An image of a mysterious plane appeared on social media, weeks before millions of Americans were preparing to cast their votes for the US Presidential election. But what was it—a spy drone from another country or a new plane that the US government doesn't want to talk about?
The image of the unidentified aircraft depicts a flying wing-shaped flight leaving a contrail in its wake. A person who noticed the aircraft reportedly took the image while it was over California's Military Operating Area at Edwards Air Force Base.
What Was It?
As per Aviation Week & Space Technology, the unknown plane was flying in a "racetrack pattern" at an altitude of about 20,000 feet. The image of the aircraft first appeared on Instagram but the post was deleted from the social media platform.
Before the image reappeared on Twitter, photographer Rob Kolinsky posted the photo on Instagram. He wrote in the caption, "This thing flew over my house several weeks ago and I still have yet to identify it."
The mysterious aircraft looked like the new B-21 Raider bomber, which is under development by the Northrop Grumman. As reported, in the air force service the B-21 will eventually replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers but it is reportedly under development, and would not have any plan to fly until 2022.
Aviation Week & Space Technology said that the unidentified aircraft could be the RQ-180—a high-altitude, unmanned aerial vehicle—that is operated by the US Air Force. Reports also said that RQ-180 is a long-endurance drone that is developed to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
Currently, the US Military operates the RQ-4 Global Hawk for high-altitude survey missions. But the aircraft lacks the stealth to allow it to operate near modern air defenses. In June last year, Iran shot down an RQ-4 in the Strait of Hormuz.
However, in terms of RQ-180—which has a wingspan of 172 feet, much larger than a Boeing 737's wingspan of 117 feet—the US Air Force never publicly acknowledged the existence of this aircraft. AW&ST reported last year that the RQ-180—whose nickname at Edwards is the Great White Bat—was operational at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California.