Secret US spyplane crash may be kept under wraps

SAS scrambled to protect aircraft, whose existence is officially denied

A top-secret United States spyplane which flies on the edge of space at five times the speed of sound crashed at the British experimental airbase at Boscombe Down, Hampshire, in September 1994, according to a report in a leading military aviation journal. The SAS, the report said, was scrambled to throw a cordon round the wreckage, which was flown back to the US two days later,

The hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft, called Astra or Aurora, is believed to have been developed in the 1980s as a secret US government "black programme".

Officially, the US denies the aircraft exists, although there have been many reports of mysterious sonic booms and sightings. This is the first report of such an aircraft crashing.

The British Ministry of Defence and the US Defense Department both denied the story yesterday but David Oliver, the editor of Air Forces Monthly, said that Royal Air Force officers had been among the sources in a two- year investigation of the incident, and that he was sure the report was true.

"We have no doubt that an incident did happen on the day in question and it has never been satisfactorily explained by the authorities", Mr Oliver said yesterday.

Air Forces Monthly is widely read in the MoD and in the defence industry, both in Britain and in the US. The report says the Astra (Advanced Stealth Reconnaissance Aircraft), or AV-6, or Aurora, crashed during take off on runway 23 at Boscombe Down on the evening of 26 September 1994. London Air Traffic Control Centre was alerted that a serious incident had occurred. Later that night a witness reported seeing a tarpaulin screen around the front of the aircraft surrounded by a number of emergency vehicles. The witness said the rear section of the aircraft appeared to be raised, suggesting the nose-wheel had collapsed.

Witnesses also saw and photographed men in plain clothes arriving during the night, who were later identified as SAS. The following day an Agusta 109 helicopter - one of four captured Argentine helicopters used exclusively by the special forces - arrived. "The SAS arrived twice", Mr Oliver said.

The wreckage was kept under a tarpaulin in the corner of a hangar but was seen by witnesses when the doors were opened to bring out a Buccaneer aircraft. The next unusual event was the arrival of a giant C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft which is believed to have flown the wreckage back to the US on 28 September.

Reports of the new aircraft have been around for five years. In April 1992 a US radio ham intercepted a transmission from an aircraft descending from 65,000 feet, a height only reached by the Space Shuttle and the Cold War spyplane the U2 (later renamed TR1). Concorde, the highest-flying and fastest civil aircraft, cruises at 59,000 feet.

In August 1992 unexplained sonic booms were measured over the Netherlands, prompting questions in the Dutch parliament. The path of the aircraft suggested it had flown from RAF Machrihanish on the north-west coast of Scotland. In December that year The Independent reported claims by the crew of a boat in the North Sea that they had seen an Aurora and produced an artist's impression similar to the latest impression in Air Forces Monthly.

On other occasions radio hams intercepted transmissions from unidentified high-flying jets requesting permission to land at Machrihanish, though that airfield has now closed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas