Chapter 1 - Destination
Location: Air Force Plant 42, California's Antelope Valley, on the other side of the mountains north of Los Angeles County.
I do not know what I am doing here. All I know, is that I am at the site of site of Lockheed-Martin's "Skunk Works", the infamous facility responsible for many "black" aircraft such as the RB-69, the U-2, the A-12/SR-71, and the more recent F-177 and F-22. I look ahead as my M998 pulls up to the guard post, I cannot see anything, as the facility is on the other side of a small ridge, I pull up to the gate and I am asked by a Corporal to identify myself. "The name is Gunnery Sergeant Duke." The Corporal makes a quick phone call, the orders the gates to be opened, and shortly thereafter they are opened, and I drive through. I pass a few menacing signs warning of a restricted area, then I come over the ridge. I had heard reports of this facility, but the enormity of the base defied all descriptions. I saw what looked to be 3 12,000 foot, one of which had a massive C-5 readying for take- off upon it. I looked around at numerous buildings, which appeared to be hangers, and then one caught my eye. It was by far the largest hangar there. Painted in a desert camouflage scheme, my imagination began to run wild thinking of the creation housed in that structure. I pull up to a building, and I get out and look around. Still in awe, I didn't even notice the man approaching me. "Excuse me sir, Gunnery Sergeant Duke I presume," he asked. "Yes, that is correct. With whom am I speaking to," I quickly retort back. "First Lieutenant McCarran," he responds.
The Lieutenant leads me into a building that resembles a small office. He takes me to a room, the walls plastered with satellite and spy-plane images. I notice that the room has 4 large chairs, and a table in it. On the table is a manila file, filled with what appear to be blueprints of an unusual plane. I lean a little to try and see what they are, but before I can I am interrupted by the arrival of two men, obviously generals. The men introduce themselves as Gen. Gates, and Gen. Krulak. They explain to me the severity of the situation, and how imperative that I be the one to help. "You're the best Marine pilot. We have noted your experience in battle as well as training. You're the pilot that has the skills we need," explained Gen. Krulak. Now, upon hearing this I began to become a little uncomfortable. It was then that Gen. Gates began rummaging through the manila folder, and pulled out a paper. He handed it to the Lieutenant, who the proceeded to place it in front of me. I took one look at the paper "You've got to be kidding me!" I said.
Chapter 2 - The Objective
I was still startled at the schematics on the paper. The aircraft was none other than the old XB-70 Valkyrie, the super-sonic long range prototype bomber built in the late 50's. "I thought the Valkyrie project was cancelled after the loss of aircraft number two back in 66" I said surprised. Drake then went on to explain this new project. " Back In 1955 when the research began on the Valkyrie project, numerous breakthroughs were discovered. The planes were built in the late 50's as is told and declassified, but the true number was not 2, but 3. As you already know Aircraft number 2 met it's demise on 8 June 1966, after an F-104 was pulled into the wingtip by the Valkyrie's engines. Then aircraft number 1 was sent to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio. However, the third aircraft was sent here. And here it remained. In the past fifty years, many new technologies have been discovered, and the old bird has been outfitted with them." I was still in disbelief when Gen. Dake ordered the Lieutenant to take me to hangar "12". As we walked along the tarmac outside, I noticed we were heading for the same hangar, which had first caught my attention upon my arrival. We entered the hangar, and I saw first-hand what I was about to get myself into.
Chapter 3 - The Super Valkyrie
As I entered the hangar, the familiar outline of an XB-70 took shape. As I got closer to it though, I realized this Valkyrie was quite different than the one I had read about in the past. The plane looked like an XB-70, except this one was not white like the 2 in the past, this one was black, the same stealthy black as the B-1b, the B-2, and the F-117. I also noticed the small canard wings on the side of the nose where much larger. This Valkyrie was also more streamlined than the past ones, and it's wingtips folded upward, instead of the traditional horizontal position of the past. This was one very nice aircraft, but why was I there? I was used to flying AH-1w's and AV-8b's, but not this type of aircraft. A technician, who had been working on the aircraft, approached me. He began talking, and I must admit, he sounded a bit like a nerd that I would have picked on in high school. "The aircraft you see before you is the XB-70s Brilliant Buzzard. It is a hypersonic launch vehicle, using Pulse Detonation Wave Engines (PDWEs) as its Powerplant. As you know sir, these engines operate different principally then conventional ramjets, PDWEs don't continuously burn kerosene, but detonate fuel as it starts to leave the combustion chamber. This aircraft does not use conventional jet fuel; it instead uses cryogenic liquid methane, which also acts as a structural coolant. The Super-Valkyrie was built by Boeing in Seattle and then transported to Groom Lake for testing in total secrecy at the beginning of the 1990s. Using proven technology and modern developments, Boeing built this bird you see before you.
This is the most advanced and secretive warplane in the history of flight" he fished. I just stood there dumbfounded. An aircraft that uses PDWEs, the possibilities of this aircraft were starting to come clear to me. Just then, Gen. Dake spoke up, " What my large minded colleague is trying to say Sergeant, is that this bird is capable of hitting in target in the world, from anywhere, in a matter of hours". "Well sir, with al due respect, what the hell does this have to do with me?" I asked respectfully. "Son, you have the task of testing this bird, and seeing her limits. We want to know how she does, afterwards, we have another job for you." The Generals walked away. The technician then took me over to a draft table, which was cluttered with all sorts of graphs and Schematics. He began showing me the plans for weaponry on the plane, some of which I had never even heard of. Then, he began telling me of new technologies this plane was being used to test.
"The plane is covered with electro chromatic panels as part of innovations relevant to "daytime-stealth" capabilities. These electro chromatic panels are comprised of thousands of tiny sensors that function as video cameras that take images of background sceneries, transferring them to the other panels on the other side of the aircraft. This gives the illusion that the aircraft is almost transparent. What the ground observer sees is whatever background images behind (or above) the body of the aircraft that are transposed to the "observer's" side of the body of the aircraft.
Amazing, isn't it?" I didn't know what to say, the United States government was asking me to test a very high-tech aircraft, and there was no way I could turn them down. I agreed to test the aircraft.
Chapter 4 - The maiden flight
Location: Air Force Plant 42, runway 1b
I was sitting in the cockpit of the plane. It was riddled with electronics, many which were new to me. As I waited for clearance to take off, I noticed an unusual group of buttons. I guessed they were for the elector chromatic panels. Then, I got a signal over my headset, "Buzzard 1 this is tower, do you copy? Over." "Roger tower, this is Buzzard 1" "Buzzard one, this is tower, you are cleared to take off. Over." "Roger, copy that. Buzzard 1 out." This was it, I turned on the engines, and pushed the throttle. The engines game alive with a loud screech. I was barreling down the runway, then I was airborne. Soon after that, I began receiving the commands of what I was to perform. "First Buzzard 1, you are to climb to an altitude in excess of 180,000 feet. Then, push the aircraft as close to mach 10 as possible. Finally, test the MIRACL on a Dummy satellite, shown on your radar screen. When those objectives have been met, return to the base. Over."
Wow, those are some pretty demanding objectives, I hope this old bird can handle them. As I began my ascent, I was amazed at how well this thing flew. It accelerated quickly. Past mach 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, then finally 10. I checked my altitude, 181,920 feet. A beacon on my radar showed that the satellite was within range. I armed the MIRACL; a loud hum began to come from beneath me. When it was ready, I fired it. The satellite exploded. I radioed to the tower, "Tower this is Buzzard 1, do you copy? Over." "This is tower, go ahead Buzzard 1." "Tower, all Objectives met, I am returning home." "Acknowledged buzzard" "Buzzard 1 out."
Chapter 5 - The Aftermath
Location: Air Force Plant 42, Hangar 13
After I landed, I went into de-briefing. It was explained to me in detail how the new technologies worked. I just felt relieved to be back on ground!
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