TechRevealed: The US Air Force's Secret Quest for a Flying Saucer

Revealed: The US Air Force's Secret Quest for a Flying Saucer

Project 1794 - illustrative image
Project 1794 - illustrative image
Images source: © The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
5:33 AM EDT, March 31, 2024
In 2012, the United States Air Force revealed a trove of once-secret documents. Among these were papers detailing an enigmatic aircraft program, evoking images of a classic flying saucer. This project, known as Project 1794, aimed to develop an American "UFO" capable of supersonic speeds, high-altitude flight, and countering Soviet bombers. But what became of Project 1794?
The dream was to see actual flying saucers gliding across our skies, a dream that nearly came to fruition with the American initiative in the 1950s aimed at realizing the Project 1794 program. With a budget of $3.168 million in 1956, equivalent to about $27 million today, funding was set aside for crafting an aircraft that would take the form of a flying saucer.
### Did the USA aim to create its own "UFO"?
The Americans envisioned a machine flying at speeds between Mach 3 and Mach 4, with a range of about 994 miles, equipped for vertical takeoffs and landings (VTOL). This feature would ensure the aircraft could operate even if key airfields were destroyed in a hypothetical conflict with the Soviet Union.
The task of designing an aircraft to mimic a flying saucer was assigned to the Canadian firm Avro Canada. However, the project stumbled at the testing stage. It became apparent that the design suffered from aerodynamic instability and likely would not be controllable at the envisioned high speeds. Faced with these challenges, the US abandoned Project 1794 in 1960.
It's interesting to note that Project 1794 wasn't the sole attempt at creating a flying saucer. The annals of history record several such endeavors, one of the more famous being the VZ-9 Avrocar. This project, set forth by the US Army, had slightly less lofty ambitions than Project 1794.
The VZ-9 Avrocar aimed to be a versatile flying platform as well as a close support aircraft. It was designed to achieve speeds of over 298 mph, attain altitudes of 1.9 miles, and also cover a range of 994 miles. However, testing revealed its inability to climb above 56 miles. Thus, like Project 1794, the VZ-9 Avrocar project was eventually discontinued.
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