically; a high speed of over Mach 2 (more than 1,500 mph); high rate of climb; excellent manoeuvrability; heavy armament; and the ability to operate at 60,000 feet.
It should be noted that the one disk craft noted in the Silver Bug report met and exceeded all of the criteria listed in the Look Magazine report. But Look's report also noted that such a disk-shaped craft might include a one-man crew, housed in a glass bubble that would provide excellent visibility. The prone position of the pilot would not only allow improved streamlining, but also enables (original wording) the pilot to withstand high accelerations and quick turns. There were some American disk-shaped craft that were developed publicly, namely the Flying Flapjack and/or The Flying Flounder, which did not come to operational use.
Avro-Canada, meanwhile, was reported to be working in 1953 by the Toronto Star to be working on a new flying saucer at their plant in Malton, Ontario. On Feb. 16, 1953, the Minister for Defence Production informed the Canadian House of Commons that Avro was working on a 'mock-up model' of a flying saucer which would be capable of flying at 1,500 miles per hour and climbing vertically.
The president of Avro-Canada also wrote in Avro News that the prototype being built was so revolutionary that it would make all other forms of supersonic aircraft obsolete. The new plane's official name was the Avro Car.
By 1960 it was being claimed officially that the design had been dropped, and the so-called prototype of the Avro flying saucer is reported to be housed in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.
A number of German aeronautical engineers were reputedly brought to the United States after World War II to continue their work on VTO flying disks which had originated as a Luftwaffe research and development project, Popular Mechanics said in its August 1997 edition. The Germans, in the closing days of World War II, had one big aeronautical problem--their airfields were under constant Allied aerial attack which kept what fighters they had left from being an effective deterrent against American and British heavy bomber raids on German industrial targets. U.S. Army intelligence officers combed Europe for two brothers called Walter and Reimar Horten following the war, certain U.S. government files say. The brothers were trained as pilots and engineers, and reputedly had close connections to the Reich's high command.
The two brothers were believed to have persuaded German leaders to construct a fleet of saucer-shaped bombers, a Popular Mechanics story in August 1997 said. U.S. military historians acknowledge the Horten brothers built and flew prototypes of circular and flying wing aircraft, the PM story said, but the historians also discount the craft as aeronautical curiosities with no military value.
A service-wide request for information about the two brothers showed the two men had already been found, PM's report said. They had already been released by the UK for exploitation and allocated to the United States on Nov. 15, 1946, via Operation Paperclip.
Operation Paperclip was the American program that put a lot of German scientists and engineers on the U.S. payroll following World War II. These included Wernher Von Braun and some of his associates, who were ultimately responsible for building the American ICBM force and space program rocket boosters.
But the existence of Paperclip was not released publicly until Americans first set foot on the moon, due to the fact that the laboratories at which many of the former German scientists had worked were also Nazi slave labor and death camps. Apparently negative public reaction was the reason the news was kept secret until the space program resulted in a record-breaking moon landing.
The Horten brothers, according to PM and the files it got, had been working on a design for a new generation of circular VTO craft just prior to their capture--with specifications much like those described in the Report on Project Silver Bug.
Other records, PM said, show that models of the Hortens' design, possibly constructed by the brothers themselves, were tested in the wind tunnel at Wright Field, now Wright-Patterson AFB. While the Air Force acknowledges the Hortens were working on a flying disk craft, PM said, the AF also says it was inherently unstable.
Other declassified records gained by PM in the course of its investigation, the magazine article said, suggest the Avro Car built for the Army and a deteriorating plywood Horten flying wing were both shills intended to disguise the existence of more formidable flying machines.
One of the more potent of those flying machines, the PM report said, was developed under the secret Project Pye Wacket. Its object was to design a five foot diameter liquid fuelled missile launch platform to protect American bombers penetrating Soviet airspace.
Samisdat Publications, a right-wing organization based in Toronto, Canada, has said that the Nazis did in fact develop the Flügelrad, or 'Wingwheel', a saucer-helicopter which could take off vertically. One of the scientists involved with the early Nazi saucer projects was identified as Viktor Schauberger by Samisdat. Schauberger was brought to America after the war, where he was rumoured to be working on a top secret flying disk project in Texas for the U.S. government until his death in 1958. Some reports maintain that some prototypes the government is now developing are as advanced in propulsion and other areas over the Schauberger models as the space shuttle is over the biplane Some of his prototypes include things like the Model I, the most conventional design by today's concepts, which used a standard German Walther rocket engine and was steered by a rudder.
Model II, an improvement over Model I, had a specially designed ``rotary wing'' which stabilized and steered the craft. This model was more manuverable and faster.
Model III was supposedly extremely fast, capable of attaining speeds over 6,000 kilometers per hour and using a jet vacuum propulsion system. The fuel mixture produced vapour trails, an acrid smell, and sometimes flames and sparks. The saucer's propulsion system produced high pitched, whining sounds. The craft was also capable of terrific acceleration, or steady hover. It could also climb and bank steeply and often startled observers with loud sonic booms as it accelerated through the sound barrier. This model was reportedly equipped with telescopic landing gear.
Successors of the Model III, still in the planning stages during the middle 1940s, were said to utilize the Earth's magnetic field in their propulsion systems.
And there is also one home-grown American scientist who apparently had some input into the U.S. government's flying saucer project--T. Townsend Brown, and his Project Winterhaven. Brown was an American physicist, who was heavily involved in electrogravitics research. In the middle 1920s, he discovered it is possible to create an artificial gravity field by charging an electrical capacitor to high voltage.
By 1958, he had managed to work his way to the point where he had succeeded in developing a 15-inch diameter model saucer that could lift over 110 percent of its weight. What his experiments had inaugurated was the new field of electrogravitics, or the technology of controlling gravity through the use of very high voltage electric charges.
By 1952, Brown gave a demonstration to a Air Force major general in which Brown flew a pair of 18-inch disc airfoils suspended from opposite ends of a rotatable arm. The discs were electrified with 50,000 volts and circuited at a speed of 12 miles per hour.
Approximately one year later, he flew a set of three-foot diameter saucers for Air Force officials and representatives from several major aircraft companies. These discs were energized with 150,000 volts, and sped around the 50-foot diameter course so fast that the subject was immediately classified. A report by ``Interavia'' magazine noted that the discs would attain speeds of several hundred miles per hour when charged with several hundred thousand volts.
The secret to Brown's discs was that they were charged with a high positive voltage, via a wire, running along their leading edge. A high negative voltage ran along their trailing edge, also on a wire. As the wires ionized the air around them, a study by Paul A. LaViolette said, a dense cloud of positive ions would form ahead of the craft and a corresponding cloud of negative ions would form behind the craft.
LaViolette said that Brown's research showed that, like the charged plates of his capacitors, these ion clouds induced a gravitational force directed in the minus to plus direction. In short, a gravitational well formed ahead of the disc which pulled the craft, while a gravitational hill formed behind the craft and pushed it. As the disc moved forward in response to its self-generated gravity field, it would carry with it its positive and negative ion clouds and their associated electrogravity gradient. The discs in effect would ride their advancing gravity wave much like surfers ride an ocean wave, LaViolette said.
The occupants of one of the saucers, if there were occupants, would feel no stress at all no matter how sharp the turn or how great the acceleration, LaViolette said. This was because the ship and is occupants and the load are all responding equally to the wavelike distortion of the local gravitational field.
Brown by 1952 had put together a proposal, code named ``Project Winterhaven,'' LaViolette said, which suggested that the military develop an antigravity combat saucer with Mach 3 capability. As early as 1954, according to a report prepared by the private aviation intelligence firm Aviation Studies International Ltd., the Air Force had begun plans to fund research that would accomplish Project Winterhaven's objectives.
That report, issued in 1956 and called ``Electrogravitic Systems: An Explanation of Electrostatic Motion, Dynamic Counterbary and Barycentric Control,'' was originally classified as ``confidential.'' That report mentioned the names of more than 10 major aircraft companies which were actively involved in the electrogravitics research in an attempt to duplicate or extend Brown's work. Since that time, LaViolette said, much of the work in electro-antigravity has proceeded in Air Force black projects on a fairly large scale.
LaViolette's study, known as ``The U.S. Antigravity Squadron,'' has as its main contention that the Air Force is using Brown's antigravity ideas to help the B-2 bomber operate. He says the B-2 accomplishes using high amounts of electric charges on its leading and trailing edges through the same method Brown described in his electrokinetic generator patent.
The saucer craft Brown proposed was to be powered by a flame-jet generator, a high-voltage power supply that had the advantage of being both efficient and relatively lightweight, LaViolette said. That generator design, he said, uses a jet engine with an electrified needle mounted in the exhaust nozzle to produce negative ions in the jet's exhaust stream. The negatively ionized exhaust is then discharged through a number of nozzles at the rear of the craft. By electrically insulating the engines and conveying their positive charges forward to a wire running along the plane's leading edge, the required positively charged ion cloud is built up at the front of the vehicle. Brown, LaViolette said, estimated that such a generator could produce potentials as high as 15 million volts across his craft.
Whether or not Project Silver Bug ever resulted in a prototype or operational jet-propelled flying saucer is publicly unknown, given the fact that cutting-edge military development projects are normally cloaked in tight security. Even the money trail which would normally lead to the existence of top-secret or higher R&D projects is often a closed door. Military aircraft and weapon systems developers normally hide the funding for those projects in other projects, keeping sharp-eyed researchers from finding R&D projects hidden in the federal budget. Various UFO researchers have long been intrigued by the role the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB has played in various projects like Silver Bug. ATIC has since 1955 been known as the Foreign Technology Division, and is currently called the National Air Intelligence Center.
Over the years, despite the name, ATIC has been rumored in UFO circles to be the place where the debris from the alleged Roswell, NM crash of an alien flying saucer was taken for study. ATIC was also the parent Air Force unit for Project Blue Book, which for several years was the official study center for unidentified flying objects.
With no further available declassified reports, whatever Project Silver Bug finally arrived at remains as hidden as an underground interceptor craft installation. Or at least there was no information about any disk-shaped craft being tested by the U.S. Air Force ... until Frank Batts and his buddy got their directions wrong in 1997 and wound up on the wrong side of Nellis AFB.
That's where it stands at present. There is a fair amount of information floating around that would indicate Project Silver Bug did result in some type of actually flyable aircraft. But there is no actual proverbial "smoking gun'' as yet.
Some persons who have researched Silver Bug, and some persons who claim to have worked on secret government aeronautical projects, are convinced or hint that something did fly as the result of Project Silver Bug. Some even say that some operational circular craft have been stationed at some places ... all underground, in effect hiding them in plain sight. But there is a lack of actual hard evidence that ATIC or WADC ever developed an actual operational flying saucer from Silver Bug. Just enough information exists to tantalize those who have investigated it so far, and a lot of gaps which can at present be filled only by speculation.
Project Silver Bug - plans that both Canada and the United States had in the 1950s to build and fly UFO-like aircraft……..but they were not alone. A decade before, the Nazis were doing something very similar.
Project Silver Bug - plans that both Canada and the United States had in the 1950s to build and fly UFO-like aircraft……..but they were not alone. A decade before, the Nazis were doing something very similar.
On February 11, 1953 The Toronto Star reported that a new flying saucer was being developed at the Avro-Canada plant in Malton, Ontario.
On 16 February the Minister for Defense Production informed the House of Commons, in Ottawa, that Avro-Canada was working on a 'mock-up model' of a flying saucer, capable of flying at 1500 miles per hour (2400 km/h) and climbing vertically.
The President of Avro-Canada wrote in AVRO NEWS that the prototype being built was "...so revolutionary that it would make all other forms of supersonic aircraft obsolete".
But by 1960 it was being officially claimed that the project had been dropped. The 'prototype' of the Avro flying saucer is now in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.
A true flying saucer. A circular craft with a large central fan that sucked in air from the upper side and expelled it at the edges of the disk. It flew well at low altitudes of five or six feet, but when it tried to rise further it became unstable. Never did more than hover at low altitude, and was abandoned after seven months because of stability problems.
The AVRO Canada VZ-9A AVRO car was, designed, built and tested just outside Toronto was unique in the annals of flight. Shaped like an obese discus, it was intended to use a novel flight mode called GETOL - Ground Effect Takeoff and Landing. The machine would lift into ground effect on a cushion of air expelled from a peripheral slot on its underside and directed by a sliding "focusing ring." The ring would then "focus" the cushion rearward, driving the flying saucer forward. The strange craft would thus taxi in ground effect until it had enough forward speed to climb out of ground effect and fly like a conventional airplane.
In actuality, the prototype never flew out of ground effect. To solve problems of stability in ground effect the designers came up with a pneumatic analogue control system using the huge vertical-axis lift fan as the sensing element. The obvious wobbliness of the ship in its original configuration completely disappeared thanks to this light, simple solution.