A clip posted to TikTok shows a pretty weird shape on a trailer at the Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility.
A pretty intriguing “object” was spotted in a video posted this morning on TikTok by our friend and OSINT researcher Ruben Hofs. A dark colored shape sitting on a trailer as it is moved at a location that was identified as Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility, in the Mojave Desert, not far from Lockheed’s Skunk Works facilities at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
Helendale is an aircraft research facility developed and operated by the Lockheed Martin Corporation and used to measure the radar cross section (reflectivity) of stealth aircraft designs. At this range, as happening at similar sites across the world, prototypical forms tested outside on the range are mounted on poles or hydraulic pylons that rise out of the ground through doors in the runway surface.
Coincidentally, this morning I stumbled upon a very interesting tiktok video of an unknown shape on a flatbed trailer. The scaffolding in the background got my interest and this appears to be the Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility. Also, this does not seem to resemble the pic.twitter.com/Yo9WcKrDkQ
— Ruben Hofs (@rubenhofs) September 22, 2021
“I was just scrolling trough TikTok this morning it was the first video that was shown when i opened the app,” Ruben told us in a message. “At first I thought it looks like a movie prop but soon the construction on the background reminded me of an article about a RCS site. So I went to check it out on google earth and till my surprise it turns out to be the exact facility as the article I have read about on TWZ so that’s when i realized it wasn’t just a good looking movie prop but possibly some kind of proof of concept design that is being tested over there.”
Aircraft to be tested for their RCS are mounted, upside down on a pole: the typical configuration used for testing the radar signature of a plane. Even the most secret planes have been their radar cross section tested while mounted inverted, so that the mount does not interfere with the tests shadowing the section behind it.
Indeed, the one exposed in the TikTok video seems to be some kind of stealthy shape being transported upside down.
“While it is impossible to Identify the concept model, as there are dozens of these shapes when searching the Internet, some people responded with the ‘Next Generation Air Dominance concept’ that seem to match quite nicely if you flip the shape upside down.”
So, provided the clip is genuine, what’s that shape? Impossible to say. For sure, the fact that it was being moved, in plain daylight (although many RCS need to be carried out under the sunlight!), in front of someone filming with a smartphone, without being covered, seems to suggest it was nothing too secret. It may be a quite harmless test article (several are regularly tested) or just a big chunk of some very well known manned or unmanned aircraft. Still, we can’t even completely rule out it is something else, possibly new, kept in the secret for some time and leaked online by accident or on purpose… What’s your opinion? Let us know in the comments section.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.