Mirage Men contains a comprehensive potted history of American UAV development from the 1930s to the present, but if you want the motherlode then the Mitchell Institute has just published an intensely detailed account (PDF download) of the US Air Force’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle programme.
The report by Thomas P Ehrhard is pieced together from declassified documents, so there’s no new technology on display here, but a lot of fascinating detail on the relationship between the USAF and the various Intel agencies including the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office, and the funding routes that the projects took.
It’s likely that the various highly secret UAV programmes undertaken by the Air Force, the Navy and the intelligence services significantly fuelled the rumours of captured UFOs. If we look at the main centres of development and testing for UAVs – Wright Patterson AFB, Holloman AFB, Area 51 – it should be no surprise that these are the places that the UFOs were always supposed to have been stored.
The UAVs’ existence would have been hidden from many ordinary USAF pilots and personnel, so flybys could well account for some internal military UFO sightings, and as Ehrhard’s report and Mirage Men show, these drones were capable of some very nifty moves, even as far back as the 1960s.
From the introduction:
‘Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, the following paragraphs provide what is, to date, the only comprehensive compilation and analysis of US national intelligence-collecting UAVs. The information is taken from declassified documents and pieced together from open-source information and interviews. Several themes will emerge over the course of this discussion. First, the intelligence community had the most compelling need for unmanned aircraft due to the political fallout that might result if an adversary captured a pilot. Second, the CIA-Air Force combine proved to be fertile ground for UAV innovation, with the secret foreign intelligence budget allowing a relatively high-risk development environment and the Air Force contributing itssubstantial aviation expertise, resulting in efficient UAV flight operations. The immaturity of UAV technology and the requirement to overfly vast expanses of territory led to very large, expensive UAV programs. The imperatives of the Cold War allowed for UAV technology development that might not have survived intense public scrutiny.’