’s Investigation Casts Light on the Mysterious Flying Black Triangle. Some Nevada-based nutball-science shop, the National Institute for Discovery Science, has been getting plenty of link with a recently released study concerning the contemporary “black triangle” variant of yoofo.

They theorize that said inky deltas are super-secret military LTA craft: that’s BLIMP to me and thee, English.

(Is it just me, or should someone tell NIDS that big purple triangles in a prominent graphic on the root page of a UFO site brings a certain Nike-wearing alienist death cult to mind?)

Well, summarizes some of the speculation from NIDS thusly:

“Among a range of NIDS observations, the group believes the BBDs are powered by electrokinetic/field drives, or airborne nuclear power units. These craft also fly at extreme altitudes, high above conventional aircraft and the pulsing of ground-based traffic control radar.”

To which, I gotta say, I am profoundly skeptical.

First, all of my reading on the US military and lighter-than-air aviation makes is absolutely clear: American military career people HATE the idea of LTA and fear it because of its’ failure (perceived or otherwise) as a military technology. Advocate LTA, lose your career. The idea that some portion of the Pentagon’s black budget is going to an LTA vehicle that operates with crew is just not realistic.

Second, although there are at least two serious, ongoing efforts to bring a heavy, cargo-oriented LTA vehicle to commercial service, it’s a hard sell, at least party because of military resistance to the technology. The military is the primary source of incubation and development capital for new aviation concepts, and without the brass and cash, both Zeppelin NT and Cargolifter are having hard times, uh, getting things off the ground.

Finally, I find the power-source speculation absurd, as well.

First, “electrokinetic/field” drives are unknown in practice, although apparently several patents have been granted on the idea; if I actually follow the theories the idea is based on, the effects only take place at the molecular level and therefore do not produce a propulsive or lifting force great enough to push anything around bigger than a molecule. But I’m no expert here, just a skeptic.

The alternative, nuclear power, while obviously a viable energy source, has in fact been considered, in one form or another, as a power supply for aircraft; but not for quite a long time. As I recall, the technology involved was not a standard reactor but rather some sort of ramjet, in the context of ICBMs, and was rejected because of the obvious problems in testing: what if the craft came apart while in flight?

The link above contains exhaustive coverage to the history of experimentation with nuke-powered flight; unfortunately some of the material appears not to have made the transition to HTML, including a lot of the non-rocket-and-space material; it additionally shows that reactor-based power-supplies were indeed the primary focus of the research. However, development was dropped in the early 1970s in the face of increasing public skepticism concerning the viability of nuclear power.

Obviously, the military has indeed kept using the power supply; so why do I doubt that a reactor would be at the heart of this secret airship?

Well, primarily because the culture of LTA technology development has always emphasized light materials as the basic design and construction principle. While a giant blimp can obviously offer sufficient bouyancy (as NIDS notes) to loft considerably larger loads than any other form of flight technology, I have a hard time imagining an LTA engineer opting for a power supply which requires a fuel and equipment density the likes of nukes.

Additionally, while the Navy’s LTA program was winding down in the early to mid sixties, some very large, and very ambitious, blimp designs were, um, floated. If ever someone was going to propose a reactor as the powersupply for a blimp, this would have been the time and place. Blimps, in the Navy, are not disssimilar to subs, just slower, easier to shoot down, and in the air. The Navy got its’ nuclear subs and carriers; it cancelled its’ LTA program altogether.

So, while the idea of a supersecret nuclear-powered LTA flying wing (I’m not even gonna bother taking on the form factor) is cool, and definitely entertaining, I’m gonna have to come down on the “uh – I don’t think so” side of the equation. YMMV, natch.