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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Bras d'Or The Little Ship that Flew

Bras d'Or was named in honor of Bras d'Or Lake on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, where inventor Alexander Graham Bell performed hydrofoil experiments in the early 20th century near his estate and new laboratory at Beinn Bhreagh, setting the world watercraft speed record in the process. In 1909 the lake was also the historic site of the first flight of an aircraft in Canada and the British Commonwealth; the airplane, named the Silver Dart, was built by the Aerial Experiment Association under Dr. Bell's tutelage. The lake's name was thus fitting for a hydrofoil vessel which could 'fly' above an ocean's surface. 

HMCS Bras d'Or (FHE 400) hydrofoil served in the Canadian Forces from 1968 to 1971. During sea trials in 1969, the vessel exceeded 63 knots (117 km/h; 72 mph), making her the fastest unarmed warship in the world. The vessel was originally built from 1960 to 1967 for the Royal Canadian Navy, as a project for the testing of anti-submarine warfare technology on an ocean-going hydrofoil.


Specifications: [2] 
Name: Bras d'Or Type: FHE Fast Hydrofoil Escort Class: Bras d'Or 
Displacement: 180 tons
Length: 46 metres - 151 feet 
Width: 6.4 metres - 21 feet 
Draught: 7 metres - 23 feet 
Propulsion: 2 Pratt and Whitney FT4A turbines 
Speed: Turbines - 22,000 shp - 63+ knots; 
Diesel - 2000 hp - 15 knots 
Crew: 4 Officers, 25 men 
Weapons: None fitted 
Pendant/Hull Number: 400 
Builder: Marine Industries Ltd., (MIL), Sorel Quebec 

Ordered: DeHavilland of Canada was given a contract in 1960 to design and build the Bras d'Or hydrofoil ship. 
Laid Down: Hull construction of the FHE-400 commenced in 1964.
Launched: On July 23, 1968 Bras d’Or was towed on the slave dock from the Naval Dockyard to the Halifax Shipyard for launching. 
Commissioned: 19 July 1968 
Paid Off: 1 May 1972 
De-Commissioned: The Bras d'Or was de-commissioned on 02 November 1971. Changes in Canada's defense priorities and cost overruns were the reasons for the project's cancellation.
Scrapped: Project canceled in 1972 by the Liberal Government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with most of the valuable components sold by Crown Assets or scrapped. 
Current Location: Musee maritime du Quebec at L'Islet, Quebec. 

A combined Anglo-Canadian study (RCN and British Admiralty) into the use of hydrofoils for anti-submarine work and coastal patrol craft began post Second World War. 

This led to a 17-tonne prototype, the R-103, built by Saunders-Roe in the UK, and sea-trials were conducted in Canada.  
The primary contractor was de Havilland Canada, an aircraft company. The Principal Naval Overseer was Commander Donald Clark, CD, RCN, who initiated the project on completion and launch of HMCS Nipigon in 1964. The hull was built upside down out of aluminum and rotated on 22 January 1966 when it was complete. The foil system was constructed from maraging steel. Bras d'Or flew on a set of surface-piercing foils in a canard configuration with a small foil forward and a larger load-bearing foil aft. 

The foils were made of maraging steel coated in neoprene to prevent corrosion. However, the neoprene coating did not work adequately and the foils still suffered from a form of stress corrosion. 

Diamond-shaped front foil The main foils featured several parts: two anhedral foils, two anhedral tips, two dihedral foils, and a center high-speed foil. The steerable front foil featured two anhedral sections and two dihedral sections with a strut down the middle, resulting in a diamond shape.
The surface-piercing foil system of this hydrofoil is very evident from the photo. The main foil carries about 90% of the lift, whereas the small bow foil carries the remaining 10%. The latter is steerable and acts like a rudder for both foil-borne and hull-borne operations. It can also be adjusted in rake, enabling the best angle-of-attack to be selected for foil-borne or hull-borne operation under whatever load or sea conditions that may exist. As in many hydrofoil designs, the different power levels involved in hull-borne and high-speed foil-borne operations dictate separate propulsion systems. 

The accompanying illustration shows the layout of BRAS D'OR's propulsion system. For the lower-power, long endurance hull-borne system, fuel weight is a critical factor which made the selection of a high speed diesel engine a logical one. A Paxman 16 YJCM diesel rated at 2,000 hp drove two three-bladed propellers on pods mounted on the main anhedral foils. These 7-foot diameter, fully-reversible, controllable-pitch propellers were 30 feet apart in the lateral direction which provided excellent maneuverability at low speed through differential pitch control. 

Foil-borne power was provided by a FT4A-2 gas turbine developing 25,500 horsepower (19.0 MW) at 21,500 rpm through General Electric gearboxes to a pair of three-bladed super-cavitating propellers. Hull-borne propulsion was driven by a Paxman Ventura 16YJCM sixteen-cylinder diesel engine to a pair of variable-pitch propellers. Auxiliary power and electrical power while foil-borne was provided by an ST6A-53 gas turbine powering an auxiliary gearbox. Both of the P and W turbines were built by United Aircraft of Canada. There was also a Garrett GTCP85-291 gas turbine for essential ship electrical requirements in emergencies.The foil-borne propulsion system consisted of a Pratt and Whitney FT4A-2 gas turbine engine, rated at 22,000 hp, driving two fixed-pitch, three-bladed propellers 4 feet in diameter.

The hull was made of welded aluminium and was built upside down. It was righted on January 22 1966 and the superstructure and systems were added at that time. The ship's hydrofoils were constructed of welded 250 ksi marging steel. The main foils were a hollow structure consisting of a 3-D truss-work of span-wise running members, thus forming a closed multi cell bending structure. There were no ribs per-se, except the two end ribs that contained the machined integral connecting lugs. 

DeHavilland subcontracted fabrication of the hull and installation of ship systems to Marine Industries Ltd. in Sorel, Quebec. Hull construction of BRAS D'OR commenced in 1964, but during construction, on 5 November 1966, there was a disastrous fire in the main machinery space which almost caused termination of the program. A de Havilland employee was in the main engine room with the ST6 running when a hydraulic fluid leak ignited on a hot joint in the ST6's exhaust stack, resulting in a flash fire. The technician responsible for the fire-suppression system rescued the employee, but as a result did not have time to activate the fire-suppression system. The fire was put out one and a half hours later by the Sorel fire department. This fire delayed the ship's launch to 12 July 1968 and cost $5.7 million. 

In spite of the delays and cost increase, however, the ship, designated FHE-400 and named BRAS D'OR, was completed in 1967.   A variety of teething problem interfered with the progress of BRAS D'OR's trials. These involved the hull-borne transmission system, the bow foil pivot bearing, the foil-tip and steering actuators, the electrical system, and the hydraulic pumps. 

None of these proved to be insurmountable problems however, and steady progress was made in overcoming them. In July 1969, BRAS D'OR was docked to repair persistent foil-system leaks, and a large crack was discovered in the lower surface of the center main foil. When the neoprene coating was removed, an extensive network of cracks was found, some at least entering into the spar and rib members of the sub-structure. A replacement foil element was constructed, but later, it too developed severe cracking.   


The ship's helmsman had to be qualified as both a sea pilot and an aircraft pilot. Bras d'Or had two propulsion systems; one for foil-borne operation and one for hull-borne operation, which included four engines. 

Bras d'Or arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 1 July 1968 to begin a long series of trials. From September of 1968 until July 1971, when the trials terminated, the ship logged 648 hours, 552 hull-borne, and 96 hours foil-borne. The most operationally representative trial was a 2,500 mile voyage to Hamilton, Bermuda, and Norfolk, Virginia, in June 1971. The biggest disappointment, albeit from a scientific point of view (but not the sailor's aboard), was that the amount of significant rough-water data collected was regrettably small. At no time during the trip were limiting rough-water conditions experienced, either hull-borne or foil-borne. 

This was not to say that BRAS D'OR did not encounter rough water! According to Michael Eames, who describes highlights of these trials in his paper cited, HMCS FRASIER, a 3,000-ton frigate sailing in company during a rough water trial sent a signal as follows: "Weather conditions were considered most unpleasant, heavy seas and 15-20 ft swell, wind gusting to 60 knots, ship spraying overall with upper deck (of FRASIER) out of bounds most of the time. BRAS D'OR appeared to possess enviable sea-keeping qualities. She was remarkably stable with a noticeable absence of roll and pitch, and apparently no lack of maneuverability. The almost complete absence of spray over the fo'c's'le and bridge was very impressive." 

Foil-borne, BRAS D'OR exceeded her calm-water design speed, achieving 63 knots at full load in 3 to 4 foot waves. Sea trials included a comprehensive set of sea-keeping and motions data, all of which prompted the Canadians to conclude that BRAS D'OR showed its performance to be quite a remarkable surface-piercing hydrofoil ship. 

The Bras d'Or first flew on 9 April 1969 near Chebucto Head off the entrance to Halifax Harbor. The vessel exhibited extraordinary stability in rough weather, frequently more stable at 40 knots (70 km/h; 50 mph) than a conventional ship at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Bras d'Or exceeded 63 knots (117 km/h; 72 mph) on trials, quite possibly making her the fastest warship ever built. It was however, never fitted with equipment for warfare (no weapons or weapon systems) and the title now lies with the Norwegian Skjold-class corvettes that do 60 knots (110 km/h; 70 mph), fully equipped. 

Cancellation of the Bras d'Or's trials came on 2 November 1971 by Minister of National Defense Donald S. MacDonald, attributing it to a change in defense priority (from anti-submarine warfare to sovereignty protection). The ship was laid up for five years, then the program was completely cancelled by Liberal Government under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with most of the valuable components were either sold by Crown Assets or scrapped. 

My Personal Recollections of Canadian Hydrofoils:
The Bras D'Or (FHE 400) was not the first hydrofoil that I had worked on. In 1962 while employed  as a  newly graduated mechanical engineer at Fairy Aviation  in Eastern Passage Nova Scotia working under Benny Walworth, I was given several assignments on the R-103. Those mainly had to do with developing a system for handling towed underwater bodies to house listening devices for detecting enemy submarines.

The R-103 pictures below are credited to David Mills.
She was:
Laid down and Launched: 22 May 1957;
Commissioned: 26 Jun 1957; 
Renamed: Baddeck 1962; 
Paid off: 1973; 
Final Fate: stored Museum ship at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.

Experience gained with this experimental craft resulted in the selection of foil configuration used for Bras d'Or.[2].  Bras d'Or 2 was the fourth vessel to bear that name.

 Bras d'Or finally flying level and roaring westwards along the Menai Strait

 Bras d'Or 'flying' back towards Beaumaris past the old Bishop's Palace where my father lodged around 1945. He told me that he stored his New Imperial TT Replica motor cycle in pieces in the tower. When he rebuilt it he had to wheel it down the spiral stairs and out through the lounge one night to avoid the landlady finding out he had kept it there.

R-103 renamed Baddeck at Halifax prior to being transfered to Ottawa.

 Saunders-Roe R-103 (BADDECK) was retired in 1970 and spent the intervening years sitting in her cradle near the Fleet Diving Unit, Atlantic, on CFB Shearwater waterfront. Her fate then was uncertain, but is now stored in the Museum of Science, Ottawa awaiting conservation. The foils and central propeller skeg have been removed and are safely in storage. Unfortunately both Rolls Royce Griffon engines have long since been removed.

It has been a long time (more than 50 years) since I moved from Fairy Aviation in Eastern Passage (Shearwater) to work on the FHE 400 as a new DeHavilland employee. Much of that is now a distant memory, but some of it is as vivid as if it was yesterday. 

I well remember being at my workstation with one half scale drawings of the main center foil and main dihedral foils spread out on the worktable. My job as a stress engineer was to determine the strength and safety factories for these components. We were all well aware that the foils were to be manufactured of "a Space Age Alloy" maraging steel; a then fairly new product of the steel industry, mainly intended for high temperature applications. 

The allowable stress for that material is 250,000 pounds per square inch but after applying every factor we could imagine, we were not able to predict internal stresses greater 35,000 psi. In other words, the foils could have been made of any aircraft grade steel or for that matter aircraft grade aluminium alloy.

I recall at the time participating in discussions around the water fountain which suggested that the maraging steel was proving difficult to machine and weld. Given the projects time constraints a steep learning curve in its fabrication techniques was anticipated.

About this time I was transferred out of the project to the DC-9 which was ramping up a few yards away on the other side of the divider that separated working groups, in that sprawling old building that was built in the war years to house Victory Aircraft, as part of Canada's aircraft production effort. 

While my first hand involvement with the hydrofoil project had ended I still got to learn news from my near by friends still engaged with the engineering effort. I learned of the disastrous fire caused by a simple hydraulic fluid leak (fire resistant fluid would have eliminated the problem). The fire came close to completely destroying the prototype at the ship yards in Sorel I also heard of the silver lining story; how that fire afforded the designers an opportunity to discover and remedy some potential short coming in the hull, in the area of torsional stiffness. 

The stiffness calculations had assumed the hull as a closed structure, where in reality it had a significant length where the deck was interrupted by a large cutout which was incapable of carrying the shear loads. 

I also heard stories of the monster cracks that were discovered in the center foils which ultimately were attributed to the lack of stress relief of the welded structure, its exposure to sea water and the choice of maraging type 250 ksi steel, no cracks were ever found in structural elements fabricated in the lower 200 ksi strength material [ref 1].

Even today there is still a great deal of confusion in my mind about what vessel people are referring to when they use the name Bras d'OR, as I am now discovering there is a long line of small craft that have been given that name.

1. Bras d'Or Bell's hydrofoil of 1909

2. PT-3 built in the US under the Lend-Lease Program

3. R-103 built in the UK by Saunders as a joint British/Canadian experimental effort

4 FHE-400 designed and built in Canada for the Canadian Navy

The hull and foils of Bres d'Or was saved and donated to the Musée Maritime du Québec atL'Islet-sur-Mer, Quebec where it remains on display to this day.[3]
Canada's once proud hydrofoil ship underway

Ref 1 HMCS BRAS D’OR - The Ship That Flew
by Tom Bennett

Ref 2 FHE 400 - HMCS Bras D'Or Canada's Military Hydrofoil, 6th December 2012

Friday, May 19, 2017

The AvroCar - Canada's Super Sonic Jet-Propelled Flying Saucer Project

Avro Car as she exists today at her storage place in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.

It was born in the Cold War era as a possible way of hiding high performance aircraft from Russian A-bombs, but it remains shrouded in mystery. The only mention the Air Force makes of that project is in The Report on Project Silver Bug, written in 1955 by the Air Technical Intelligence Center and Wright Air Development Center,  It proposed the Jetmounting of a research and development project into the building of a jet-propelled flying saucer, capable of both vertical takeoff and landing along with supersonic speeds up to 1,500 mph. If successful, the craft would have been based underground, thus avoiding the need for long runways and easily-distinguished bases which would have been easily taken out by a single nuclear bomb or missile warhead.
It was a great idea, actually. The U.S. government had taken the idea seriously enough to import a group of German aeronautical experts to this country after World War II. Some of those German experts had allegedly worked on similar projects under Hitler during the war. Hopefully, they would be capable of building a combat saucer for us under Operation Paperclip, the program which brought them to the United States.

The entire Silver Bug project remained clouded in secrecy and security classifications until the decade of the 1990s, when the one report was finally declassified and released by the Air Force. There is a semi-official story floating around that the Silver Bug project resulted in the ill-fated Avro Car, which only got a few feet off the ground, and the project was ultimately scrapped due to instability of the craft and an inability to fly. But public information officers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, when asked if further reports on Project Silver Bug are available and if the project ever resulted in an operational aircraft, said no further reports on that project are currently declassified.

Persons who have investigated the Silver Bug project find that Air Force statement quite interesting, since it was not a flat denial that anything operational was ever produced from that R&D project ... if the project was a failure, why are any other reports on it still classified? A lot of experimental test aircraft have been checked out by the Air Force, are found to be failures, and are scuttled. Some of those investigators are convinced that Silver Bug actually flew, and that at least some of the resulting craft were and are in existence.

Whether or not the craft actually turned out to be powered by jet aircraft or some other propulsion system is unknown, as well as other aircraft features including size and the use the Air Force would put the aircraft to.

Those questions, as well as others, have no publicly known answers. What the investigators and everybody else are left with at present are only sketchy facts and a lot of speculation ... as well as some sightings of strange aircraft that could be of something Silver Bug resulted in.

What Project Silver Bug was set to begin work on in 1955 was the research and development project to field jet propelled flying saucers which could be dispersed underground in an attempt to get away from the air bases of the day which featured long runways. The jet-propelled disks were to be capable of vertical takeoffs and landings, and would be capable of Mach 3.48--faster than the SR-71 Blackbird.

The Avrocar was developed in Canada under the umbrella of the Silver Bug Project (flying saucer).
 The completed prototype being rolled out of the assembly bay in preparation for the pilot testing program.
 Overhead view of the craft showing the crew enclosures, central air intake and the blades of the compressor stage.

 Early on in the flight testing the craft was hover tested over a concrete pad, first partially restrained by system of slack tethers, which afforded the pilot some freedom of maneuverability, but restricting the chance of a flip over.  

 The Malton factory complex in the late 50's early 60's; built in the war years as part of Canada's aircraft production effort.
 Known as Victory Aircraft when first constructed, later it would become known as: Avro, De Havilland, Douglas, McDonnell, Boeing.
 Construction of the full scale mock-up is shown above and below. The mock-up was an essential step for working out design details of new designs in the days before AutoCAD computer programs

 Fitting of one of the three turbo jet engines into the mock-up is shown in the pictures above and below.
 The mock-up approaches completion  and is almost ready for inspection of the customer.

Assembling the compressor stage.
A view of the annular nozzle around the lower periphery of the saucer shown above and then again below.

Smoke tunnel testing or the jet e flux under the craft.
Testing of flow patterns at the control ducts is shown both above and below.

The analogue computer which was built especially for the project to test the stability and control of the craft is again shown in the pictures above and below..

Construction of the assembly jig for the airframe of the craft is shown above.

Working on the single stage centrifugal compressor.
View showing the details of the wing's D-Nose structure.
Another view of the annular nozzle sections.
The pictures above and below show the egg crate structural members of the main saucer's frame.

Installing the systems into the airframe.
Top view of the intake and compressor.
Fitting the individual compressor blade into the slots of the hub.
The assembly compressor nears completion.

A whirl test of the compressor to test for truness, balance and vibration

Closeup of the nozzles in the annular 
 outlet duct.

hover testing in the adjustable variable height test rig shown above and below. 

Throttle sector for the three turbo jet engines.
Top view of the finished saucer showing the two cockpits and intakes for the 3 engines and the central compressor intake.
Pilot strapping in with the roll over safety bar showing prominently. 
Testing over a flat concrete pad commences  with a 3 wheel landing gear installed.

Flying in ground effect with the propulsion vanes clearly visable.

Shown above flying past a row of new CF 100 Canuck Fighters fresh off the assembly line.

Testing moves to unprepared surfaces now with landing skids replacing the wheels. 

A series of 3 foot deep drainage ditches was traversed by the craft without any difficulties.
 A team of American Test pilots visited the Avro plant in Malton to check out the craft after the company pilots were comfortable with their ability to control the craft in ground effect.
 USAF Test Pilot about to climb out of the cockpit after an introductory session behind the controls.

The Avrocar was probably the world's first Hovercraft but to admit such a fact was unthinkable to its proud designers.
The craft never was taken out of ground effect mainly because of concerns about its stability and control in transitional flight subsequently the project was canceled in September 1961.
I have no doubt that the concept today would be easily proven with modern day advances in technology.

The secrecy continues:
What Batts and his buddy Joe saw at a range of approximately 200 yards in 1977 was a 200-foot diameter flying disk rising out of the ground of the desert with a bright light on its belly and flashing sequential lights at its center. It was silver in colour and Batts says there is no way it could have been a case of mistaken identity through swamp gas or a multitude of other common UFO debunking postulations put forward by debunkers.

The Report on Project Silver Bug, dated Feb.15, 1955, and declassified on March 29, 1995, proposed the development of such a disk-shaped interceptor aircraft. The proposed craft would be capable of vertical takeoff and landing; a maximum level speed of 2,300 mph with reheat (afterburners); a ceiling of 80,600 feet; and a climb rate of 1.76 minutes to 36,090 feet.

Those performance figures were very advanced for 1955, and are not too shabby today. Top speeds of American fighter-interceptor aircraft of 1955 were around 1,000 mph, and they had a lower ceiling than what the disk would have. But the big thing as far as the Air Force was concerned was the potential such flying disks had for being dispersed in underground facilities.

The Report on Project Silver Bug was issued by the Air Technical Intelligence Center along with the Wright Air Development Center at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. While the Silver Bug project has been officially claimed to have resulted in the ill-fated Avro Car, which turned into perhaps the world's first air cushion vehicle instead of a supersonic interceptor disk, UFO researchers have long questioned whether the project actually came to a sudden stop with development of the Avro Car, which was a flop at flight.

Recent enquiries to the Public Information Office at Wright-Patterson prior to Batts' account garnered the response that no further information on the Silver Bug project has been declassified at this time. That is not quite the same as an outright denial that Project Silver Bug actually came up with a workable prototype craft, or an operation disk-shaped interceptor. Nor does it rule out whether or not the project originally resulted in a flop at first with continued research into making a flying saucer actually work.

The Silver Bug report noted that a pair of ongoing U.S. projects involving the building of vertical takeoff aircraft had already occurred, after a discussion of the perceived need to get away from long, vulnerable runways was addressed briefly. The report noted that vertical takeoff craft were the way to get around the vulnerability of conventional air bases but ``tail sitter'' types of aircraft, equipped with turboprop engines, were found to lack the ability to join VTO and landing abilities with the high performance of a fighter aircraft.

The report was more enamoured of a proposed classic flying disk aircraft, which exhibited performance characteristics that were greatly advanced even by current standards. The largest of the proposed disks weighed 26,000 pounds, was powered by a radically new type of jet engine, and could climb to 36,090 feet in approximately one minute and 45 seconds. This is in the performance range of the current F-15 fighter the Air Force uses, and was attributed to a machine in 1955, some 20 years prior to the F-15's first flight.

But the Silver Bug report was not the only publication in 1955 that contained information relating to the development of flying saucers by the federal government.

 Magazine, in June 1955, said in an article that persistent and fairly credible accounts claimed that A.V. Roe, Canada, Ltd., a Canadian aircraft manufacturer, had a saucer design under development since 1953. It had been abandoned since the cost factor was too high for the Canadians--over $75 million to get a prototype model into the air.

That 1955 issue of Look also noted that at a meeting of engineers it was indicated that while flying saucer or sphere projects might have been purely hypothetical then, new air defence problems were setting up requirements for aircraft performance which would apparently be best met by a saucer aircraft.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Kelsey, deputy director of research and development for the Air Force, was quoted as saying that ``Airplanes today spend too much time gathering speed on the ground and not enough time flying in the air.'' The fighters of that time, Kelsey said, needed extremely long runways and there were few in existence then that were long enough.

Those few, he said, and the concentration of planes using them, provided a worthwhile target for an A-bomb. With one blow, the enemy might cripple a substantial portion of the American air defence.

Vertical takeoff planes would not need long runways, he said, and could be dispersed widely and safely. Future airports built for vertically rising flying saucers would have no need of the many vulnerable runways the fighters of 1955 (and of today) require. The complete operation could go underground, the Look article noted, with tunnels with takeoff shafts set in the ground, complete with maintenance bays, fuel, and crew quarters.

Those underground bases, the article said, would be bombproof shelters for a saucer squadron. The shafts would be sealed after takeoff for camouflage and protection. The Look article also detailed what some of the requirements of an ideal defence fighter would be. Those attributes would be the ability to take off and land vertically; a high speed of over Mach 2 (more than 1,500 mph); high rate of climb; excellent manoeuvrability; heavy armament; and the ability to operate at 60,000 feet.

It should be noted that the one disk craft noted in the Silver Bug report met and exceeded all of the criteria listed in the Look Magazine report. But Look's report also noted that such a disk-shaped craft might include a one-man crew, housed in a glass bubble that would provide excellent visibility. The prone position of the pilot would not only allow improved streamlining, but also enables (original wording) the pilot to withstand high accelerations and quick turns. There were some American disk-shaped craft that were developed publicly, namely the Flying Flapjack and/or The Flying Flounder, which did not come to operational use.

Avro-Canada, meanwhile, was reported to be working in 1953 by the Toronto Star to be working on a new flying saucer at their plant in Malton, Ontario. On Feb. 16, 1953, the Minister for Defence Production informed the Canadian House of Commons that Avro was working on a 'mock-up model' of a flying saucer which would be capable of flying at 1,500 miles per hour and climbing vertically.

The president of Avro-Canada also wrote in Avro News that the prototype being built was so revolutionary that it would make all other forms of supersonic aircraft obsolete. The new plane's official name was the Avro Car.

By 1960 it was being claimed officially that the design had been dropped, and the so-called prototype of the Avro flying saucer is reported to be housed in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Fort Eustis, Virginia.

A number of German aeronautical engineers were reputedly brought to the United States after World War II to continue their work on VTO flying disks which had originated as a Luftwaffe research and development project, Popular Mechanics said in its August 1997 edition. The Germans, in the closing days of World War II, had one big aeronautical problem--their airfields were under constant Allied aerial attack which kept what fighters they had left from being an effective deterrent against American and British heavy bomber raids on German industrial targets. U.S. Army intelligence officers combed Europe for two brothers called Walter and Reimar Horten following the war, certain U.S. government files say. The brothers were trained as pilots and engineers, and reputedly had close connections to the Reich's high command.

The two brothers were believed to have persuaded German leaders to construct a fleet of saucer-shaped bombers, a Popular Mechanics story in August 1997 said. U.S. military historians acknowledge the Horten brothers built and flew prototypes of circular and flying wing aircraft, the PM story said, but the historians also discount the craft as aeronautical curiosities with no military value.

A service-wide request for information about the two brothers showed the two men had already been found, PM's report said. They had already been released by the UK for exploitation and allocated to the United States on Nov. 15, 1946, via Operation Paperclip.

Operation Paperclip was the American program that put a lot of German scientists and engineers on the U.S. payroll following World War II. These included Wernher Von Braun and some of his associates, who were ultimately responsible for building the American ICBM force and space program rocket boosters.

But the existence of Paperclip was not released publicly until Americans first set foot on the moon, due to the fact that the laboratories at which many of the former German scientists had worked were also Nazi slave labor and death camps. Apparently negative public reaction was the reason the news was kept secret until the space program resulted in a record-breaking moon landing.

The Horten brothers, according to PM and the files it got, had been working on a design for a new generation of circular VTO craft just prior to their capture--with specifications much like those described in the Report on Project Silver Bug.

Other records, PM said, show that models of the Hortens' design, possibly constructed by the brothers themselves, were tested in the wind tunnel at Wright Field, now Wright-Patterson AFB. While the Air Force acknowledges the Hortens were working on a flying disk craft, PM said, the AF also says it was inherently unstable.

Other declassified records gained by PM in the course of its investigation, the magazine article said, suggest the Avro Car built for the Army and a deteriorating plywood Horten flying wing were both shills intended to disguise the existence of more formidable flying machines.

One of the more potent of those flying machines, the PM report said, was developed under the secret Project Pye Wacket. Its object was to design a five foot diameter liquid fuelled missile launch platform to protect American bombers penetrating Soviet airspace.

Samisdat Publications, a right-wing organization based in Toronto, Canada, has said that the Nazis did in fact develop the  Flügelrad, or 'Wingwheel', a saucer-helicopter which could take off vertically. One of the scientists involved with the early Nazi saucer projects was identified as Viktor Schauberger by Samisdat. Schauberger was brought to America after the war, where he was rumoured to be working on a top secret flying disk project in Texas for the U.S. government until his death in 1958. Some reports maintain that some prototypes the government is now developing are as advanced in propulsion and other areas over the Schauberger models as the space shuttle is over the biplane Some of his prototypes include things like the Model I, the most conventional design by today's concepts, which used a standard German Walther rocket engine and was steered by a rudder.

Model II, an improvement over Model I, had a specially designed ``rotary wing'' which stabilized and steered the craft. This model was more manuverable and faster.

Model III was supposedly extremely fast, capable of attaining speeds over 6,000 kilometers per hour and using a jet vacuum propulsion system. The fuel mixture produced vapour trails, an acrid smell, and sometimes flames and sparks. The saucer's propulsion system produced high pitched, whining sounds. The craft was also capable of terrific acceleration, or steady hover. It could also climb and bank steeply and often startled observers with loud sonic booms as it accelerated through the sound barrier. This model was reportedly equipped with telescopic landing gear.

Successors of the Model III, still in the planning stages during the middle 1940s, were said to utilize the Earth's magnetic field in their propulsion systems.

And there is also one home-grown American scientist who apparently had some input into the U.S. government's flying saucer project--T. Townsend Brown, and his Project Winterhaven. Brown was an American physicist, who was heavily involved in electrogravitics research. In the middle 1920s, he discovered it is possible to create an artificial gravity field by charging an electrical capacitor to high voltage.

By 1958, he had managed to work his way to the point where he had succeeded in developing a 15-inch diameter model saucer that could lift over 110 percent of its weight. What his experiments had inaugurated was the new field of electrogravitics, or the technology of controlling gravity through the use of very high voltage electric charges.

By 1952, Brown gave a demonstration to a Air Force major general in which Brown flew a pair of 18-inch disc airfoils suspended from opposite ends of a rotatable arm. The discs were electrified with 50,000 volts and circuited at a speed of 12 miles per hour.

Approximately one year later, he flew a set of three-foot diameter saucers for Air Force officials and representatives from several major aircraft companies. These discs were energized with 150,000 volts, and sped around the 50-foot diameter course so fast that the subject was immediately classified. A report by ``Interavia'' magazine noted that the discs would attain speeds of several hundred miles per hour when charged with several hundred thousand volts.

The secret to Brown's discs was that they were charged with a high positive voltage, via a wire, running along their leading edge. A high negative voltage ran along their trailing edge, also on a wire. As the wires ionized the air around them, a study by Paul A. LaViolette said, a dense cloud of positive ions would form ahead of the craft and a corresponding cloud of negative ions would form behind the craft.

LaViolette said that Brown's research showed that, like the charged plates of his capacitors, these ion clouds induced a gravitational force directed in the minus to plus direction. In short, a gravitational well formed ahead of the disc which pulled the craft, while a gravitational hill formed behind the craft and pushed it. As the disc moved forward in response to its self-generated gravity field, it would carry with it its positive and negative ion clouds and their associated electrogravity gradient. The discs in effect would ride their advancing gravity wave much like surfers ride an ocean wave, LaViolette said.

The occupants of one of the saucers, if there were occupants, would feel no stress at all no matter how sharp the turn or how great the acceleration, LaViolette said. This was because the ship and is occupants and the load are all responding equally to the wavelike distortion of the local gravitational field.

Brown by 1952 had put together a proposal, code named ``Project Winterhaven,'' LaViolette said, which suggested that the military develop an antigravity combat saucer with Mach 3 capability. As early as 1954, according to a report prepared by the private aviation intelligence firm Aviation Studies International Ltd., the Air Force had begun plans to fund research that would accomplish Project Winterhaven's objectives.

That report, issued in 1956 and called ``Electrogravitic Systems: An Explanation of Electrostatic Motion, Dynamic Counterbary and Barycentric Control,'' was originally classified as ``confidential.'' That report mentioned the names of more than 10 major aircraft companies which were actively involved in the electrogravitics research in an attempt to duplicate or extend Brown's work. Since that time, LaViolette said, much of the work in electro-antigravity has proceeded in Air Force black projects on a fairly large scale.

LaViolette's study, known as ``The U.S. Antigravity Squadron,'' has as its main contention that the Air Force is using Brown's antigravity ideas to help the B-2 bomber operate. He says the B-2 accomplishes using high amounts of electric charges on its leading and trailing edges through the same method Brown described in his electrokinetic generator patent.

The saucer craft Brown proposed was to be powered by a flame-jet generator, a high-voltage power supply that had the advantage of being both efficient and relatively lightweight, LaViolette said. That generator design, he said, uses a jet engine with an electrified needle mounted in the exhaust nozzle to produce negative ions in the jet's exhaust stream. The negatively ionized exhaust is then discharged through a number of nozzles at the rear of the craft. By electrically insulating the engines and conveying their positive charges forward to a wire running along the plane's leading edge, the required positively charged ion cloud is built up at the front of the vehicle. Brown, LaViolette said, estimated that such a generator could produce potentials as high as 15 million volts across his craft.

Whether or not Project Silver Bug ever resulted in a prototype or operational jet-propelled flying saucer is publicly unknown, given the fact that cutting-edge military development projects are normally cloaked in tight security. Even the money trail which would normally lead to the existence of top-secret or higher R&D projects is often a closed door. Military aircraft and weapon systems developers normally hide the funding for those projects in other projects, keeping sharp-eyed researchers from finding R&D projects hidden in the federal budget. Various UFO researchers have long been intrigued by the role the Air Technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB has played in various projects like Silver Bug. ATIC has since 1955 been known as the Foreign Technology Division, and is currently called the National Air Intelligence Center.

Over the years, despite the name, ATIC has been rumored in UFO circles to be the place where the debris from the alleged Roswell, NM crash of an alien flying saucer was taken for study. ATIC was also the parent Air Force unit for Project Blue Book, which for several years was the official study center for unidentified flying objects.

With no further available declassified reports, whatever Project Silver Bug finally arrived at remains as hidden as an underground interceptor craft installation. Or at least there was no information about any disk-shaped craft being tested by the U.S. Air Force ... until Frank Batts and his buddy got their directions wrong in 1997 and wound up on the wrong side of Nellis AFB.

That's where it stands at present. There is a fair amount of information floating around that would indicate Project Silver Bug did result in some type of actually flyable aircraft. But there is no actual proverbial "smoking gun'' as yet.

Some persons who have researched Silver Bug, and some persons who claim to have worked on secret government aeronautical projects, are convinced or hint that something did fly as the result of Project Silver Bug. Some even say that some operational circular craft have been stationed at some places ... all underground, in effect hiding them in plain sight. But there is a lack of actual hard evidence that ATIC or WADC ever developed an actual operational flying saucer from Silver Bug. Just enough information exists to tantalize those who have investigated it so far, and a lot of gaps which can at present be filled only by speculation.