from Rense Website

The Ho-IX
Maximum Speed 600+ mph

Kenneth Arnold and his
drawing of what he saw in 1947

Hi-Tech Composite Radar-Absorbing Wings

Flying The Ho-IX In Late 1944



Wartime Notes On The Ho IX

In a speech before representatives of the aircraft industry, Reichsmarshall Goering had announced that no new contracts would be given, unless the proposed aircraft could carry 1000 kg bombs, fly 1000 km/h, and have a penetration depth of 1000 km; penetration depth being defined as the total range.

The Fighter Division requested that the aircraft also be fitted with 30 mm machine guns, something that would lessen the machine’s efficiency as a bomber.


We started drawing and calculating without a contract. Our plan was to build two full size prototypes. The initial penetration depth would only be 800 km, since the fuel proof glue necessary for the full wet wing, was not yet available. On the other hand, the smaller fuel load allowed a doubling of the bomb load, so we went ahead and submitted our proposal.

A contract was awarded with the demand that the first flight be made in six months! Since the jet engine was not yet ready, the first machine would be a glider. The previously deactivated Air Force Command IX was reactivated, and ordered to proceed with the project. Fortunately, the preliminary work that we did without a contract, put us sufficiently ahead, so the six month deadline locked feasible.

There were several reasons for choosing wood as the building material. Duraluminum required more energy to produce; over 3000 KWH, versus less than 3 KWH for wood per ton. The required labor for aluminum production was also much higher; 5000 hr/ton against 200 hr/ton for wood. In addition, aural was difficult to find, and skilled sheet metal workers in short supply. Unskilled workers could easier be trained to work with wood.

Typically, a nose rib was built from a triangular piece of spruce, sandwiched between two plywood sheets, all scrap wood. Production time: 10 minutes. After the glue dried, the rib was simply roused out along a master template in less that 5 minutes. The rest of the wing was built in a similar crude fashion, to pave the way for mass production by unskilled workers.

The main box spar contained all cables and control rods, to free the remaining space in the wing for fuel. That, we planned to pump right into the wing itself, without tanks or bladders. To do this, we needed the fuel-proof glue, that could be used to coat the inside surfaces as well. The glue allowed additional gluing to dissolve and adhere to already coated surfaces, which greatly simplified construction.

The skin was very thick: 17 mm, all plywood; three times the necessary strength. On the production aircraft, this would be replaced by two 1.5 mm plywood sheets, with a 12 mm layer of sawdust, charcoal and glue mix, sandwiched in between. The charcoal in this much lighter skin would diffuse radar beams, and make the aircraft "invisible" on radar (STEALTH Technology -ed).

Finally, should a 20 mm shell explode inside the wing, a relatively harmless hole would result, whereas a metal wing would balloon out and lose its lift.

The H IX wing was designed with 3 geometric and 1.5 aerodynamic twist, to give it the desired bell shaped lift distribution with all controls neutral. The Frise-nose on the elevons had proven to be unsatisfactory, so we decided to use blunt nose elevons instead. The sharply enlarged wing root chord served mainly to eliminate the middle-effect. The maximum thickness line (T-4 line) therefore made a sharp bend in the middle, which resulted in the characteristic pointed tail. As this would affect stability, a test aircraft with large aspect ratio, that had the control surface far outside the test area, was needed. The H Vl would serve this purpose, while other preliminary tests were made with a H II and a H III.

The H IX V-1 took off right on schedule on March 1, 1944 in Gottingen. The small He 45 towplane barely got off the ground, so test pilot Scheidhauer released, and landed straight ahead, after only a short hop. Five days later, he was off again on a snow covered runway behind an infinitely more powerful He 111. He released at 12000 feet, made an uneventful glide back to the airport, then faced problems during landing when the drag chute did not function. As the end of the runway approached, he retracted the nose wheel, and skidded to a stop with only minor damage.

The second aircraft, scheduled to fly three months later, was awaiting its engines, promised in March. Several weeks passed, and then... Disaster!

The engines arrived with an accessory section added to the case, making the cross section oval, and the diameter 20 cm greater! No one had bothered to inform us! Now, just six weeks before the first flight, we were faced with the problem of fitting an 80 cm engine into an aircraft with a 60 cm hole in the spar! It meant that the wing would have to be made thicker.

To maintain the aerodynamic qualities of our design, we would have to increase the span from 16 to 21.3 meters, and the wing area from 42 m2 to 75 m2. Such an aircraft would never reach the targeted performance, even with higher engine thrust. We choose instead to do the best we could with patchwork modifications. The wings remained the same. Another root rib was added 40 cm outside the original, making the center section 0.8 m wider. The new airfoil was 13% thicker than before, and the bend in the T-4 line became much larger. The thicker center section lowered the critical Mach number to 0.75, or a maximum speed of 920 km/in.

The ratio of movement between the control column and the elevons could be reduced to by the pilot for high speed flight. A small high speed drag rudder was supplemented by a larger one that deployed after the smaller was fully extended. Many parts were scrounged from other aircraft left at the test facility in Gottingen. The nose wheel, for instance, came from the tail wheel of a He 177 heavy bomber. We were even able to use the strut and retract cylinder!

The men of Air Force Command IX did their utmost to complete the aircraft before the end of 1944, sometimes working more than 90 hours per week.

I remember that Lt. Erwin Ziller made the first flight about December 18th, 1944, but his log book indicates that the first flight occurred on February 2nd., 1945. I am quite sure the first flight of the H IX was also his first in a jet. Our leaders had little concern for such risks.

Satisfied with the initial flight, the Air ministry ordered 40 aircraft to be built by the Goetha Waggonfabrik under the designation Ho-229.

It appears that the H IX V-2 had flown three or four times before tragedy struck on February 18th. The many versions of the story have a few things in common. The weather was overcast, the ground soft and muddy. The visibility marginal for a test flight, as Lt. Ziller took off, retracted the gear and disappeared. We received a report that one engine had failed, and that the H IX was returning to Oranienburg. Due to the low ceiling, a shallow approach to the airport was initiated. Since the hydraulic pump was on the dead engine, gear and flaps were extended by the emergency compressed air system.


Once down, they could no. be retracted. To maintain his glide slope, Lt. Ziller added power. to overcome the extra drag, and found to his horror that he could "no longer maintain directional control; the fully developed drag rudder unable to overcome the asymmetrical thrust. Rather than lose control, he retarded the throttle to land short of the runway. The aircraft touched down in a field, slid into an embankment and flipped over, crushing its pilot.

The US Third US Army Corps reached the Goetha plant on April 14th 1945. Here they found the H IX V-3 intact and nearly completed, and also the V-4, V-5 and V-6 in various stages of completion. The Ninth US Armored Division found the H IX V-1 in good condition near Leipzig. Its fate is unknown.

The H IX V-3 was later shipped to USA, and is now in the Smithsonian collection, awaiting restoration.

More amazing pictures of the Ho IX



German Secret Technology

UFO Secret History
by Tim Matthews
May 1998

Over the last few months new information has emerged relating to the terrestrial origins of flying saucers. This goes to the heart of modern-day UFO research and because we neither claim that UFOs are of ET origin nor that flying saucer sightings are explainable as evidence of natural phenomena or simply misidentifications of mundane phenomena we are under attack from all sides. Nevertheless, the evidence we have put forward has encouraged many researchers to become engaged in a debate that some people might have hoped had gone away.

The fundamental point to make is that, according to a great deal of UFO literature, despite the best efforts of researchers to identify the objects described in UFO reports there remains a hard core, perhaps 1-2%, that are said to represent ’true’ or ’real’ UFO phenomena. Therefore the evidence suggests that many of this core of 1-2% of sightings relates to structured craft of ’unknown’ origin. In this case, I am writing about flying saucers - often quite small, seemingly constructed of some metallic substance - occasionally described as ’brushed’ aluminum:

Take for example the McMinnville, Oregon, photographs taken by Paul Trent on 11th May 1950. These are some of the best examples of a saucer photograph and extensive analysis has shown that:

This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and psychical, appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses.

This is very important UFO research which shines new light on this most ’elusive’ mystery of the Twentieth Century. Perhaps it is time for a little demystification.

We suspect that ’flying saucers’ were developed, to some extent in parallel, on either side of the Atlantic during the Second World War. This realization, or understanding, is becoming increasingly a focus for research even though a long period of time has passed since those developments took place. Our research might be said to represent a ’small voice of calm’ within the UFO community, whose increasingly shrill calls for Western governments to ’come clean about UFOs and aliens’ tend to obscure the truth about flying saucers.

To others, our research is an example of the ’Federal Hypothesis’, that which states that:

The answer seems to be that, in the USA at least, UFOs are controlled not so much by an intelligence as by an Intelligence Agency.

In the first place, it is certainly not the case the new generation of man-made flying saucer advocates are apologists for Nazism as is suggested by the skeptics who claim that because some nazi saucer researchers are of dubious political persuasion then all subsequent research is invalid.

This type of guilt by association is, of course, a rather ineffective way of arguing with the evidence.

Secondly, debunkers argue that because some supposed sightings of flying saucers have been explained or that they are explainable then all sightings should be called into question. The reader has seen that there are impressive UFO sightings that clearly relate to structured circular craft and that these have been reported from around the world with a concentration upon the USA - a fact which surprises few researchers.

Despite the argument that German scientists had no more advanced technology than the allies, one American was very clear as to the technical achievements of nazi scientists: Major General Hugh Knerr, Deputy Commanding General for Administration of US Strategic Forces in Europe, wrote to Lieutenant General Carl Spatz in March 1945:

Occupation of German scientific and industrial establishments has revealed the fact that we have been alarmingly backward in many fields of research, if we do not take this opportunity to seize the apparatus and the brains that developed it and put this combination back to work promptly, we will remain several years behind while we attempt to cover a field already exploited.

It is possible to look into the area of German flying saucers without reference to so-called established sources. These authors are often targeted for attack by skeptics and include Allen Harbinson, who has contributed to the subject through his exciting series of Project Saucer novels and the more recent non-fiction paperback Projekt UFO and Renate Vesco, whose research appeared in the late 1960s as a paperback with the title Intercept But Don’t Shoot and later as Intercept UFO.


Vesco appears to have cooperated with hidden knowledge writer David Hatcher Childress in the production of Man-Made UFOs - 50 Years of Suppression. In addition to these books, which are interesting though imperfect in their presentation (and omission) of the evidence, there are also two books written in the 1970s by Ernst Zundel under the pseudonym Mattern Friedrich which were popular for a short time within the far-right political community and may still be available.

Zundel himself is a controversial figure for a number of obvious reasons which include support for anti-Semitic groups, his publication of books and magazines denying the holocaust, and his links with most of the influential neo-Nazi groups in Germany, Britain, the USA and Canada. His most important book on the subject of German flying saucers is entitled UFOs: Nazi Secret Weapons.

Despite the fact that Zundel is a character with whom we have little or nothing in common from a political point of view, his espousal of far-right politics neither means that every piece of information in his two books is wrong nor that they should be ignored. It is important to realize that Zundel’s main purpose in writing and dissemination these books was not primarily an attempt to advocate the supposed superiority of Nazi technologies but to make a fast buck. In short, Zundel did it for the money, and he has made it quite clear that these publications are, in his view, not to be taken 100% seriously. The skeptics point to Zundel as a major source on German secret projects despite the fact that there are several other books and articles, including primary material, that have no link with such questionable politics.


Where we have a situation where skeptics will use any tactic, we can expect them to claim that any use of contemporary German-language material is evidence of apology for nazi war crimes. This is not the case although we do not any longer intend to look over our shoulder every time we mention German pre-war or wartime technology. We research this subject in order to shed new and important light on the fundamental reality of man-made flying saucers.

The final point to bare in mind regarding this subject is that the victors of any conflict have a head start in writing the history books and, in the case of the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, burying or spiriting away evidence, documents, plans and blueprints, actual technology and a variety of other materials that the allies did not, and do not, want the public to know about - for a variety of reasons that may become apparent.

Despite the fact that the man-made origins of flying saucers are of the greatest implications in terms of our understanding of postwar history, man-made UFO researchers have to some extent been deliberately ostracized and smeared.

Nevertheless, a great deal of new information has emerged in recent years and there is still more to come. The suggestion that fifty years after the end of the Second World War new information cannot emerge because this period has been the subject of the most intense scrutiny is an illogical one. For any number of reasons information can stay buried and, beyond mere speculation, we know that files relating to the Second World War remain locked in the deep dark vaults of the Public Records Office in Kew, London.


Remember this - records are routinely held for 30 years and can be held for 50, 75 and 100 years after the event. By the time they emerge they may have been altered, edited or sanitized to protect the identity of those responsible for the implementation of policy. One simple example that comes to mind is the emergence in recent years of new and credible information about the German nuclear research program underway during the Second World War.

Much of this has been the result of research undertaken by Philip Henshall who has also contributed a great deal to our understanding of advanced German weapons projects through his books on the rocket research facilities at Pennemunde on the Baltic coast.

Even before the allies landed in Normandy in June 1944 special groups of language and technical research specialists had been organized in order to recover as much of the technological hardware and research data relating to advanced German weapons. This effort was dedicated to getting hold of much more than data on the V2 rocket - the most obvious and well-known example of German scientific expertise. Already, through an intelligence estimate passed to the allies via a Norwegian source and known as the Oslo Letter, the allies were aware of other weapons under development and in operation by axis powers.


These included radio-controlled bombs, huge guns, rocket launchers, new radar systems, long-range bombers and torpedoes. It would seem that they might also have been interested in a circular-wing aircraft with Vertical-Take-Off-and Landing (VTOL) capabilities. In short, an early and relatively primitive flying saucer..

In order to make some progress in terms of this research it seems necessary to avoid using the standard sources - Vesco and Harbinson - even though some of their information is valid as we have seen. Other sources are equally intriguing. One source indicates that from the mid 1930s there was significant interest in both Vertical-Take Off and-Landing (VTOL) and circular wing aircraft.


This led to a number of designs one of which was the Focke-Wulf VTOL.:

Professor Heinrich Focke was particularly interested in emerging helicopter and autogyro technologies and was involved in the design and production of the FW6, Fa223, Fa226, Fa283 and 284 models during the war. The creation of the jet engine encouraged him to design a propulsion system known as the turbo-shaft still used in most helicopters today. In 1939 he patented a saucer-type aircraft with enclosed twin rotors. This was a revolutionary development described as follows:

The exhaust nozzle forked in two at the end of the engine and ended in two auxiliary combustion chambers located on the trailing edge of the wing. When fuel was added these combustion chambers they would act as afterburners to provide horizontal propulsion to Focke’s design. The control at low speed was achieved by alternately varying the power from each auxiliary combustion chamber.

This was by no means the only circular aircraft.

Another similar aircraft was the troubled AS6 partly designed by the leading aviation expert in Germany Dr. Alexander Lippisch whose work at the Gottingen Aviation Institute was legendary and whose impact upon postwar ’UFOs’ cannot be underestimated. His revolutionary DM series of small triangular aircraft were built and flown in conjunction with students at Darmstadt and Munich Universities (hence the DM prefix) and used rocket propulsion. The plans for these were transported to the USA after the war. His most advanced design was undoubtedly the Lippisch Supersonic Flying Wing which, although never built, strongly hinted at the triangular ’UFOs’ of the 1980s and 1990s.

The information about the AS6 (V1) emerged in an article written by Hans Ebert and Hans Meier based to a certain extent upon information and a photograph provided by German aviation expert Wolfgang Spate. (Spate was the former Commander of Operational Test Unit 16 during the War and more recently recognized as a leading aviation expert. He served in the refounded postwar Luftwaffe.) The article, entitled Prototypen - Einselschicksale deutchser Flugzeuge, Der Kreisflugler AS6 V1, was included in a the respected Luftfahrt International in 1980.


In certain respects the AS6, built by Messerschmidt, was based upon similar thinking as the Zimmerman V173 flying flapjack - designed for use by the US Navy from 1942. The flying flapjack was far more successful and developed at the Chance-Vought works in Connecticut and despite its’ supposed limitations was a propeller-driven aircraft designed to be flown from an aircraft carrier, hence the need for Short Take off and Landing (STOL) capability. The flapjack was able to fly at low speeds of approximately 40mph. The flight envelope was 40-425 mph and a more advanced version, the XF5U1, was also tested.

One other important feature of these circular wings was an early ’stealth’ capability. The Horten brothers Reimar and Walter, known for their many successful flying wing prototypes, had developed a composite wing made of plywood held together by sawdust, charcoal and glue intended to absorb radar waves for use in their HlX model.

In 1946 Chance-Vought was using a similar technique. A skin called ’metalite’ was used in one of its’ circular wings. Thomas C. Smith, former President of the Woodstream Corporation and a Penn State graduate engineer at the time, reported that he had seen a ’flying saucer’ (XF5U1?) taking off vertically from the Chance-Vought facilities in Stratford, Connecticut at the time and that it had used this composite. This was reported last year.

This means that the circular wing or ’flying saucer’ had a limited stealth capability years before the use of Radar Absorbent Materials was considered for other advanced aircraft.

We can certainly dismiss all the nonsense so prevalent in various media on the subject of German flying saucers which relates to the development of circular-wing aircraft as the result of occult or mystical beliefs. The truth is that the circular wing was designed for technical reasons: circular and flying wing designs are inherently stronger and are easier to build.

Whilst it is likely that any information relating to the limited AS6 would have been taken by the allies for examination at a later date it would seem that there is some evidence to suggest that a more advanced jet-powered flying saucer was at least designed, if not built, from around 1943 onwards. The first source is Flight Captain Rudolph Schriever who came forward in 1950 and claimed that he had worked with a small team at facilities near Prague with a view to developing a flying saucer-type vehicle. The Schriever story first emerged in Der Spiegel magazine dated March 30th 1950 entitled Untertassen-Flieger Kombination:

A former Luftwaffe captain and aircraft designer, Rudolph Schriever, who says engineers throughout the world experimented in the early 1940s with flying saucers is willing to build one for the United States in six to nine months. The 40 year old Prague University graduate said he made blueprints for such a machine, which he calls a flying top, before Germany’s collapse and that the blueprints were stolen from his laboratory. He says the machine would be capable of 2,600 mph with a radius of 4,000 miles, Schriever is a US Army driver at Bremerhaven.

This is a most credible story. Schriever claimed that the model built for testing was completed in 1944 with a view to flying it in 1945. Nevertheless, the Russian advance ended any hopes of a test-flight.

A 1975 Luftfahrt International report took these claims seriously and noted that after Schriever’s death in the late 1950s papers found amongst his belongings had included technical drawings of a flying saucer.

Schriever seemed to argue that although a saucer had existed it had not flown. This is contradicted by a possible eyewitness, George Klein.

He claimed after the war in an interview, given on November 18th 1954 to the Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger, that he had actually seen a flying saucer test on 14th February 1945 and that the craft had performed remarkably well reaching an altitude of 30,000ft in 3 minutes as well as a high speed of hundreds of miles and hour. Despite the fact that subsequent information leads us to conclude that a jet-powered flying disc was developed at the end of the war Klein spoke of a ray-guided disc. Despite this fanciful claim some of the things he said made more sense. For instance, he claimed that some of the work on the flying saucers had taken place at Pennemunde.


Pennemunde was of course the focal point for the development of the A4/V2 rocket. Interestingly, Klein also claimed that the necessary stability for the saucer had been attained through the use of a gyroscope. This is exactly the method used in the later German rockets developed by the Von Braun/Dornberger team. What is more, the entire rocket effort moved to the Mittlewerke underground facilities near Nordhausen in the Harz Mountains. It is claimed, by several other witnesses, that a flying saucer was tested in the vicinity of Kahla In Thuringia in early 1945.

The evidence presented above seems to have been taken seriously not only by mainstream magazines and national newspapers in the 1950s but also by the author of Brighter Than A Thousand Suns, Robert Jungk. This is an authoritative and historical account of the development of the Atomic Bomb written by a respected author. The book itself, still available and published by Harcourt and Brace, received critical acclaim from Bertrand Russell, amongst others. A section of text on page 87 of the paperback edition states:

The indifference of Hitler and those about him to research in natural sciences amounted to positive hostility.*

The accompanying footnote reads as follows:

*The only exception to the lack of interest shown by authority was constituted by he Air Ministry [Reichs Luftfahrt Ministirium or RLM, TM]. The Air Force research workers were in a peculiar position. They produced interesting new types such as the Delta [Lippisch and Horten, TM] ..and flying discs. The first of these flying saucers, as they were later called - circular in shape, with a diameter of some 45 yards - were built by the specialists Schriever, Habermohl and Miethe. They were first airborne on February 14th 1945, over Prague and reached in three minutes a height of nearly eight miles. They had a speed of 1250mph which was doubled in subsequent tests. It is believed that Habermohl fell into the hands of the Russians. Miethe developed at a later date similar flying saucers at A.V Roe and Company for the United States.

This use of the original Schriever story is interesting if only because the author felt that the information was good and warranted exposure. Given the nature of the book, we might well ask whether the author had any other information that supported the claims made as to the characteristics of the circular aircraft. It is up to the reader to decide whether these claims make any sense at all and more importantly, how this might affect our understanding of flying saucer history.

Until recently, it would have been rather safer and perhaps more sensible to argue that although various prototype saucers existed in whatever form they were never tested. Safety is often the best policy given the shark infested waters of modern-day UFO research. However, thanks to three years of painstaking research by UK astronomy, aviation and photographic expert Bill Rose which included on-site research in Germany, Canada and America we now know a great deal more. Initially Rose felt, like many skeptics, that the evidence for German flying saucer (and UFO) reality was very shaky.

Nevertheless, and without reference to the UFO community in his personal quest for the truth, he was able to use his expert technical knowledge to follow up leads and to make significant progress.

First of all he was able to discover that Dr. Walter Miethe, whom all sources agree was involved with Schriever, Klaus Habermohl and Giuseppe Belluzzo (an Italian engineer) had been the Director of the saucer program at two facilities located outside Prague. In May 1945, after testing of the prototype had taken place, both Miethe and Schriever were able to flee in the direction of Allied forces. Habermohl was captured by Soviet forces and spirited East where he ended up working on various aviation projects quite probably at facilities located outside Moscow.

It would seem that Klaus Habermohl was the man who developed the radial-flow jet engine, described in various articles as a system of adjustable nozzles, of great significance just ten years later. (Radial-flow allowed for VTOL performance and used the little-known Coanda effect.) Rose learned that not only had test flights taken place but that film footage of these had been taken. This had always been rumored and makes perfect sense given the nazi fetish for keeping records on everything. The footage, of good quality, has subsequently been stored in a secure location and shown only to a handful of people.


Rose was shown some stills taken from the original film and given his expert photo-technical background concluded, after careful consideration, that this was probably real and historical footage. He calculated that the craft was around half the size claimed in Klein’s report. The saucer, rather less contoured and sleek than postwar artists’ impressions might suggest (and unlike Bob Lazar’s S4 Sports Model!), was perhaps 75ft in diameter. The saucer was shown in flight above the runway over the heads of a couple of observers.

Although this is in itself of the greatest significance other more contradictory evidence has emerged. One of the people that Rose met had good information about the February test flight and was able to confirm that several people had seen the test-flight - as we might expect. It was said that Schriever himself had piloted the test craft. This does seems sensible (and logical) given Schriever’s background in the Luftwaffe - although it is at variance with his own account.


One can only speculate as to why this may be. It should be pointed out that the performance characteristics of this jet-powered aircraft have probably been exaggerated and although it might have been technically possible given further research and development to approach supersonic speeds, this was almost certainly not achieved in February 1945. Finally, it seems as if Klein himself was centrally involved in the saucer project and may indeed have had responsibilities for procurement.

We know a little more about Dr.Miethe. One of the important pieces of information came in the form of a rare group photograph showing various young German scientists in 1933. The photograph shows Werner von Braun and Walter Miethe. It would seem that these two knew each other well. During the War various lists of wanted German scientists were drawn up. One of these was the Black List used by Counter Intelligence Corps and Combined Allied Field Teams (CAFT) as they moved through Germany from 1944 in order to help them get hold of the important scientific personnel.

Dr.von Braun was certainly at the top of the list and if Miethe and he were old friends and had cooperated on early rocket projects, there is little doubt that Miethe would have been a target too. Nevertheless, his work near Prague put him out of reach and only through Miethe’s own efforts did the allied teams get their hands on him.

The immediate postwar is critical to an understanding of both the myth and reality of flying saucers or UFOs. One thing is for sure: hundreds of nazi scientists as well as intelligence personnel, many of whom had been involved in the abuse of thousands of slave labourers, were transported via Operation Paperclip (so named after the original designation Overcast was compromised). Many of these technical personnel were sent initially to Fort Bliss in Texas. From here they were farmed out, according to their ability and expertise, to the many advanced scientific facilities dotted throughout the USA and Canada.

Interestingly, Chance-Vought, builder of both the V173 and XF5U1 prototypes, moved its’ base of operations to Texas in early 1947. The company seems to have been less than candid at this early stage about the true nature and extent of its’ involvement in flying saucers. The official story of the demise of the XF5U1 - that there was no interest in developing a propeller driven aircraft from 1948 after the advent of jets - is now in question. It would seem that a jet-powered version using Allison J33 engines was actually test-flown at Muroc Field in 1947.


The history books tell us that the propeller-driven version was to be tested here before the program was cancelled. Nevertheless, our understanding of the situation is that technical drawings of the jet-powered version have now surfaced through a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests. Given the overall design of this craft and the many sightings of flying saucers in New Mexico and the Western seaboard in the late 1940s it is safe to concluded that the sightings related to a saucer of terrestrial origin with limited performance characteristics.

The best of these are arguably the sightings over Muroc Field reported by serving military personnel on 8th July 1947 and the subject of subsequent internal investigation which revealed that the object seen was disc-shaped moving at around 300 miles per hour.

The military witnesses Gerald Neuman and Joseph Ruvolo stated that in their opinion this was a man-made aircraft travelling at only 300 miles per hour and this view was supported by a civilian witness named Lenz.

Similar objects were seen - many of them in and around the White Sands Proving Ground where we know for sure that many of the Paperclip scientists were working. It is probable that at this stage people were seeing a US-built circular-wing aircraft and only gradually, in the late 1940s/early 1950s, were German advances incorporated into the overall saucer program. After all, military historians agree that a huge amount of material was recovered from facilities in Germany and it took a great deal of time and effort to collate this.


We know both from Gerald K Haines report and from the recently declassified (1995) Air Technical Intelligence Centre report on Project Silver Bug that prototype saucers were actually test-flown (obviously before 1955) in order to determine their usefulness in terms of future dispersed base operations designed to reduce vulnerability to Russian air attack. Hence the possible use of VTOL aircraft from camouflaged facilities.

I also suggest that the sightings reported by military personnel during the 1952 ’Operation Mainbrace’ may have related to a similar flying saucer prototype. It seems to me that such a major exercise would offer an excellent opportunity for testing and evaluation.

Given that we now believe that Klaus Habermohl designed the first radial-flow engine, a revolutionary development by any standards (even today) in 1943, it is likely that within a few years progress had been made although the advanced nature of the engine made only for slow progress. The incorporation of a radial-flow engine using the Coanda Effect in combination with a circular wing made this a weapon worth keeping secret.

The jet-powered circular wing and the Silver Bug craft were two out of three variations upon a theme. There were two Silver Bug prototypes, Projects Y and Y2, the first using a standard axial flow engine, the second the more advanced type. Project Y was also designated P724 (P being the AV Roe Company project number) and was in fact a hybrid saucer/AVRO Arrow (the Arrow was an advanced supersonic aircraft cancelled in the early 1960s supposedly after the US pressurized on the Canadian government).

The existence of projects beyond the limited Avrocar adds further weight to the suggestion that Avrocar was little more than a cover for much more advanced aircraft. Let us be quite clear on this point: Both Projects Y and Y2 were separate and distinct from the Avrocar and in fact the evidence further suggests that the craft test-flown near Prague in February 1945 was actually more advanced! It is interesting to note that proponents of the extra-terrestrial hypothesis tend to use the failed Avrocar program as evidence that flying saucers must be of ET origin. We must now dismiss such misleading conclusions.

On a separate note and in view of the suggestion that underground facilities have been built in the postwar period it now seems that in certain cases these were used to house small numbers of flying saucer-type aircraft. This is not to say that they were located in the wilds of Canada but more likely within the White Sands Proving Ground and later on or near the Groom Lake facilities in the Nevada Desert. Whilst the man-made reality of flying discs has been hijacked by Bob Lazar, John Lear and a generation of US Ufologists, it seems as if the remote nature of Groom dry Lake bed was considered both with flying saucers and the U2 spyplane in mind.

There is no doubt that all kinds of weird and wonderful aircraft are tested from Groom Lake but in terms of flying saucers it seems as if they may have arrived in 1959/60. The facilities there, although home to secret CIA and possibly National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) aircraft have primarily been operated as US Air Force Flight Test Centre Detachment 3 (AFFTC Det 3). AFFTC is headquartered at Edwards Air Force Base, formerly Muroc Field. It is vital for the reader to understand that Silver Bug, Project Y and in fact all the saucer programs we now know about had very strong links with the US Air Force.

In fact, Dr.Miethe worked primarily for the USAF even though he was sub-contracted to AVRO - possibly as a cover for the real efforts underway in the USA whereby the design work was undertaken in Canada and the majority of test flights within US borders. Having said that there was a mention of Canadian saucers made in several newspaper articles and books in the early 1950s. Even Donald Keyhoe notes a conversation with an informed source on this subject in his populist Flying Saucers From Outer Space (1953).

More interesting was an article featured in Look magazine dated June 14th 1955 (Volume 19) which featured a design study for a flying saucer produced by Thomas Turner, a British aeronautical engineer with Republic Aviation Corporation. It would seem that Turner might have had some knowledge of Silver Bug if only because his proposal for a flying saucer was almost exactly the same as the ATIC aircraft. In addition Turner’s proposal includes use of the Coanda effect and the placing of a pilot in a prone position in order to allow for high acceleration and quick turns.

Both these would seem to come from an understanding of German projects the skeptics deny existed. Other notable features of the article include the use of language, for instance the following which reminds us of the introduction to the Project Silver Bug report:

Future airports built for vertically rising flying saucers would have no need of the long, vulnerable runway’s today’s fighters require. The complete operation could go underground. Tunnels with take-off shafts set into the ground, complete with maintenance bays, fuel and crew quarters, would be bomb-proofed shelters for a saucer squadron. The shafts would be sealed after take-off for camouflage and protection.

This sounds rather like the need for dispersed base operations discussed in the Silver Bug document. I further suggest that we now have a possible primary source for Renate Vesco’s insistence that flying saucer bases were situated in the wilds of Canada in a ’remote area of British Columbia’. A picture of such a saucer base is shown in the article and reproduced in this report. The quality is not that good: The article quoted Brigadier General Benjamin Kelsey (Deputy Director, Air Force Research and Development) who commented that a major problem was the existence of longer runways for the modern fighter and how these were vulnerable and might be destroyed through a single crippling enemy strike.


Hence the need for VTOL operations. The article included above is of the utmost importance: in the mid-1950s at the same time that both the US Air Force and CIA were attempting to play down the significance of flying saucer and UFO reports there is substantial evidence to suggest that design teams were building and testing flying saucer prototypes.

Although it has proved difficult to find out about the reality or otherwise of a separate saucer-testing facility situated at Papoose Lake within Area 51 Bill Rose has been given information that this was the HQ for much saucer prototype testing and that several accidents and crashes resulted from use of early radial-flow engines.

More recently the unusual story of archeologist and historian Jerry Freeman emerged in a series if article published in the well-known Las Vegas Sun newspaper. Simply stated, Freeman wanted to find evidence of a 19th Century pioneer wagon train known as the lost ’49ers. Unfortunately for him, and for history, their remains lay within the boundaries of Area 51! Undeterred, Freeman decided to go on an expedition into the twilight zone and after several days reached Papoose Dry Lake.

He saw a security vehicle in the exact same place that the claimed S4 facilities were hidden and also thought that he saw come sort of door opening in the rock face. It is possible, that electrogravitic systems have been tested both at the Papoose and Groom Lake facilities.

It might be sensible, at this stage, to note the existence of several texts on the question of future propulsion systems for flying discs written in the 1950s. One of these, entitled Electrogravitics Systems mentions a research project called Project Winterhaven undertaken in 1952 in order to validate Thomas Townsend BrownsBiefeld-Brown effect. The report in question makes for fascinating reading and states that:

Using a number of assumptions as to the nature of gravity, the report postulated a saucer as the basis of a possible interceptor with Mach 3 capability. Creation of a local gravitational system would confer upon the fighter the sharp-edged changes of motion typical in space.

And that:

Glenn Martin say gravity control could be achieved in six years, but they add that it would entail a Manhattan District type effort to bring it about.

The reader will perhaps not be surprised to learn that once again this report was kept away from public view for some 35 years by Air Force Aeronautical Laboratories at Wright Patterson AFB! It was declassified and made available through the Technical Library in the early 1990s.

Whatever the final truth of the matter, we have done enough to establish that flying saucers grew from separate and distinct German-American projects begun in World War Two.

Relatively primitive German discs must have been developed partly because of the failure of the Luftwaffe to defend Axis airfields from allied bombing and the resulting need for VTOL operation. The V173 that became the XF5U1 and later a jet-powered flying pancake was born out of a US Navy requirement for an STOL aircraft.

So why the secrecy?

A number of simple answers emerge: firstly the radial-flow engine is still advanced today. It allows for supersonic flight and tremendous VTOL performance. A revolutionary propulsion technology, electrostatics, might threaten the economic status quo. A circular wing offers good stealth capability and effective handling at low speeds. According to the Silver Bug documentation, radial-flow allows for an aircraft to perform a range of staggering maneuvers including flying edge-on - a characteristic noted in numerous flying saucer/UFO sightings.

It would seem that even if the most straightforward flying saucer stories are to be believed then these aircraft have been used primarily as high-performance reconnaissance vehicles.

The psychological effects of seeing a flying saucer could only be heightened if it was unknown to the observer - an aircraft that did not appear in anything more than pulp fiction tracts about terrifying close encounters with aliens and which was regarded pretty much as a product of science fiction not science fact. Never forget the CIA memorandum circulated in 1952 by Director Walter B.Smith which noted the possible use of flying saucers for the purposes of psychological warfare.

There is also the whole, and unresolved, political question of the mass transportation of nazi scientists and their families, some with dubious wartime records, to the USA under the secret Paperclip program. Although the existence of Paperclip was known in the early postwar period the actual shocking details of the deals between victor and vanquished led to great concern particularly by those who survived the horrors of concentration camps and/or forced labour under German occupation. Although Paperclip may have resulted in technological achievements the moral position is certainly open to question.

It would seem that the Soviets may have had their saucers too and undoubtedly more is to emerge from the archives there. As a result the US would undoubtedly have been concerned to build the similar and competing aircraft that was Silver Bug. Once again, such Soviet work would have been based upon recovered German, not alien, technologies and there has been some suggestion that the Soviets did indeed develop flying saucers. Jan Aldrich’s Project 1947 has sought to collate information about early flying saucers sightings and media reports.

One of these reports may have originated via Project Wringer, a postwar effort tasked with interviewing military, industrial and other personnel of former Axis countries, Prisoners of War held in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc nations or displaced persons with intelligence or military information. Jan Aldrich found the following report whilst undertaking research at the US National Archives:

10. SOURCE: EP 134892, Rpt. No. 5418-47758

dated 19th January 1954. Date of Observation: May 1953.

Preamble: During his internment in PW camp #1 in STALINGRAD (48/42N 44/30E) SOURCE ????? some ???? of general interest and ??? allegedly observed a couple of flying saucers. SOURCE was always interned in the camp. He understood a little Russian.

Flying saucers: SOURCE emphasized that he had never seen or heard anything of flying saucers before he observed two of them on a dusty morning over Stalingrad in May 1953 when he was on guard within the camp. He observed them in a rather high altitude flying fast in one direction, one following the other. Thinking they had something to do with scientific research of Russia he forgot about his observation until he came back home in Oct.1953 and saw designs of flying saucers in West European magazines. He could not provide further details.

It is difficult to know what to make of such reports except to point out that they were taken seriously by operatives within the intelligence community. In fact, all the evidence we have - some of which is included in my forthcoming book entitled UFO Revelation - is that in the early 1950s there was a reorientation of thinking relating to flying saucer sightings whereby the CIA, particularly, chose to concentrate upon attacking the veracity of flying saucer reports by doubting the credibility of the witness. At the same time, the Agency knew, as Haines admits, that saucer prototypes were under construction.

Study of the many CIA documents made available through FOIA requests indicates that the CIA was misleading the public. The Agency often directed requests for information on flying saucer sightings to the Air Technical Intelligence Centre (ATIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Whilst both the Agency and ATIC were claiming that they were unable to determine the origin of flying saucers ATIC/WADC were working upon Silver Bug - and maybe more besides. In addition to this, Project Grudge had recently been downgraded (March 1952) and redesignated Blue Book and this was headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base!!. In any case Blue Book investigators were unable to explain away some 701 of 12,918 sightings they investigated. Project Blue Book was downgraded through the 1950s to the stage where there was only a handful of personnel working on UFO sightings.

In fact, according to David Jacobs, the downgrading took place after September 1953 and went hand in hand with Air Force regulation 200-2 which stated that local Air Force base commanders could only discuss sightings if they had been solved and that any others should be classified. Jacobs also notes that February 1955 (Silver Bug was released from ATIC-WADC on the 15th February) was of significance because ATIC sought to explain away as many sightings as possible and to leave no unsolved cases.

Project Blue Book Special Report Number 14 , dated May 5th, 1955 and release in October determined that:

On the basis of this study we believe that no objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers have overflown the United States.

We now know that this was a lie:

CIA officials knew that the British and Canadians were already experimenting with flying saucers. Project Y was a Canadian-British-US developmental operation to produce a non-conventional flying-saucer-type aircraft, and Agency official feared that the Soviets were testing similar devices.

The downgrading and the debunking of UFO reports was deliberate and took place at exactly the same time that the US was working upon advanced flying saucers. Once this is understood and established the official attitudes towards flying saucer sightings make more sense. Secrecy, and perhaps even paranoia, appear to have gripped the intelligence community and the USAF. Even now, some forty five years after Silver Bug was test-flown former project workers remain tight-lipped. We can only conclude that silence in this case indicates particularly advanced technologies and the need to keep a lid on the details relating to them.

One could easily make a case that the development and debunking of flying saucers was undertaken at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and it is to be hoped that this document will encourage people with information about US saucer projects to come forward. It is up to UFO researchers to reorient their thinking, to come to terms with man-made flying saucer reality and the ongoing cover-up relating to it.

The case for man-made UFOs is stronger than ever whereas the evidence for alien flying saucers is wholly untenable. We have introduced here a new line of research and a new perspective on UFO reality. Beyond the fantastic claims and mystification of UFOs by too many UFO researchers the painful truth is that flying saucers were, and are, a tremendous human technical achievement. The truth is that serious research exists only beyond the unfortunate skeptic-believer dialectic.

Surely it is to the military-industrial complex and not the heavens above that we should look for the origins of the flying saucer.

The Ho IX V-2 taxiing for take off                                                     The Ho IX V-2 in flight, February 1945


More On Flying Wings And Saucer-Shaped Craft
Known Disc-Shaped, Triangular, Flying-Wing Aircraft
by Charles McGrew
c.1992 by Charles McGrew

We all know about B-2's and F-117's, and could see how they might be described as "disk-shaped" if viewed from the appropriate angle. Here's some other information about some similar aircraft from the past. They are presented here merely to show that disk-shaped flying craft are not only possible, but have been built.

XB-35 - In response to the possibility of Britain falling in the early stages of WWII, the US Army Air Force began taking designs for extremely long-ranged, heavy-bomb-load aircraft that could fly from North America to Germany and back, carrying 10,000 pounds of bombs. Northrop proposed the XB-35. The XB-35 had 4 engines, each driving two counter-rotating pusher propellers along the same shaft (!). Pictures of the XB-35 look like each shaft has a six-bladed propeller, but its actually two three-bladed propellers -- for a total of 8 propellers.

Jack Northrop had been experimenting with flying-wing designs since the early 1920's. In Germany, the Horton brothers (see below) were working on a flying wing as well -- the final designs look surprisingly like the XB-35 (though it had only two propellers).

Northrop's first prototype was the N-1M (nicknamed "the Jeep"), which was tested in the Roseman Dry Lake in the Mohave Desert from July 1940-early 1942. It had two pusher propellers, and space for one pilot. Wingspan was 38 feet, and the plane weighed 4,000 pounds. First "public" flight made the newsreels. The wings were altered significantly as testing went on; for instance the "drooping wingtips" were discarded early on. The (only) N-1M stills exists, and has been restored, it is now sitting in a Smithsonian storage hangar, painted its original brilliant yellow.

Northrop was contracted by the US Army Air Force Materiel Division to build one XB-35 (wingspan 172'). The N-9M was the first product from the contract, a 1/3 scale (working, though wood-structured, not metal) model with two engines with a 60' wingspan as a test-bed/trainer. It first flew successfully on Dec. 27, 1942. Three other N-9M's were built, and the N-9M test program was completed in Oct. 1944. [The last surviving N-9M is being painstakingly rebuilt by the "Planes of Fame" Museum, in Chino, CA] One of the N-9M's crashed during testing.

On June 25th 1946, the XB-35 was at last ready to fly (after a number of difficulties with the propellers) at Hawthorne Field, CA -- the Northrop company field. The '35 was now in competition with what became the Consolidated B-36 as the postwar strategic bomber (interestingly, both planes were pushers.) Its first flight was from Hawthorne to Muroc Dry Lake (later named Edwards AFB) for additional testing.

Attempts to make the propeller system less complex were generally unsuccessful. Northrop decided to replace the props with 8 jet engines, and continue work on the plane, renamed the YB-49. Only 2 XB-35's were ever completed, the second one first flying on June 26, 1947. The Martin Corporation worked on the YB-35 (same basic plane, just built at Martin), and the only YB-35 first flew on May 15, 1948.

YB-49 - The power problems of the XB-35 completely disappeared with the jet engines, but unfortunately they reduced the range of the plane such that it could not be thought of as a strategic bomber (mid-air refueling not then being feasible).

The second YB-49 produced was the first to fly, flown by Maj. Robert Cardinas, the US Army Air Force test pilot assigned to the Northrop program (i.e. Northrop retained control, but had military test pilots mixed in with their own.) On April 26th 1948, the YB-49 flew 4,000 miles with a 10,000 pound payload, on circuitous route that took it as far east as Phoenix, and as far north as San Francisco.

In June, 1948 a YB-49 on a routine test flight crashed (Capt. Glen Edwards, for whom Edwards AFB is named, died in this crash, along with four others); specific cause of the crash was never determined; structural failure was the most likely reason.

The military had expressed an interest in a reconnaissance version (with two extra jets) of the YB-49, called the YRB-49, and placed an order for 30. In January 1949, though, this order was cancelled.

In Feb. 1949 the remaining YB-49 flew from (now) Edwards AFB to Andrews AFB in record time (just over 4 hours - the record was broken the next day by the XB-47, its medium-bomber competitor, which flew almost 100mph faster). The famous YB-49-over-the-Capitol photos are from this flight. President Truman toured the plane's interior on the ground, and then '49 headed back to Edwards. During the flight, 6 of the 8 engines failed due to an oil failure which has a slightly mysterious history (apparently the oil reservoir had not been filled properly before the flight -- there are hints of sabotage). The YB-49 made an emergency landing at Winslow AZ. Later on in 1949 the last flying YB-49 was destroyed during high-speed taxi tests, when the undercarriage collapsed.

In November 1949, the Air Force (the US Army Air Force became the US Air Force on July 26, 1947 -- it changed from the US Army Air Corps to the US Army Air Force on June 29, 1941) cancelled the last part of the YB-49 contract, that of converting the remaining partially-completed XB-35's to jet power. The last 11 XB-35 hulls (in varying states of completeness) were rolled out onto the flight ramp outside of the factory, lined up, photographed (a very impressive aerial photograph of them lined up survives) and broken up for scrap. Northrop employees made a last-ditch request to finish the planes in their spare time, which Jack Northrop had to turn down, for fear of jeopardizing further military contracts.


(Political shenanigans for government contracts were just as silly back then as they are now, and Northrop was concerned that Stuart Symington, secretary of the Air Force, would look unkindly on Northrop in general if the planes were not destroyed -- Symington was very specific that the YB-49 program not continue. Northrop partisans say that Symington wanted to force Northrop to merge with Convair, for reasons of his own, and was hoping to damage Northrop enough to force the merger. Others say that the expected costs of the YB-49 were sufficiently higher that the XB-57 to warrant the choice of the latter.)

(Other WWII-flying-wing ideas from Jack Northrop included the turbojet-powered XP-79 "Flying Ram", a rocket-powered interceptor that was designed to literally slice the tail off of enemy aircraft with its heavily-reinforced wing to knock them down. The XP-79 actually flew (once -- it crashed), along with at least one similar prototype, the (rocket powered) MX-324, which first flew (powered) on July 5, 1944. Another was the JB-1, an unmanned rocket-assisted, turbojet-propelled missile, and the XP-56, another pusher-flying-wing; this time a fighter, with two counter-rotating propellers along the same shaft, which also made several test flights, in 1943 and 1944 one of the two XP-56's crashed in a landing, the other wound up at the National Air and Space Museum.)

Jack Northrop resigned from the company he had built after the YB-49 was cancelled, and left the aircraft industry entirely. In the mid-1970's, NASA sent him a letter that they were re-examining the flying wing idea (also, the YB-49's small radar signature was being taken more seriously by then.) In April 1980, he (suffering now from Parkinson's disease) was given a security clearance, taken to Northrop, and shown a model of the B-2. Makes a nice ending to the story, eh? The B-2 has exactly the same wingspan as the YB-49 (172').

(An interesting sidelight: in the late 1940's Northrop had also made a slick promotional-film campaign to drum up support for the flying wing; this included a film describing a proposed 80 passenger flying-wing commercial jet.)

Also, here are some other (lesser-known) planes that appear "disk-shaped" when viewed from one angle or another. (Note that both these aircraft did *not* become operational, for technical reasons.)

The Horten Brothers' Wings - in the 1930's and 1940's in Germany, the Horten Brothers, Walter and Reimar, built a succession of flying wing designs which were quite advanced, and on the cutting edge for their day. Their "Ho" series is as follows:

  • Ho I - 1931 - a flying-wing sailplane.

  • Ho II - 1934 - initially a glider, it fitted with a pusher propeller in 1935. Looked very like Northrop's flying wings.

  • Ho III - 1938 - a metal-frame glider, later fitted with a folding-blade (folded while gliding) propeller for powered flight.

  • Ho IV - 1941 - a high-aspect-ratio glider (looking very like a modern sailplane, but without a long tail or nose).

  • Ho V - 1937-42 - first Horten plane designed to be powered, built partially from plastics, and powered by two pusher propellers.

  • Ho VI "flying parabola" - an extremely-high-aspect-ratio test- only glider. (After the war, the Ho VI was shipped to Northrop for analysis.)

  • Ho VII - 1945 - considered the most flyable of the powered Ho series by the Horten Brothers, it was built as a flying-wing trainer. (Only one was built and tested, and 18 more were ordered, but the war ended before more than one additional Ho VII could be even partially completed.

  • Ho VIII - 1945 - a 158-food wingspan, 6-engine plane built as a transport. Never built. However, this design was "reborn" in the 1950's when Reimar Horten built a flying-wing plane for Argentina's Institute Aerotecnico, which flew on December 9, 1960 -- the project was shelved thereafter due to technical problems.

  • Ho IX - 1944 - the first combat-intended Horten design, it was jet powered (Junkers Jumo 004B's), with metal frame and plywood exterior (due to wartime shortages). First flew in January 1945, but never in combat. When the Allies overran the factory, the almost-completed Ho IX V3 (third in the series - this plane was also known as the "Gotha Go 229") was shipped back to the Air and Space Museum.

[Interestingly, the Horten brothers were helped in their bid for German government support when Northrop patents for the N-1M appeared in US Patent Office's "Official Gazette" on May 13, 1941, and then in the International Aeronautical journal "Interavia" on November 18, 1941.]

Of course, one other "Flying-Wing-type" plane existed in the German Luftwaffe - Alexander Lippisch's-inspired Me-163 rocket-powered interceptor, and its intended successor, the Messerschmitt P.1111, a turbojet-powered fighter. At the end of the war, Lippisch was engaged in supersonic-fighter research, models of his "P12" were shipped back to the US for analysis.

  • The "Zimmer Skimmer" (aka "The Flying Pancake") - in an attempt to develop a high-speed interceptor (fast enough to overtake diving enemy planes) to deal with Japanese kamikaze attacks, the Navy asked for bids for such an aircraft in early 1944. (The Chance-Vought F4U Corsair - and the Grummann F4F and F6F - eventually filled this bill more or less, but were hard to land on carriers, for weight and pilot-visibility reasons). Minimum speed desired was 450mph, then-available planes would do only about 400mph.

    Charles Zimmerman, a research engineer for NACA, had come up with a disk-shaped, two-propeller aircraft idea before the war, which promised to be fast, and have short-take-off-and-landing ability (which included the ability to hover), which would be useful on aircraft carriers. (Imagine an oblong disk, with a canopy on top near the front, twin rudders and two small aerolons in the rear, and twin booms extending forward from the left and right sides of the disk with a huge counter-rotating propeller on each. The undercarriage was a spindly-looking tricycle arrangement that had the "Skimmer" taxying at about a 40 degree angle. The fuselage was the "wing", but was much thinner and wider than later "lifting body" experiments. Hovering was accomplished by going nose-vertical and, well, just hanging there - such was the power of the propellers. Wingspan approximately 30-40 feet [by my eye].)

  • The V173 (the first prototype version) was built by Chance-Vought. Boon T. Guiten was its first test pilot. Its first flight (November 23, 1942) lasted only 13 minutes, but was entirely successful, and testing continued. One of the later-on test pilots was Charles Lindberg, who was an enthusiastic supporter. In July 1944, the Navy ordered two more "Skimmers" built for further testing, each equipped with significantly more powerful engines (1350hp Pratt and Whitneys -- the V173 was judged underpowered, since its top speed was not up-to-spec). The two new planes were built from "metalite", a composite material made from sandwiching layers of aluminum and balsa wood. These planes were designated F5U's.

  • The F5U's were actually overpowered, and had a clutched gearing system to vary propeller speed in flight. In addition, a geared propeller-synchronizer was also installed. The first F5U was ready for flight in August, 1945 (but was delayed by a lengthy redesign of the propellers). By 1948, an F5U was finally ready to fly, but technology had passed the plane by (jets were already doing 600mph). The F5U taxi'd up and down the runway a couple of times, but never flew. Total pricetag on the project was about $9M. Both 5FUs were scrapped. (The F5U's were intended to be sent to Edwards AFB for testing -- shipped via the Panama Canal; apparently the skimmer's unusual shape would have made ground transport difficult.) [In the mid-1930's the Arup S1, S2, S3 and S4 - looking very like what became the Zimmer Skimmer, but with a single centerline "puller" propeller - were flown as flying billboards and test aircraft.]

  • The Avro (Canada) "Avrocar" was an outright flying saucer. It used three Continental turbojets, turning a central impeller ("turbo rotor") to keep it airborne with downward thrust, with a vane/shutter system to propel the craft in pretty much any direction by venting thrust in any direction desired. It was built to hold two human crewmen in separate cockpits on either side, facing front - total width of the Avrocar was 18 feet, with tricycle landing pads or wheels for undercarriage. It was first proposed in the early 1950's by the Avro company to the Canadian government.

    The maximum expected airspeed was originally about 700mph. As Avro worked on the design, expected airspeed dropped to 300mph. By the mid-50's, a very-secret project (unknown to even most Avro employees) was in full swing to build the Avrocar. The blades of the Avrocar turbo-rotor were hollow with internal re-enforcing, and brazed to cement the parts. The first turbo-rotor was tested for 150 hours without mishap.

By 1955, the costs of the project had escalated beyond the resources of the Canadian government. The project after that was underwritten by the US DoD (the USAF and Army were both interested.) The Avrocar first flew with a pilot on Dec. 5, 1959 (prior to that, it was tested unmanned). Two were built - one Avrocar was tested out at the Ames research center in California, the other remained with Avro for testing. Although the aircraft did fly, its ability to rise and top speed was extremely disappointing, mostly due to thrust dissipation in the impeller. The Avrocar was able to clear (small) obstacles without difficulty, but maximum altitude was never more than about 6 feet! The project was quietly closed down.

Both Avrocars are still intact, and survive in US museums (not sure which, though).

... curiously, the Avrocar's technology was within a hair's breadth of being successful. Using almost exactly the same propulsion setup, the British developed hovercraft (the first being the British SRN-1) in the early 1960's -- basically an Avrocar propulsion system with a rubber skirt, which greatly improved the use of downward thrust.

... in recent years, a one-person "homebrew" version of an Avrocar has appeared (alas, I cannot remember the fellow who built it's name, but he has built a lot of neat flying vehicles, and I've seen film of the avrocar-like vehicle flying).

Edmund Doak also was contracted by the USAF to develop disk-shaped airfoil aircraft in the 1950's and 1960's. His last and most promising, the Doak-16, was canceled by the USAF.

[Sources: Documentary "The Wing Will Fly", a 'Wings' documentary on "Strange Planes", and "Winged Wonders", by E.T. Wooldridge, published by the National Air and Space Museum, 1983, "In Search Of" episode "UFO Coverups".]