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Most likely scenarios, in my mind:

- An American military exercise or other secretive government maneuver, but the reporting chain of command got screwed up (suggested by all the "who ordered that?" chatter mentioned in the article), which caused a scramble that wasn't supposed to happen.

- More alarmingly, a foreign military aircraft in US airspace. (Who knows what behind the scenes posturing might have engendered it).

- Some private entity behaving very badly, and flying something big around with no transponder. This would be very interesting and sketchy indeed, as "owning an aircraft" (particularly of that size) is not something you'd undertake unless you're a pretty big organization. Who with that kind of money would take that kind of risk? Organized crime, perhaps?

I initially thought of these scenarios, but the article doesn't really mention the speed other than "it outpaced a 737".

If we had a better idea of the speed, it'd be easier to make a guess. However, I'm not sure a foreign military aircraft would be "very large", given how risky that would be, I'd envision it as a fighter jet or a Blackbird-type of aircraft.

It sounds like it’s likely to be subsonic, since whatever it is, it’s maintaining a low profile in every way beyond simply being a highly visible white paint job, and appearing on radar at all.

The ATC commentary suggests a fast relative speed, in reference to other traffic only. So, in the 600MPH to 700MPH region, it would be going faster than most air traffic, but wouldn’t cut the noisy wake of a sonic boom overflight, which means, in my mind it wasn’t going “very fast” or fast enough to put it in the same league as what qualifies for fast for any fighter or other fast military plane.

The “large” description is also vague, but suggesting as big as a passenger jet is my estimate. Perhaps not freakishly large like a KC-10 Extender, C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III [0,1,2]. Large, in aviation, often means “not a 2 passeneger Cessna,” to evoke not scale relative to other humans, but scale of catastrophe if it fell into a neighborhood or if a pilot had to think about colliding with such a thing, which would “win.”

That said, the white paint job sounds uncharacteristic of military/government (especially skunkworks) operations, and the expanding attention of the incident, points to unexpected events.

Another hypothesis is high level leadership asking questions about actual preparedness for something that fits the profile of a sudden terrorist hijacking incident, based on peered civil aviation inputs alone, along with an undisclosed fire drill.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_KC-10_Extend...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_C-5_Galaxy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_C-17_Globemaster_III

I agree. This is something related to military. China recently unveiled their hypersonic plane. Imagine the number of trials they had to run before the launch. I’ll be surprised if those planes did not pass through U.S at high speeds.

Can someone who knows tell me whether or not disabling your transponder would make you "disappear from radar"? The two are not completely related are they? Transponder to ID you, but radar is just bouncing a return signal off you, besides being a stealth plane to begin with how would you just turn that off?

Primary radar[1] is only mostly used in larger airports or military installations. Secondary radar like ADS-B[2] has become really popular and requires the transponder on the plane to be on and working. If you switch that off, for a lot of people you do disappear.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_radar

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_dependent_surveillan...

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