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Update: Stealth Planes Galore. What Gives?

A series of secret or thought-to-be retired stealth plane sightings has driven fascinating and kooky theories.

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There’s a lot happening with top-secret stealth aircraft, old, new and unknown, with sightings from SoCal to the Philippines and of aircraft from long-thought retired to not even yet hinted at. 

The latest sighting was of an aircraft on a trailer. It was completely exposed, with no tarps or other coverings to hide its stealthy goodness, but in the months before that sighting, there were two other mystery photos that came to light. The first sighting in this string took place in 2020, when a photographer in California captured an image of an airplane many think is the secret RQ-180 stealth drone. Another sighting in the Philippines last month from a photographer out taking sunrise photos caught a very similar looking aircraft. 

It’s understandable that the Air Force would keep such things quiet, but what about the case of the F-117 fighter, a stealth fighter jet that was introduced in 1983 and retired in 2008, a great career for a baseball player but not long by DoD standards. That airplane, retired for 13 years now has been spotted, including flights of two, on multiple occasions in California over the past year. What gives? Why are they flying these “retired” aircraft, and were they really retired at all, or is that just what they wanted other countries to think? 

Finally, there was last month’s sighting of the unknown stealth aircraft on the back of a truck. 

Which has led to the question, what is really going on here. Why all the activity with stealth aircraft, you know, the ones you’re not supposed to see? Is there a connection, as some have speculated, or are all these sightings random and unrelated? 

The latter has piqued a great deal of interest, especially since contractors were quick to disavow any knowledge of the plane or the program. 

A Defense One webinar hosted on September 28th featuring Jeff Babione left some viewers with many more questions than answers. Babione is the leader of Lockheed-Martin’s Advanced Development Programs—better known as Skunk Works. Skunk Works, legendary designer Kelly Johnson’s creation, gave rise to a number of remarkable designs, including the U-2, SR-71, F-22 and F-35.

Asked if he could elaborate on a six-second video of a stealthy-looking aircraft or aircraft part, which has been on Twitter a few days, Babione simply said, “I cannot.”

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Then asked whether the Skunk Works security protocol had changed, he simply said, “We’re good.”

The lack of an answer sent defense and aerospace analysts and writers to social media, where the speculation ran rampant. Maybe it was a giant failure of operational security on a new project, some opined. Others guessed that it could be a decoy to send foreign entities on a wild goose chase, while at least one figured it was a giant nothingburger—a stealth test object remarkably similar to a test object featured in a YouTube video that’s 13 years old and has 43,000 views (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LIqRshUoPc timestamp 1:48).

The discussion in Tweets even disagreed on whether it was piloted or a drone, and even which side was up!

Whether it’s the next big thing, or a giant letdown, the short video caught our attention for a few minutes today—and now you can see and speculate as well.

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