Summary: They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials. A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.
They are big, black, and triangular. In UFO folklore they are proof-positive that planet Earth is a rest stop for joyriding, but road-weary, extraterrestrials.
A just released study by the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), based in Las Vegas, Nevada, sheds new light on the dark and mysterious craft. They offer a more down-to-earth hypothesis.
NIDS researchers contend that these type vehicles are lighter-than-air, blimp-style craft of the U.S. military's making. Likely powered by "electrokinetic" drive, the lifting body-shaped airships have been skirting the skies from perhaps the early to mid 1980s.
NIDS has followed up on their study of last year that correlated sightings of large triangular or delta-shaped objects with Air Force Materiel Command and Air Mobility Command bases throughout the United States. Matches were made suggesting flight paths in and out of certain base locations.
The new assessment focuses on what four police officers, and more than a dozen others observed on January 5, 2000: A large, silent, low-flying black triangular shaped object. It flew on a southwesterly direction between Highland, Illinois and Dupo, located less than 30 miles (48 kilometers) from St. Louis, Missouri.
Part of the flight path took the enormous object near the perimeter of Scott Air Force Base.
NIDS does not come up with definite conclusion regarding the origin of the object sighted in Illinois.
However, the reports jibe with over 150 separate reports of sightings of large triangular or deltoid shaped objects. Those eyewitness accounts, accumulated by NIDS, have mainly come from the United States. A small number of the sightings they have on file come from Canada and Europe.
To bolster their case about military airships being taken for UFOs, analysts at NIDS make a historical note.
Lighter-than-air vehicles held all records for payload, distance, duration, and altitude within the first four decades of the 20th century - even with the advent of the airplane. In fact, save for rocket-powered research aircraft, like the X-15 and the space shuttle, all absolute altitude records are still held by high-altitude scientific balloons.
NIDS makes the case that Big Black Deltas, or BBDs, are U.S. Defense Department airships. They are so large they can carry massive payloads at low altitudes, cruising at speeds three to five times as fast as surface ships.
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.
Elecrokinetic propulsion means that no propellers or jets are used. A hybrid lighter-than-air craft would rely on aerostatic, lift gas, like a balloon. No helicopter-like downwash would be produced. Except for a slight humming from high-voltage control equipment -- and in older BBD versions an occasional coronal discharge -- a Big Black Delta makes no noise.
Given a slew of BBD capabilities -- from silent running, diminished drag, elimination of sonic shockwaves, to operation from ground level to full vacuum -- NIDS calls for pushing this black world technology out into daylight for commercial benefit.
Wheat from the chaff
"What we're trying to do is transform unidentified flying objects, UFOs, into IFOs, or identified flying objects," said Colm Kelleher, deputy administrator for NIDS.
"We want to limit the number of cases that are unidentified in our data base. The more that are identified, obviously the less we have to work on. That's our prime motivation& to eliminate the wheat from the chaff," Kelleher told SPACE.com.
NIDS has amassed some 1,000 cases that are under review. Of those, about 200 are Big Black Delta sightings. In the last year or two, BBD reports have been on the rise.
Kelleher said that military may well be ready to take the wraps off the black triangle vehicles. The Illinois case, for instance, has been built on hours of public views of the mystery airship. "That's not exactly stealth mode. It's inevitable that it will be declassified," he said.
Leaping across the sky
"There appears to be an increase in deployment of these vehicles," Kelleher said. "The only time you see these things are when they are leaving or coming in. A lot of these sightings are at night. Our information is that they spend a long time aloft, weeks at a time. They can be thought of as ocean-going ships, rather than aircraft," he said.
Over the years, the BBDs appear to fall into different size categories. "The ones that dominate our database are very, very large. They are low-flying, silent, and are reported to be about the size of a football field," Kelleher said.
The BBDs have been seen accelerating very rapidly from a hovering position. "They can look as though they are leaping across the sky. Being silent, it's almost spooky," Kelleher said.
L. Scott Miller, professor of Aerospace Engineering at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas, said the idea of a large, still-classified airship floating about is on the mark.
"I do think that a large airship, with a heavy lift and other mission objectives, has been built," Miller told SPACE.com.
Miller is also a distinguished lecturer of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and specializes in black aircraft and the world of secret flight.
The NIDS research documentation parallels, about 50 percent of the time, a theory that Miller has detailed in his AIAA talks for some two years.
"Lockheed has shown a great deal of interest in airships for many years. The real question is whether the Department of Defense has committed to buy and use such machines," Miller said.
Large airships are of benefit to the military.
They are capable of carrying extremely large and heavy payloads at a reasonable speed, for which there is a real mission need, Miller said.
The U.S. airlift fleet is getting old, taking a great beating in the last 10 years in such locales as Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Some new aircraft are making it into the inventory, but they still have limits. For instance, to move loads of tanks and other gear requires lots of flights and support.
"An airship that could carry a large number of tanks, troops, and supplies into a region overnight would be fantastic," Miller said.
Miller does take issue with the NIDS study's view of a black triangle's propulsion. "Interesting, but I'm not sure it is necessary," he said.
"I suspect that a neutrally buoyant aerodynamically lifting airships using conventional prop-rotor systems would be useful in implementing a practical airship design," Miller said. Such a vehicle could be a cross between the V-22 Osprey -- a craft having short wings and thrust vectoring rotors -- and a blended wing aircraft, he said.
Miller said that by careful shaping, the systems used, and carefully orchestrating operational procedures, the vulnerability of an airship in a combat environment could be reduced.
"Low altitude flights, at night, and an awareness of enemy capabilities would be critical. Indeed, slow flight at the right time can render enemy radar useless. A 'stealth blimp' would be feasible in this respect," Miller said.
Black world wizardry
Still, the true nature and use of the black triangle craft remains a head scratcher.
"I suspect that the people in Illinois saw an airship of some type. Is it operational? I don't know. Would it be 'sexy enough' for the Defense Department inventory, compared to other high-tech aircraft like the B-2? I don't know," Miller said.
"Each sighting requires a great deal of analysis. A witness's perceptions of speed, acceleration, and size are likely of very little value," Miller said. "I have taken an approach of first identifying needs -- or mission requirements -- and technology availability. Then I compare those with the cold raw, simple facts of a sighting, not the conjecture or guess work of a witness," he said.
"I suspect that, as a result, perhaps up to 30 percent of the recent 'Triangle UFO' sightings are of black world aircraft, jets or airships," Miller concluded.