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Area 51 spy plane and other aviation tales

It looks like an upside-down bathtub with wings, pretty odd for a spy jet that was among the nation's most highly classified pieces of military hardware. As I stand in front of the plane code-named Tacit Blue at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, near Dayton, Ohio, I'm reminded that it still holds a bit of mystery. Engineers made fun of Tacit Blue's design by nicknaming it the Whale, but the program -- declassified in 1996 -- was deadly serious. It was all about stealth. Pentagon Cold War strategists desperately wanted to build planes that could evade Soviet radar. And so the Air Force launched a "black program" to develop Tacit Blue and tested it at a secret government airbase in Nevada called "Area 51," according to CIA documents released in 2013. The program, which lasted from 1978 to 1985, aimed to develop a single-seater jet for battlefield surveillance. Before last year's document release, the government never acknowledged the existence of Area 51. For decades, a fenced-off area surrounding Nevada's Groom Lake was rumored to be a testing ground for some of the nation's most secret technology. Two retired Air Force test pilots who flew Tacit Blue in the early 1980s, Ken Dyson and Russ Easter, spoke about why this plane was important and what set it apart. Although the plane flew 135 times and was never put into production, without Tacit Blue, there would have been no B-2 Spirit bomber. The plane proved that aircraft with curved surfaces could evade radar. "The airplane flew pretty solid, I'd say," Dyson remembered. Could sightings of Tacit Blue have contributed to UFO reports? "I'm not aware of any circumstance like that," Easter said. Dyson also says no. Read More at CNN.com.

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