back to article Russia has 'secret space warplane' to match US X-37B

Russia has claimed that it too is working on an unmanned pocket spaceplane similar to the US military's mysterious X-37B roboshuttle, dubbed a "secret space warplane" by the Iranian government. The X-37B at Vandenberg AFB following maiden flight. Credit: USAF What has the robot spaceplane collected up there? Flightglobal …


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  1. LuMan

    Secret Space Warplane

    Surely this would only be a problem if there was a secret war in space?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Wrong icon

      Here, fixed it for you

    2. Gary 24


      It's the Goa'uld motherships coming to destroy earth and take control of the stargate....

      never mind!

    3. WonkoTheSane

      @ Luman

      I'll just leave this here:-

    4. Ian Michael Gumby

      Been there done that...

      See UFO TV series 1970-1973....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    They are too late.....

    El Reg was there first,playing catch up is always hard.

  3. james 68

    in fact they did it years ago - and better

    they built a version of the shuttle (called the buran) which flew autonomously and had a greater payload capacity (than shuttles themselves even) and flew it in 1988 - america is once again behind the times somewhat in space flight

    1. James Hughes 1

      Are you the one behind the times?

      Everything you say was mentioned in the article. Did you read it?

    2. Daniel Evans

      Scuse me?

      Please, "Read The F'ing Article".

    3. Russell Long

      There's a reason that it looks identical to the Shuttle.

      That reason is that the Soviets stole the plans and designs. Just as they did with their Harrier equivalent and their Concorde equivalent. However, stealing the plans isn't the same as having the skills and engineering to design, build, test and operate a successful Shuttle, which is why the Buran never came to anything but the US Shuttle did. The same applies, of course, to Concordski and their Harrier copy.

      1. No, I will not fix your computer

        Re: There's a reason that it looks identical to the Shuttle

        The Buran never came to anything because of the break up of the Soviet Union, "Concordski" as you call it flew before Concorde (both being uneconomical), when you say "Harrier Copy", I assume you mean the Yakelov-38, bearing more than a passing resemblance on the outside and being VTOL/STOL doesn't make it a copy, it was a different animal (multiple forward engines for a start) and it was a successful aircraft.

        If the "Soviets" stole plans or not, you must not be sucked into this propaganda of thinking that they didn't "have the skills and engineering", you only have to look at their space achievements, to realise they did most things before every other country, they were well ahead of the USA for a manned moon mission (first impact, first unmanned landing, first sample retrieved to list but three), it's only the huge resources that the USA threw at the moon and the political hooha going on that got them there first, and don't forget that the USA Apollo moon program would have been nothing without Wernher von Braun (Nazi in the SS, allowed to stay in the US illegally with a made up work history provided by the govenment) and Arthur Rudolph (Nazi, helped develop the V2) also brought in by the US govenment, also worked on Saturn V had to leave the US because he was looking at being punished for war crimes.

        Propaganda is fine (and maybe there's no smoke without fire), but looking past the propaganda at the truth is the key to understanding.

  4. melt


    A robotic cross-range resuable spacecraft? They already had one. Perhaps they should've looked after it whilst they had it? :)

  5. M7S

    "something has been done [by us] along these lines".

    I cannot think of a "sexy" military project, with elements to it that would remove any real public scrutiny (if only for "security" reasons) where the Russian DIDN'T say something like this.

    Still, I wouldn't personally know if it is a bluff or not.

  6. Anton Ivanov

    Uragan is the wrong example

    Before Buran there was a number of smaller unmanned craft tested as a part of a parallel space program:

    AFAIK, this program actually started before Buran.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I hope that..

    the Reg team have taken note; these features need to be incorporated into "Vulture 2: Secret space paper warplane" please

  8. ici.chacal

    The shuttle was proven...

    in a military context, when the US deployed space-soldiers to attack Hugo Drax's space station. I wonder how many space-soldiers the X37 could deploy..?

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Polar orbit Shuttles and Soviet space planes

    Were canned for several reasons, none to do with payload. The delays associated with Shuttle launches were unacceptable to the military who wanted a more reliable launcher, so lobbied for, and got, additional Titan IVs. What finally killed the project was Challenger; the Vandenburg launches would have used an even lighter SRB design which would have been even more prone to leakage and disaster. NASA canned the development of the booster.

    Whether or not Uragan ever existed (there is plenty of evidence it was no more than a disinformation programme), the Soviet Union certainly flew and recovered a scale-model spaceplane called BOR-4 four times in the 1980s. The BOR project had originally been part of their Spiral spaceplane, when that was cancelled, the half-scale model was used to test materials and re-entry profiles for Buran. So it's nice to see the Americans playing catch-up ;)

    1. Luther Blissett

      Who knows what

      "Experiment GF-1/1 was devoted to the generation of gravitational artificial waves in the upper layers of the atmosphere. The goal of experiment GF-1/2 was the creation of an artificial "dynamo-effect" in the ionosphere. Lastly, experiment GF-1/3 was to generate ionized signals with long waves."

  10. Elmer Phud

    Clockwork aircraft

    There was, of course, the Russkie super airplane that cause the U.S. to crap themselves and spend billions of dollars with various scare-mongers, sorry, defense organisations before finding out it was just run by clockwork.

  11. Magnus_Pym

    Anti star wars?

    The US gave up on Star Wars 'space battle stations' long ago (at least they said they did). However having found out it was technically viable, if a little pricey, they could be forgiven for worrying about the possibly of some doing it to them. It would be wise to have a way of defending against someone else space battle stations.

    Maybe you would want the ability to sidle up to someone else's 'satellite' in space, subtly attach a rocket booster and set the controls for the heart of the sun. I know I would.

    P.S. also works for 'eye in the sky space telescopes'

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      What, you mean like a missile? Or lots of missiles?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      found out it was technically viable?

      I think you mean *fantasised* it was technically viable! I don't remember any real scientists giving it the time of day.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        Yer, OK.

        Fantasised, pretty much the same as 'proven beyond all doubt' to the US Government-Military-industrial complex.

        Also I was trying to get across the point that the ability to put other peoples satellites out of commission WITHOUT THEM KNOWING might be thought to be useful to a country. Firing missiles at China's spy satellites is the last but one step the US president would ever take, the one that comes just before unconditional surrender.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    its been collecting scrap metal

    Given the price of metal and the amount of titanium junk in orbit then I think it's obvious what its been doing. Pikeys in space.

  13. Adrian Midgley 1

    observation and communication is not only from below

    Do low orbit satellites not have the capability to scream about a kidnapping to a satellite in the Clarke orbit? Three satellites there can offer a communication relay to and around the whole Earth if desired, and there are a lot more than 3.

  14. Tron

    Not terribly secret if it's on El Reg.

    Ironic really. Zillions of dollars on secret space hardware to find out what the Russians and Chinese were doing, when the people they really needed to be watching were their own bankers and financiers. They've done more damage to America than their cold war adversaries ever have.

  15. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Sneaky satellite sabotage

    Sounds like you could have an effective anti-anti-satellite weapon.

    Launch a suspicious secret satellite that's just a couple of pounds of C4, some ball bearing and a radar proximity fuse - when the US secret anti-satellite spyplane approaches it gets blown up.

    You are down the cost of one letter bomb - they are out a couple of $Bn and with a distinct disinclination to try it again.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Not much info here

    Mind you the X37b does make a quite neat short stay satellite for testing "stuff" for longish exposure in space.

    224 is pretty good and > 10x the maximum stay in space of a Shuttle (well it *might* handle that if it was hitched to the ISS and using its power but I'm not sure the fuel cell O2/H2 tanks would boil dry and Max Faget claimed the APU needed to be kept running on idle to keept the hydraulic systems alive).

  17. Kevin Reader
    Black Helicopters

    Images of Buran and related technology

    A semi-russian picture site has featured quite a lot of images of Buran, examples of which (at least training craft, if not live aircraft) appear to be quietly rusting away in parts of the former USSR.


    Searching for "Buran" on their site presents loads of coverage. I found it interesting as I recall no mention of the Soviet Shuttle during the 80s or 90s.

  18. El Cid Campeador

    Russian publicity

    Given that their film of submersibles "claiming" for Arctic seafloor was stolen from Hollywood (was it "Titanic?" I don't remember) we should keep an eye out for Photoshopped clips from "Armageddon" in the near future...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strap-on boosters

    No? Just me then.

  20. E 2

    Good article

    ...but mostly about the US item, not the Russian one!

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. The BigYin

    Can't be seen?

    Am I missing something? Take a big ship (pref. nuclear powered). Fit some muckle dishes. Sail it out to sea. Scan the heavens. Repeat until you (and you allies) have coverage.

  23. Jay 2
    Thumb Up

    Non-rusting Buran

    An actual Buran can be found at the Technik Museum Speyer:

    Amongst all the other stuff they display are a Concorde and a Konkordski!

  24. solaries

    spy space plane race

    I just wish that the military would share it technology with NASA so we could get the manned space program out of the miserable rut it's in now. Come on guys pool your resources of your stupid rivailies .

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Harrier copy?

    The Russian VTOL program used a totally different approach to the Harrier; Harrier used a single vectored thrust Pegasus engine (nicked by Bristol/Rolls Royce from a French idea btw), Yakolev used a combination of a deflected engine and extra direct lift engines - so not a very successful 'lift' from the Harrier program, so to speak.

    British designers had considered this approach over the years and rejected it as being inefficient (the experimental Short SC1 used a combination of 4 lift engines and 1 for propulsion) as it meant the lift engines became so much dead weight when you switched to level flight - maybe somebody should have mentioned that to the designers of the F-35B?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The Buran failed... (side-topic)

    ...but its carrier didn't. Take a look at that:[1].jpg

    If you love HUGE planes, you gotta love the Antonov-225. Almost the same size of the Hughes Hercules (aka Spruce Goose) in all 3 axis, but this one flies well above any lake. Only one still operational. The smaller version (by comparison) the An-125 is open for business to the highest bidder, though.

    I heard the original Buran was buried under its hangar debris when it collapsed on top of it. Pity.

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