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article imageU.S. military drone mistaken for UFO on Capital Beltway

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 15, 2012 in Technology
Washington - There was excitement Wednesday night as the news spread online that a UFO had been spotted on the Capital Beltway. Social media came alive, buzzing with speculation, as people shared pictures of the "UFO" being transported on a flatbed truck.
According to MyFoxDC, the "truck came south on I-270, then took the inner loop of the Capital Beltway from Montgomery County into Prince George's County."
WUSA9.com reports that Maryland State Police provided 8 cruisers to accompany the strange craft, "starting at the mile marker 6 of I-68 around 6:00 Wednesday evening."
According to MyFoxDC, after photos of the alien craft were posted on Twitter, people began calling the local police. MyFoxDC reports that one man called 911 in Prince George's County because he was "concerned about a relative who lived along the route."
The puzzled dispatcher asked the man what the strange craft looked like. The caller responded: "..ah... a UFO. I mean, I don't really know. I don't see too many UFO's on a regular basis."
Daily Mail quotes some of the excited tweets that followed the sighting:
@AyeeKeithyKeith: "A UFO In Maryland! Where’s Men In Black When You Need Them!"
@TheDollyStoner: "Can Obama explain why we got a UFO double parked on the beltway?"
Fortunately, Maryland State Police moved quickly to douse the excitement by releasing information that the "UFO" was a military drone being moved from West Virginia to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Southern Maryland.
According to Jamie Cosgrove, public affairs officer for the Navy Unmanned Combat Air Demonstrator program, the drone is an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System made by Northrup Grumman. Cosgrove said the craft had undergone testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
MyFoxDC reported that according to Northrop Grumman spokesman Brooks McKinney, the saucer-like shape of the aircraft was a design to enhance its stealth capability. The spokesman said: "[It's] a shape that minimizes its reflection of potential... enemy radar signals."
According to Daily Mail, the X-47B will be the first unmanned vehicle designed to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier. It is 82 feet long, 32 feet wide and 14 feet high, Daily Mail reports.
According to Matt Funk, lead test engineer for the Navy Unmanned Combat Air Demonstrator program, "In the coming months, you can expect to see the X-47B flying over the base and surrounding area along the Chesapeake Bay."
New York Post reports officials say the drone was being transported from Edwards Air Force Base in California to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland for testing.
According to Daily Mail, a military press release said: "As part of the program's demonstration, the X-47B will perform arrested landings and catapult launches at Pax to validate its ability to conduct precision approaches to the carrier. The base is one of only a few sites in the world where the Navy can run performance tests on aircraft-carrier catapult operations at a land-based facility with flight test and engineering support resources not available on a ship."
But even this clarification was not sufficient to douse the flame of speculations raging online and among residents of the area where the craft was spotted.
Daily Mail reports that Karrie Salisbury asked on Facebook: "Why would they parade it so openly down the beltway? It's almost like they WANT us to think aliens. Which leads me to wonder, where the hell did it really come from that they would rather us think that?"
But this is not the first time that the X-47B has caused rumors of "UFO" sighting while being towed on a truck. Digital Journal reported last December that residents of Cowley County, Kansas, were thrown into excitement when the X-47B was sighted on a truck along the U.S. Highway 77. The sighting sparked off rumors that government agents had recovered an "alien craft" from a crash site. According to Digital Journal: "The rumors intensified when local Sheriff Don Read refused to divulge information about what lay under the tarpaulin. He said he was not allowed to, but his brief explanation only stoked the flames of UFO find speculations. He said the craft was recovered from a crash site."
Digital Journal reported that after local media began carrying news of sighting of a strange craft, authorities decided to stop the rumors and Brooks Mckinney, senior manager of public relations at Northrop Grumman, told reporters that the "UFO" really was an X-47B, an unmanned combat drone designed to operate from aircraft carriers.
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