The Pentagon is unflinchingly tight-lipped about any new, high tech planes it has in the works. But every so often, a bit of information manages to squeak out into the public domain.
In 2013, the U.S. Air Force sent a secret spy plane out over the Pacific region. The unknown aircraft – possibly a drone – flew “national collection missions” – a euphemism for strategic intelligence against states like North Korea or China.
It was one of five different types of aircraft flying these missions. The Pentagon’s top headquarters asked the flying branch to use its U-2 Dragon Ladies and RC-135V/W Rivet Joints to take high resolution pictures and scoop up radio chatter, according to an official history of the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency – a.k.a. AFISRA – for that year.
“Other USAF aircraft flying national collection missions included the RC-135U Combat Sent, the RC-135S Cobra Ball and the aforementioned [redacted],” the history stated.
War Is Boring obtained the heavily redacted historical review through the Freedom of Information Act. In 2014, the flying branch renamed AFISRA to the 25th Air Force.
So what is the mystery aircraft? The blacked-out portion of the document suggests the missing portion is five to seven characters long. With that in mind, the super secret RQ-170 Sentinel – a six character designation that would fit in the redacted segment – is one possibility.
Of course, the censored plane could be something entirely new. For decades, the Pentagon and the CIA have repeatedly acknowledged advanced aircraft projects — after the fact — only to decline to release any significant information about them.