Photo credit: Charlene Yazzie

The image above has been splashed all over the net over the last week. It looks like a scene out of The Flight Of The Navigator, but really, that tarp could be hiding the future of American air power.

The image was taken by Arizona resident Charlene Yazzie on Arizona Route 77, with the convoy of trucks and black SUVs from the Department of Public Safety heading south toward the town of Holbrook, Ariz.

When contacted by KMOV of St. Louis, the Department of Public Safety, which is a major state law enforcement body, playfully said they have no idea what the thing is stating: “UnFOrtunately we do not know what that is but it looks interesting.”

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As for what lies beneath that gray tarp, we can only speculate, but we have seen stealthy flying wing aircraft and radar test models transported this way before.

Most famously, the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System (UCAS) demonstrators crossed the country on flatbed trucks. Their out-of-this-world lines and shrink-wrapped anonymity sparked many flying saucer theories, even though the move was openly publicized and the craft were clearly the X-47Bs.

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Here is one very tame local media report:

Here is Northrop’s “cranked-kite” radar cross-section test mock-up, a precursor to the X-47B, being moved from Northrop’s plant in Palmdale, California to Lockheed’s Helendale RCS test facility:

Image Credit: The Howland Company

There is no reason that either of the X-47Bs would be heading through rural Arizona on a truck, that is, unless the Navy is trying to send them to the boneyard very quietly. Additionally, the shape in the picture is not definitively that of the X-47B. It is possible that this is a radar cross-section test model related to the X-47 program or an entirely separate program altogether. Even one related to Northrop Grumman’s B-21 or its failed competitor is entirely possible. It could also be a the fuselage of an actual aircraft.

Still, the question remains, what is it doing in eastern Arizona? The answer may lie somewhat farther to the east—in New Mexico.

Kirtland Air Force Base/Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque has a radar cross-section test range and the National Radar Cross Section Test Facility is located west of Holloman Air Force Base, near Alamogordo. The route, assumed by the location that the photo was taken, could take that said object from Southern California or Nevada to either of those facilities.

That is not a short or convenient voyage for such a conspicuous and large load, but it is possible and there is a precedent for such an operation.

What is odd is that we have no other photos of this thing. If it really skipped through multiple states, either on its way from California, or if it were an X-47B being sent from the east coast, to the boneyard in Tucson, you would think an avalanche of other photos of it would have shown up. The other alternative is that it is not an aircraft at all.

What do you think it is? If you have any information on the mystery convoy, please contact me at tyler@jalopnik.com.