Original link is at: http://www.ufx.org/stealth/lockiur.htm
The Lockheed UFO Case
Nr. Agoura, California
December 16, 1953

(Report of incident is in a separate  FILE )

Lockheed: Star Company
Those who have relived the Cuban Missile Crisis through films like Thirteen Days and books like Dino Brugioni's Eyeball to Eyeball, or who have experienced the tension of the shoot down of a US spy plane over the USSR in Michael Beschloss's Mayday, are familiar with the vital role that the Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored U-2 played during the Cold War. The remarkable, high-flying covert strategic reconnaissance aircraft provided the means by which US intelligence analysts were finally able to pinpoint and quantify the Soviet strategic threat to the West. By dispelling an early myth of Soviet nuclear superiority known as the Bomber Gap, it helped reduce pressures to escalate the arms race, and to this day it continues to span the globe on vital intelligence-gathering missions, treaty verification over flights, and environmental sensing tasks.

The U-2 has a unique place in UFO history as well. It was first test flown at Groom Lake, a secret airbase deep inside the Atomic Energy Commission's Nevada nuclear test range. Groom Lake, or "Area 51," has become inextricably intertwined with fantastic rumors of "captured UFOs," "reverse-engineered alien technology" and endless other exotic ideas. While maintaining silence on such matters, the CIA has officially stated that the U-2 and its successor, the 2,400 mph A-12 OXCART, were themselves responsible for UFO reports in the 1950s and 60s. Given its stellar aerospace achievements, it's fitting that Lockheed's company logo has always been a winged star, and its aircraft and missiles were traditionally named after stars or celestial phenomena: Orion, Vega, Polaris, Constellation, Starfire, Starfighter.

It's somehow fitting, too, that in December 1953, at the very moment of the U-2's birth, a group of Lockheed's top engineers and pilots made what is potentially one of the more scientifically significant UFO sightings ever recorded. As intriguing as the UFO incident is, it has languished in the Project Blue Book files for nearly half a century, stamped "Identified," buried, and nearly forgotten. Recent study of the Blue Book case file yielded the names of seven eyewitnesses - a crew of Lockheed flight test engineers in the air, and Lockheed's Chief Engineer and his wife on the ground. The Chief Engineer was Clarence L ("Kelly") Johnson - the creator of the U-2. [1]

Kelly Johnson
Johnson was undisputedly one of the greatest aeronautical engineers of all time. In his 42-year career with Lockheed he participated in or oversaw the development of many of the company's most famous airplanes. Born into the large family of a poor immigrant laborer in Michigan, Johnson was a study in contrasts: scrappy and hardworking, studious and awed by airplanes, he built houses to help support his family while still excelling in school. Determined to become an engineer, Johnson was fortunate to be accepted by the outstanding aeronautical engineering department at the University of Michigan, where he eventually became the assistant of Professor Edward Stalker, an expert in aerodynamics.

Johnson with early Electra wind tunnel model at University of Michigan

Johnson joined Lockheed in 1933 as an aerodynamicist and assistant to chief engineer Hall Hibbard. By 1938 Hibbard and his young partner had developed the P-38 Lightning fighter, the world's first 400 MPH combat aircraft.

Johnson and Amelia Earhart discuss her Model 10E Electra.

YP-38 prototype, 1941
And by the time the P-38 was entering service, the two designers were looking far into the future, having launched a secret study of a highly sophisticated, radical-looking 625 mph fighter powered by a completely new form of engine called the turbojet, as developed the company's own visionary propulsion expert, Nathan Price.

Hall Hibbard (left) and Nathan Price with Price's XJ-37 turbojet engine. Price had been hired to redesign the turbosuperchargers of the P-38 and brought his jet engine concepts to Lockheed in 1938. Hibbard and Johnson began incorporating them into a radical jet fighter project, the Model L-133, in 1940.
The 625 mph L-133 was a quantum jump beyond the already advanced P-38. Bursting with highly innovative features (canard surfaces to combat control problems near the speed of sound, thin wings for maximum critical Mach number, laminar flow control using boundary layer suction for drag reduction, turbine intercooling using surface radiators, and reaction thrusters for roll control), it was simply too much for the Army Air Force to absorb at the time.

The conservative Army Air Force was not ready for near-sonic speed jet fighters in 1941, but three years later, confronted with Nazi Germany's advanced aircraft, it turned to Hibbard and Johnson with an urgent request to build a no-frills operational jet fighter around a less technically advanced, but more developed, British jet engine. Under the most stringent security measures, Johnson undertook one of the first "black" airplane projects, hand-picking a cadre of his best engineers and setting up a special division of the Burbank, California-based company, soon dubbed the "Skunk Works," to design and build the new fighter, the XP-80 Shooting Star, within a matter of months. The airplane was a huge success, and Johnson and his Skunk Works engineers were on their way to becoming legends.

Kelly Johnson was pugnacious, stubborn, serious and combative. Yet he had an almost artistic flair for matters aeronautical. One of his bosses remarked that Johnson could "see air." His successor, Ben Rich, commented on Johnson's more earthy side this way:

All of us had seen him rushing around in his untucked shirt, a paunchy, middle-aged guy with a comical duck's waddle, slicked-down hair, and a belligerent jaw. He had a thick, round nose and reminded me a lot of W. C. Fields, but without the humor. Definitely without that. Johnson was all business and had the reputation of an ogre who ate young, tender engineers for between-meal snacks. We peons viewed him with the knee-knocking dread and awe of the almighty best described in the Old Testament.
By the end of his eventful career, Johnson had won every major aeronautical award, some more than once, and had received special citations and medals from scientific organizations, the CIA, and President Ronald Reagan.

Lockheed and UFOs
Partly because of their ubiquity and partly because of their superior performance, Lockheed aircraft have played roles in many of the pivotal cases in UFO history. Its fighters chased radar UFOs over Washington, DC in the summer of 1952, and other Lockheed military planes were involved (or implicated) in significant events like the Great Falls UFO film case in 1950, the Ft Monmouth UFO chase of September 1951, the fatal Walesville incident of 1954, and a host of other UFO intercept events. Capt Edward Ruppelt reports in his memoirs of Project Blue Book that in 1952, an Air Defense Command Colonel, harassed by continuing UFO sightings near his New Mexico base, proposed converting several of Lockheed's latest F-94C fighters into actual dedicated "UFO interceptors." Equipped with a battery of nose-mounted cameras and standing 24-hour alert in an operation called "Project POUNCE," the fighters would be used in an attempt to obtain clear, closeup photos of a saucer in flight.

Lockheed F-94C Starfire - the first USAF radar-equipped bomber interceptor with air-to-air rocket armament and near-sonic performance. Entering service in 1952 in limited numbers, the F-94C was the USAF's top interceptor at the time of the Lockheed UFO incident.
Hughes Aircraft built the radar system used in the F-94C. This Hughes-operated Starfire testbed shows a triple camera pod installation (arrows) mounted in the fighter's nose rocket compartment. This probably resembles the intended camera package of the Project POUNCE UFO interceptors proposed by Col Methaney at Kirtland AFB in 1952.

Lockheed's official public pronouncements on UFOs had been negative. For example, on July 7, 1947, Hall Hibbard had made disparaging remarks to Los Angeles Times reporters who inquired about the saucers being reported nationwide:

They're either reflections from planes flying singly or in formation, or mass hysteria and the desire of various persons to get their names in the paper. I know of no secret aviation projects which would have the slightest bearing on these so-called 'phenomena.’
Nevertheless, the company harbored at least two prominent engineers who were interested in UFOs - as well as two notorious UFO "contactees."

Beginning in January 1952, former Lockheed aircraft mechanic George Van Tassel experienced a series of mental communications with a retinue of extraterrestrials who, he said, were based in a spacecraft hovering 80,000 feet over Giant Rock, a remote desert airfield near Yucca Valley, California. Van Tassel produced a book later that year, and by early 1954 he was hosting public ET "channeling sessions" which evolved into the famous annual Giant Rock saucer conventions. In August 1953, one of the extraterrestrials finally landed and gave Van Tassel a tour of his saucer.

George Van Tassel, 1930s
Orfeo Angelucci, a laborer who built fiberglass nose radar domes for the F-94, was another Lockheed employee who claimed contact with UFO occupants. One evening during May 1953, as he told it later, Angelucci was driving home from Burbank when he experienced an encounter with a red, oval object. The UFO deployed a screen-like construct that displayed ../images of majestic humanoid beings. A few weeks later he entered a landed UFO which took him a thousand miles into space, where he was shown a thousand-foot "mothership" and given a tutorial on the intentions of the aliens by a disembodied voice. In September, Angelucci went on a week-long "psychic journey" to the home world of the humanoid beings. The alien leader's name was Orion, and he told Angelucci that his own true name was Neptune - both being names, oddly, of Lockheed airplanes. Angelucci's religiously-tinged story was so distinctive that legendary psychologist Carl Jung devoted considerable attention to it in his 1959 book "Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth Of Things Seen In The Skies."

Around the time Van Tassel and Angelucci were reporting their tales of encounters with astronauts from other worlds, Lockheed propulsion expert Nathan Price began to devote a considerable amount of effort to the creation of two fascinating concepts for disc-shaped aircraft of extreme performance. Price's place in the history of turbojet engine development in the US is seldom highlighted, but given that he was working on an extremely sophisticated jet powerplant as early as 1938, his visionary disc aircraft designs are noteworthy.

Filed in early 1953 (and not granted until a decade later), the patents depict a 50-foot diameter, 55,000 pound lens-shaped flying wing which incorporated a huge central turbo-ramjet of unique design. Much like today's Lockheed Martin X-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the 1952-3 Lockheed saucer was to be able to take off vertically by vectoring its central engine's thrust downward. Once airborne, the engine's nozzles would rotate to an aft-facing position and the saucer would accelerate in a shallow climb to 50,000 feet, where it would reach supersonic speeds, its engine gradually transitioning from turbojet to ramjet mode. When it leveled off at 100,000 feet, the vehicle would be cruising at four times the speed of sound - approximately 2,700 mph.

As advanced as these ideas were, anticipating in some respects the engine systems of the famous "Blackbirds" that flew ten years later, perhaps the most striking aspect of Price's saucer is that it was intended to use propane, butane or liquid hydrogen fuels, and the patents cover some of the sophisticated engineering details and special tank technologies that cryogenic fuels require. Standard histories of Lockheed's work on hydrogen-powered aircraft indicate that the Skunk Works only attempted to actually build such components under the highly-classified Air Force-sponsored SUNTAN reconnaissance aircraft project circa 1956-7. Engine designer Price was thinking years ahead with his saucer, and given the amount of airframe detail that the patents show, it's tempting to speculate that the designs, like the L-133 of a decade before, were the result of more than his work alone.

While Kelly Johnson and other Lockheed engineers have long been rumored to have been interested in UFOs, the Blue Book sighting file, as will be seen, provides definitive proof.

Birth of the U-2
Johnson ended his career crowned with glory, but in late 1953, the forty-three year old engineer was in the thick of the fray, entering what would turn out to be the most productive decade of his career. Having succeeded Hibbard as Chief Engineer the previous year, Johnson was facing greater challenges than ever before and was managing several complex aircraft programs, not all of which were going smoothly. As the end of the year approached, he was anticipating the completion and rollout of his controversial new XF-104A Starfighter, the prototype of the world's first Mach 2 combat aircraft. Johnson's reputation within some Air Force circles had reached such a level that when he had proposed the fighter - unsolicited - to General Donald Putt's Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore the previous year, one of Putt's Colonels, Bruce Holloway, had promptly written a specification around the design and placed an order for prototypes. But not everyone in Air Force R&D was so enamored of Johnson or Lockheed. Political factors always influence development decisions and contract awards, and the Skunk Works was not necessarily always the contractor of choice at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

As the F-104 was being prepared to be shipped to Edwards AFB for its maiden flight, Johnson heard rumors of Air Force and CIA interest in developing a unique new type of covert strategic reconnaissance aircraft, highly specialized and intended to fly at heights that would insure that no enemy defenses would be capable of reaching it - or even detecting it at all, if possible.

The Wright Air Development Center engineers who were writing the specification for the new airplane had not approached Lockheed for a proposal for this requirement, planning instead to work with smaller, more easily managed airframe contractors. Based on the CIA's own history of the U-2's development, and on chronologies by experts Jay Miller and Chris Pocock, it seems likely that the unofficial source of the information about the reconnaissance requirement was Johnson's personal friend Philip Strong, a Reserve US Marine Corps Colonel who was Chief of the Operations Staff of CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence. In addition to his concerns over building a CIA role in technical intelligence gathering, Strong had a keen interest in UFOs, having been an organizer and attendee at the CIA's Robertson Panel meetings in January 1953. [2]

Johnson considered that the fast-climbing XF-104A's minimalistic airframe would be an ideal basis for addressing the new special strategic reconnaissance mission - if it were modified with giant, glider-like wings and lightened by elimination of such items as landing gear and ejection seat. The new airplane, given the Lockheed model number CL-282, began gestating in Johnson's mind at the very end of 1953. His journal for the project, "Log for Project X," has a first entry date of December 1953.


See: Building the Unknown: Design Studies for a Covert Reconnaissance Aircraft