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News :: Environment
It is important to recognize the scale of the black programs
24 Aug 2006
Modified: 07:22:06 PM
Stealth, Deception and Death – Unmanned Aerospace/Aerial Vehicles

We can begin our assessment of the state of contemporary ENMOD technologies by narrowly addressing just one area related to ENMOD technology deployments: Unmanned Aerospace Vehicles or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs – briefly mentioned above. UAV research, development and applications are a billions-of-dollars industry: the future has already arrived.

Early in 2002, U.S. Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld added over $1 billion to the fiscal 2003 defense budget request to develop certain Unmanned Aerospace Vehicle (UAV) programs. The DOD invested more than $3 billion in UAV development, procurement and operations between 1996 and 2001; it plans to invest $2.3 billion more by 2005 and is likely to spend $4.2 billion by 2010. According to the so-called UAV Roadmap, by 2010, the UAV inventory of all the military services is expected to grow to 290 vehicles. [90]

UAV development is slated to occur with complete transparency: the above designated budgetary appropriations do not account for expenditures on secret programs, or the decades of previous UAV research and developments, or for current and future ongoing UAV development under top-secret black programs.

Fleets, “packs” and “swarms” of UAVs or “drones” are already being systematically deployed around the U.S. T he U.S. Coast Guard – now part of the Office of Homeland Security – is deploying remote-controlled low-flying surveillance aircraft (UAVs) of the type used by the U.S. Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan, along the Atlantic Coast. The acquisition of up to 76 drones nationwide is part of Deepwater , the Coast Guard’s $17 billion program “to replace aging equipment and respond to new security challenges.” [91]

Where and how did such prodigious stealth technology come about?

The birth of the UAV technologies seems to have spun out of a need for unmanned aircraft capable of highly secretive, dangerous missions like those undertaken by the U-2. Other missions revolved around remote sensing in severe weather, and dangerous overflights of “hostile” territory (China, Cuba, Russia), where the risk of human loss was high.

From 1959 to 1962, working for the CIA, the Ryan Aeronautical Company developed the Q-2C and Q-2D Firebee – a high-altitude reconnaissance drone, code-named “Red Wagon.” In 1962 the company won a $1.2 million follow-on contract for the Model 147A drones code-named Firefly. The Firefly reconnaissance drone reportedly photographed missile sites in Cuba, thereby providing the documentation that reportedly initiated the Cuban Missile Crisis. [92]

In the 1960s, numerous USAFpilotless unmanned aircraft – “drones” – were developed at Groom Lake. Unmanned high-speed drones tested and deployed in the 1960s included the Model 147 Lightning Bug – a spin-off of the 147A Firefly. The Lighting Bug drones saw 77 missions, over “Red” China and Vietnam, in 1965. Under Project “United Effort” (1965-1966), the U.S. flew some 105 electronic intelligence missions over North Vietnam and China, deploying the combat-ready Model 147 series UAV drones. The 147s complemented and eventually replaced the higher-risk manned U-2 missions in most cases, and the Model 147 Lightning Bug came in numerous specialized editions – the 147G, 147H, 147E, 147J, 147N, 147NX, 147NP, 147NRE and 147NQ – all adapted for specialized intelligence and warfighting missions, costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars (minimum).

The 147S Buffalo Hunter was developed in 1967. There were 340 global missions of the Model 147 in 1968; 437 missions in 1969; 406 missions in 1971. From 1970 to 1971 the DOD quietly transitioned the Model 147 drone program out of the black and into the blue. Some 570 missions were flown in 1972; 444 in 1973; 518 from 1974 to June of 1975. All told, the U.S. flew some 3,455 hostile UAV drone missions against China, North Vietnam and North Korea. CIA involvement with the Ryan Aeronautical Model 154 (P-4) Firefly was accidentally declassified in 1969; the drone was used until 1971. [93]

The CIA program to destabilize the governments of China, Vietnam and Korea is well documented, and secret aircraft missions, U-2 and drone overflights, and other combat “drops”, were pivotal. “There were many other CIA flights over China for purely espionage purposes, carried out by high-altitude U-2 planes, pilotless “drones”, and other aircraft. These overflights began around the late 1950s and were not discontinued until 1971, to coincide with Henry Kissinger’s first visit to Peking… China registered hundreds of  “serious warnings” about violations of its airspace…” [94]

Flown out of Taiwan by CIA-trained pilots from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Chinese Army, numerous U-2’s were shot down over China. The unmanned UAV drones were frequently shot down over the Chinese mainland as well: the Chinese claimed 19 downings of “U.S. imperialist, pilotless, high altitude planes.” [95] CIA aircraft also supported the Tibetan liberation movement, and the many Tibetan liberation fighters trained by the CIA in paramilitary warfare. Airborne biological agents were also released. [96]

To explain away secret aircraft and missiles platforms that were spotted now and then, or to answer the occasional unwanted publicity or press coverage of a crash, or a downing over “hostile” territory, the U.S. DOD used a variety of dismissive and deflective tactics, issuing statements of “no comment” and sometimes outright denials. Picking up on the sensitivity of these projects, major U.S. media outlets like the New York Times downplayed or dismissed reports, altogether hiding the existence of these secret assets from the American public. Notes aerospace historian Curtiss Peebles: “The concept of using an unmanned drone for high-risk overflights, and simply not commenting on any losses, had proved vital.” [97]  

As mentioned previously, black projects proceeded outside normal oversight and budgetary channels. For example, in 1962 U.S. General Leo Geary arranged a $500,000 contingency fund for the initial studies that led to the Q-12 UAV (later known as D-21, code-named Tagboard); Lockheed Skunk Works was the contractor, and the D-21 became more secret than the U-2 or the A-12. While the aircraft was developed at Groom Lake, Tagboard funding and control was split between the CIA and the USAF, and the project was open only to the highest level officials: on January 18, 1967, for example, Lockheed chief designer Kelly Johnson met with U.S. deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance over Tagboard.

The Tagboard project was cancelled in 1971; it was declassified (1976-1977) by the tactic of putting the planes out in open spaces in towns where other aircraft were publicly visible. No photos showing the D-21 (piggybacked on top of the B-52H transport aircraft for launch) were released until circa 1982. Virtually all of details of the D-21 Tagboard, as with other major black aircraft made public, were not released until they appeared in 1993 in a highly patriotic and politically whitewashed book about Lockheed Skunk Works. [98]

USAFSystems Command took over the operation of Groom Lake by 1970. Soon thereafter, further extreme security measures were implemented as a series of new exotic aerospace projects evolved. Of course, under the imminent 1980s puppet Presidency of Ronald Reagan, black programs went even blacker. These included the Have Blue and Tacit Blue ( Shamu) stealth technology demonstrators (flights of these reportedly ended in 1985). The Tacit Blue plane was a Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) funded program, begun in 1978, revealed in April 30, 1996. [99]

In April, 1976, a $32.6 million contract was issued by DARPA to Lockheed Skunk Works for the black aircraft Hopeless Diamond – the Lockheed XST stealth fighter – also know (apparently) as Have Blue. Based on the implementation of low RCS (radar-cross section) stealth technologies developed under Project “Harvey” in the early 1970s (terminated 1975), Have Blue was officially confirmed in 1988, although photos were not released until 1991 (and these were released by accident). [100]

Aircraft 780 or Senior Trend was the F-117A fighter developed in the 1970s and lasting into the 1980s. As with other secret aerospace technologies, the F-117A was tested at the Tenopah Test Range (TTR), another secret base constructed northwest of Groom Lake; all flights occurred at night, in keeping with the increasing secrecy of black programs in the 1980s. The F-117A was declassified in 1988: given numerous crashes and leaks, it was no longer possible to be plausibly denied. Based on unclassified DOD info, the F-117A first saw combat in the euphemistically named Operation Just Cause, where thousands of innocent people were killed and thousands more wounded, during the illegal U.S. war against Panama (over CIA drugs profits), ordered by then President George Bush (I), then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, in October 1989. [101]

In 1983 a company called AeroVironment attracted government sponsorship from a “classified customer” to build a proof-of-concept solar-powered UAV. “Among the possible customers that have been suggested,” wrote aircraft historian Curtiss Peebles, “are the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the CIA and the Naval Research Laboratory.” (Please take note of these three organizations -- NRO, CIA and NRL -- to be discussed at length below for their direct financial and programmatic support of ENMOD development and enabling technologies.)  This solar-powered UAV, developed at Groom Lake, was called HALSOL (high-altitude solar) -- and later HALSOL Pathfinder – and it remained classified until 1993. NASA later adapted HALSOL for classified “atmospheric research”. HALSOL was very similar to a “white” UAV called the Helios SRA, also designed for “atmospheric research”. [102]

In the early 1980s DARPA funded the development of the black Teal Rain UAV – later known as Amber -- with a $40 million development contract to Leading Systems Corporation (bought out in 1990 by General Atomics). The Amber program was partially declassified in 1987, although many of its characteristics remain “highly classified”. Amber I was developed for U.S. Army Intelligence tactical programs, and it was reportedly cancelled in 1990, and the designation of Amber I suggests there might be further Amber developments. [103]

AeroVironment also developed the Pointer, Pioneer and Exdrone UAV’s under black contracts. There were 533 sorties of the Pioneer UAV flown during the Gulf War – at least one Pioneer UAV was aloft at all times. U.S. Marines flew some 55-60 Exdrone UAV missions in the Gulf War. [104]

In the summer of 1993, Pentagon acquisitions chief John Deutch put out tenders for a UAV of certain specifications. This resulted in the GNAT-750, another Leading Systems development bought out by General Atomics. The CIA (under R. James Woolsey) controlled the black GNAT-750 program, and the unit deliverable price was $800,000 each. Reportedly, the GNAT-750 UAVs were first deployed during the U.S. war in Bosnia. [105]

To round out the discussion of UAV platforms, “drones” and other black aircraft, we need to interrupt our examination of UAV platforms and developments to briefly examine the veracity of the primary source of black aircraft information sited thus far, the 1995 Curtiss Peebles book, Dark Eagles: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs. Such an examination is important to the subject of secret ENMOD research and development pursuits, for it is precisely the lack of disclosure – and the cult of secrecy and denial behind it – that characterizes the entire military and intelligence apparatus, and the ENMOD arena that proliferates within it.

First consider that according to aircraft historian Curtiss Peebles, the GNAT-750 effort discussed above “marked the return to black aviation by the CIA after two decades” absence. To begin with, it seems unlikely that the CIA would cease and desist “for two decades” from black aviation projects -- and then just as suddenly resume. If we extrapolate backwards from the date (1993) the GNAT project was tendered by CIA director R. James Woolsey (based on information from Curtiss), the “two decades” of CIA inactivity (!) would be 1973 to 1993.

Please recall that this was a very auspicious era, replete with such milestone American events as Watergate, the Church Committee exposures on assassinations and coups, the U.S. supported invasion of East Timor, Iran-Contra, Reaganomics and the emergence of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – Star Wars – the predecessor to the now burgeoning Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program.  

Thus to situate the above Peebles’ comment, we need to examine the greater veracity of the Dark Eagles text. Much of the information offered in Dark Eagles is easily verified. Indeed, propaganda is generally true, and within the greater proliferation of selective and narrowly delineated truths one can neatly bury the occasional lie – which will then be believed. The beauty in propaganda, in disinformation, comes as well in the absence of any greater critical assessment, the selective use of certain facts and innuendos, or the complete dismissal of other, potentially damaging facts.

In the last chapter of Dark Eagles, Curtiss Peebles peddles the standard mythologies and fear about what the George Bush (II) gang has recently dubbed the “Axil of Evil.” Peebles demonizes North Korea, Iraq and Iran, rogue nations all.

All are totalitarian countries built around the cult of the leader and the ideology of violence, revenge and hatred. They define their status in terms of large military forces used to carry out their leaders’ will. All have secret police used to crush internal enemies, real or imagined. [106]

Indeed, had he not prefaced these comments with some attention to the so-called “rogue nations” of North Korea, Iraq and Iran, we might otherwise attribute them to the United States of America. They certainly fit. However, Mr. Peebles would never entertain such heresy, no matter that these statements are easily supported in examination of US foreign and domestic policy over the past five decades, as I have begun to show, and will continue to show.

From the above statement it is an easy extension to establish that Mr. Peebles is a willing apologist for black programs, permanent warfare, and the concomitant military terrorism of the United States of America. Indeed, in his closing chapter Peebles addresses the complaints made by critics of the US military-industrial complex. He suggests that black programs characterized by fraud, waste and abuse – in the language of the Federation of Atomic Scientists – were actually cost savers, and that some companies even returned funds to the US government, and that some programs came in “under budget”. His arguments mirror those of other rapacious multinational industries where some “savings” – ostensibly benefiting US taxpayers – has been instituted. Ditto for those environmentally hostile corporations who greenwash the public with examples of “good corporate citizenship” and ‘sustainable manufacturing” otherwise instituted merely in pursuit of greater efficiency -- and hence profits.

Multinational corporations seek to maximize profits, by any means necessary, and the scale of any “cost-savings” passed on to the public pale in comparison, for example, to the billions of dollars in tax breaks and special compensations secured -- by the US government -- for multinational corporations. It seems likely that one could prove that any funds returned by a corporation were not returned in the interest of equity and honesty, but in the interest of some damage control or other. Peebles also furthers the omnipotent myth that US military budgets are ever under attack and threat of reduction. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Peebles deals with issues of the lack of oversight with simplistic and dismissive examples selectively chosen to buttress his narrow argument. Hence, for example, “today the full defense and intelligence communities review” the GNAT-750 program. No matter that the GNAT-750 has already been transitioned out of the black and into the blue. In any case, he notes, black projects prevail under a climate of integrity, self-sacrifice and accomplishment, and there are reasonable checks and balances secured “by the responsibility of customers and designers to give and get ‘straight answers’.”  No matter, as Peebles himself has repeatedly noted throughout his book, the propensity of DOD officials to lie through their teeth while looking you straight in the eye.

Curtiss Peebles is a patriotic American who believes in the unquestioning support of the U.S. military, its secret agencies and covert operations. Nowhere is this better illuminated than in statements made by Peebles in answer to critics’ complaints about costly boondoggles and lack of oversight. Curtiss Peebles’ rationales for U.S. military proliferation testify to his obvious bias in favor of the secrecy and denial of the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus. Without black programs, unfettered by oversight and loosely funded outside normal governmental channels:

…in January, 1991, when it was needed, the F-117A would not have been in the dangerous skies over Baghdad.

Certainly not, and some thousands of innocent Iraqi people might be alive today because of it. And, in any case, we the people -- and our precious democracy -- would not have benefited from:

…technological breakthroughs that will gain for the U.S. an advantage over an enemy in any potential future conflict. The secrecy is necessary. It is not a joke or a game. They [black aircraft] must be hidden, they must be guarded by extraordinary means, as would any treasure.

This last statement is an open admission that Curtiss Peebles cannot be trusted to objectively investigate and disclose the extent of black aircraft operations, deployments, or the ongoing billions-of-dollars programs in black projects research and development. Given the extent of the information he has made available to us, we might plausibly assume that he has access to inside information precisely because he is a trusted and willing agent supporting the cult of plausible deniability -- through selective disinformation and intentional propaganda. He has openly expressed his unquestioning and patriotic support – indeed his duty – to defend the cult of secrecy and denial, by any means necessary. As we shall soon see, his role in spreading disinformation in support of the permanent warfare economy fits quite neatly into a larger propaganda and warfare framework.

Only two further black projects -- presumably test-flown from the secret Groom Lake and TTR bases -- have since been officially acknowledged: the stealth air-launched Lockheed Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM), reportedly cancelled in 1992, and the Northrop Tri-Service Stand-Off Attack Missile, reportedly cancelled in 1994.

Secretive UAV developments and related black programs technologies do not begin and end with Groom Lake -- or the newer Tenopah Test Range (TTR) nearby. The RAND Corporation has persisted in its insider DOD capacity as a significant and heavily funded resource in UAV studies and research. One RAND study, for example, examines the importance of mini-UAVs and micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) for urban conflict scenarios. The MAV is “designed to perch on buildings, with some chance for covertness.” [107]

Visible in the unclassified arena alone, there are small fleets of UAVs of varying capacities in service today. The U.S. military has over 200 UAVs of all types today. Others are under development. Consider that all branches of the military currently deploy UAVs with sophisticated SIGINT, COMINT, C4ISR, C4IST, EW and ADP (Air-Delivered Payloads) capabilities. [108] . The U.S. Army Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) and the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk and RQ-1 Predator UAVs saw significant operational deployment in the war on Afghanistan, where they proved themselves indispensable, and they are part of a major array of weapons-bearing UAV-type systems slated to deploy various payloads sporting weather warfare enabling technologies. [109] RQ-1 Predator was also deployed over Kosovo. [110]

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) literature clearly states: ‘state-of-the-art reconnaissance systems are in extensive use by the U.S. government including the U.S. Air Force, NASA, Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy as well as by overseas customers.” GA-ASI systems in use today include: RQ-1 Predator, and its advanced follow-on, Predator-B; GNAT, Prowler II and ALTUS UAV platforms.

Figure One:

General Atomics RQ-1 Predator UAV

Current military plans for Global Hawk (Northrup Grumman) and RQ-1 Predator (General Atomics) include the multibillion dollar ongoing research and development effort to implement a wireless “Internet in the sky,” allowing thousands of UAV robots to communicate quickly while zooming around a battle zone at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour. An association of some 300 scientists and engineers coordinated by the Office of Naval Research is about a year-and-a-half into a five-year, $11 million effort. The project is called Multimedia Intelligent Network of Unattended Mobile Agents, or Minuteman. The network communications structure, developed by UCLA Prof. Mario Gerla, will deploy the highest-flying UAV, Global Hawk , as a “cell [phone] tower in the sky.” [111]

On August 23, 2002, General Atomics ASI announced that the combat-proven RQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) successfully launched a mini-UAV while in flight. Known as a Flight Inserted Detector Expendable for Reconnaissance ( FINDER), this 57 lb mini-UAV was carried on a pylon under Predator’s wing and released at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)-produced FINDER mini-UAV program is designed to evaluate Predator’s capability to carry and launch independently controlled and self-propelled mini-UAVs into hazardous conditions. [112]

According to General Atomics:

“Once launched, atmospheric sampling and assessments can be made prior to any combat strikes and that information can then be relayed to users in real-time. To extend the capability of the FINDER mini-UAV, the next phase of the program will include the integration of PIRANHA, an Aerospace SMC-manufactured Predator Infrared Narrowband Hyperspectral combat Assessor (PIRANHA) that can detect and identify the presence of various atmospheric compounds.”

Said differently, these UAV, mini-UAV and micro-UAV platforms and sensors will relay information essential to successful military campaigns -- including ENMOD operations. Other sensors and systems, and mission parameters, remain undefined due to the highly classified nature of their missions. Included in these are ENMOD objectives, since UAV payloads will certainly include major sophisticated weather sensor technologies that have already been transitioned into the DOD’s operational arenas. 

By February 21, 2002, the U.S. DOD had already purchased 79 RQ-1 Predators from General Atomics, for a per unit price of about $7 million, or some $553 million dollars. [113]

Other major aerospace weapons platforms developed under secret black operations (and associated with ongoing black programs) include:

1956 Suntan

CL-400 (supposedly cancelled in 1957)

TR3A Black Manta or Baby B-2 UAV


Little is known about the Aurora program, and it has been heavily denied. [114] Armed Forces Journal has described it as “a very black program within a black program.” Believed to have been developed during the 1980s and 1990s, speculation has placed Aurora under the purview of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Supposing it does exist, it is believed that the Aurora craft can exceed speeds of Mach 6. Counted amongst the newest secret aerospace developments is the Bird of Prey – named after the Klingon “Bird of Prey” seen in Star Trek. A product of the Boeing Aerospace Phantom Works facility, the Bird of Prey UAV was unveiled on October 18, 2002.

It is important to recognize the scale of the black programs. In 2002, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the U.S. military’s black budget was slated to rise to levels not seen since the 1980s, from $16.2 billion last year to $20.3 billion.