The Pentagon’s U.F.O. Program

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Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and UFO (News Reader)

A video shows an encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object. It was released by the Defense Department’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on Publish Date December 16, 2017. Photo by Courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense.

$22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program

It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

Two other former senators and top members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the program. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012.

U.F.O.s have been repeatedly investigated over the decades in the United States, including by the American military. In 1947, the Air Force began a series of studies that investigated more than 12,000 claimed U.F.O. sightings before it was officially ended in 1969. The project, which included a study code-named Project Blue Book, started in 1952.

Mr. Reid said his interest in U.F.O.s came from Mr. Bigelow. In 2007, Mr. Reid said in the interview, Mr. Bigelow told him that an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency had approached him wanting to visit Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted research.

Mr. Reid said he met with agency officials shortly after his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and learned that they wanted to start a research program on U.F.O.s. Mr. Reid then summoned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye to a secure room in the Capitol.

“I had talked to John Glenn a number of years before,” Mr. Reid said, referring to the astronaut and former senator from Ohio, who died in 2016. Mr. Glenn, Mr. Reid said, had told him he thought that the federal government should be looking seriously into U.F.O.s, and should be talking to military service members, particularly pilots, who had reported seeing aircraft they could not identify or explain.

The sightings were not often reported up the military’s chain of command, Mr. Reid said, because service members were afraid they would be laughed at or stigmatized.

The meeting with Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye, Mr. Reid said, “was one of the easiest meetings I ever had.”

He added, “Ted Stevens said, ‘I’ve been waiting to do this since I was in the Air Force.’” (The Alaska senator had been a pilot in the Army’s air force, flying transport missions over China during World War II.)

During the meeting, Mr. Reid said, Mr. Stevens recounted being tailed by a strange aircraft with no known origin, which he said had followed his plane for miles.

None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.”

The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves. The Navy pilots can be heard trying to understand what they are seeing. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” one exclaims. Defense officials declined to release the location and date of the incident.

According to the Times, in 2004 two F/A-18F (twin seater) Super Hornets from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz were flying 100 miles off the coast of San Diego when a nearby U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, the USS Princeton, contacted them and asked what weapons they were carrying. The Super Hornets replied they were carrying dummy AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles that could not be fired.

“Well, we’ve got a real-world vector for you,” replied the USS Princeton’s radio operator. According to the Times:

For two weeks, the operator said, the Princeton had been tracking mysterious aircraft. The objects appeared suddenly at 80,000 feet, and then hurtled toward the sea, eventually stopping at 20,000 feet and hovering. Then they either dropped out of radar range or shot straight back up.

The Super Hornets flew to investigate the last known location of the object and to their surprise, found two objects. The first was large and just below the surface of the water, causing the water to churn. The second object hovered just 50 feet above the water, moving erratically.

The second object suddenly rose up and flew towards the Super Hornets, with one pilot. Commander David Fravor, saying it appeared it was rising up to meet him. The Hornet turned towards the object to meet it and the object peeled away, accelerating, “like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Fravor later said.

The Super Hornets conferred with the USS Princeton and were vectored to a CAP point 60 miles away. Within seconds, the pilots were told by the Princeton that radar had picked up the object already at the CAP point. By the time the Super Hornets arrived however the object had already disappeared.

Meanwhile, the The Aviationist points to a 2007 post from Above Top Secret (a site for discussing classified government programs) that seems to describe the incident in greater detail. The posting appears to be an excerpt from Carrier Air Wing 11’s event summary for November 14, 2004.

CVW-11 EVENT SUMMARY
14 NOVEMBER 04
EVENT SUMMARY

110/100, 303/305, 401
FAST EAGLES 110/100 UPON TAKE OFF WERE VECTORED BY PRINCETON AND BANGER (1410L) TO INTERCEPT UNID CONTACT AT 160@40NM (N3050.8 W11746.9) (NIMITZ N3129.3 W11752.8). PRINCETON INFORMED FAST EAGLES THAT THE CONTACT WAS MOVING AT 100 KTS @ 25KFT ASL.

FAST EAGLES (110/100) COULD NOT FIND UNID AIRBORNE CONTACT AT LOCATION GIVEN BY PRINCETON. WHILE SEARCHING FOR UNID AIR CONTACT, FAST EAGLES SPOTTED LARGE UNID OBJECT IN WATER AT 1430L. PILOTS SAW STEAM/ SMOKE/CHURNING AROUND OBJECT. PILOT DESCRIBES OBJECT INITIALLY AS RESEMBLING A DOWNED AIRLINER, ALSO STATED THAT IT WAS MUCH LARGER THAN A SUBMARINE.

WHILE DESCENDING FROM 24K FT TO GAIN A BETTER VIEW OF THE UNID CONTACT IN THE WATER, FAST EAGLE 110 SIGHTED AN AIRBORNE CONTACT WHICH APPEARED TO BE CAPSULE SHAPED (WINGLESS, MOBILE, WHITE, OBLONG PILL SHAPED, 25-30 FEET IN LENGTH, NO VISIBLE MARKINGS AND NO GLASS) 5NM WEST FROM POSITION OF UNID OBJECT IN WATER.

CAPSULE (ALT 4K FT AT COURSE 300) PASSED UNDER FAST EAGLE 110 (ALT 16KFT). FAST EAGLE 110 BEGAN TURN TO ACQUIRE CAPSULE. WHILE 110 WAS DESCENDING AND TURNING, CAPSULE BEGAN CLIMBING AND TURNED INSIDE OF FAST EAGLE’S TURN RADIUS. PILOT ESTIMATED THAT CAPSULE ACHIEVED 600-700 KTS. FAST EAGLE 110 COULD NOT KEEP UP WITH THE RATE OF TURN AND THE GAIN OF ALTITUDE BY THE CAPSULE. 110 LOST VISUAL ID OF CAPSULE IN HAZE. LAST VISUAL CONTACT HAD CAPSULE AT 14KFT HEADING DUE EAST.

NEITHER FAST EAGLES 110 OR 100 COULD ACHIEVE RADAR LOCK OR ANY OTHER MEANS OF POSITIVE ID. FAST EAGLE 100 WAS FLYING HIGH COVER AND SAW THE ENGAGEMENT BY FAST EAGLE 110. FAST EAGLE 100 CONFIRMS 110 VISUAL ID; 100 LOST CONTACT IN HAZE AS WELL.

CPA OF ACFT 110 FROM CONTACT 4000-5000 FT.

There are several interesting details about the sighting here. For one, there were clearly two unidentified objects. The first was a large underwater object that was “much larger than a submarine.” For reference, the U.S. Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines are 377 feet long. The object also had some passing resemblance to a “downed airliner.” This was technically a USO, or unidentified swimming object. Although much rarer than UFOs, such craft have been sighted over the years.

We know a little more about the UFO itself. It is described as “wingless, white, and shaped like an oblong pill. It was 24-30 (40 in the NYT article) feet long and had no visible markings or glass. The USS Princeton was able to faintly track the “capsule” via its SPY-1B radar system, but the fighters were not able to get a radar lock on the object. The “capsule” was not only more maneuverable than the Hornets but also much faster —for it to have reached the CAP point ahead of the Navy fighters it would have had to have flown in excess of 2,400 miles an hour. According to FighterSweep.com, which published a detailed chronicle of the event in 2015, the object did not emit hot jet exhaust typical of ordinary aircraft.

The two Super Hornets returned to the USS Nimitz and were replaced by a second flight of four more Super Hornets, this time bearing Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) sensor pods. The second flight of Super Hornets also encountered the “capsule”, but this time they got infrared video, which somehow made it to YouTube. Here it is:

Interestingly, in the video one pilot says, “There’s a whole fleet of them. Look on the S.A.” This appears to be a reference to the Super Hornet’s synthetic aperture radar, which would have been scanning targets beyond visual range, implying that there were even more UFOs keeping their distance from the jet fighters.

While the incident is mysterious, it is pretty plainly not a hoax. The Department of Defense has released video of the unidentified object. The USS Princeton observed the UFO on radar, and six Super Hornets—twelve pilots and weapons system operators—saw the objects. (According to FighterSweep.com, which published an account of the incident in 2015, a seventh aircraft, a Marine F/A-18 was also involved.) The New York Times interviewed Commander Fravnor, who confirmed the incident took place.

What was it? There are three obvious but uncanny possibilities.

The first possibility is that the Super Hornet pilots, the Super Hornet’s electro-optical sensors and radars, and the USS Princeton’s radars all misinterpreted natural phenomena or malfunctioned at the same time, all of which appeared related but were actually not. Perhaps the Super Hornet’s crew was actually observing a conventional aircraft or even the sun, and had lost situational awareness to the point where they described such everyday objects as “a wingless capsule.” Maybe the Princeton’s radars were malfunctioning and had picked up, for example, two separate flights of birds and interpreted them as an object capable of jaw-dropping speeds. Together, the two crews could have pieced together ordinary, unremarkable events as one single remarkable one.

This is a discomforting explanation, because it assumes that the pilots and the Princeton’s crew were incompetent and unable to discern ordinary objects from extraordinary ones. It also assumes the guided missile cruiser’s radar malfunctioned. If this explanation is correct, none of these pilots should have been flying for the Navy, and the Princeton’s air defense radar has a previously undiagnosed flaw. Given the level of skill necessary to fly from a U.S. Navy carrier it seems extremely unlikely these pilots were prone to fantasy or misidentifying the sun as a white, tic-tac-shaped UFO hovering close to the water.

The second possibility is that the objects are actually operated by an arm of the U.S. government. Rumors of the federal government studying crashed UFOs or experimenting with secret technology have been rampant for decades, though with scant proof. If these were indeed secret U.S. craft, it is clear why they’re being hidden. The Super Hornet was a top of the line aircraft in 2004 and yet the object easily out-maneuvered and out-accelerated it. If America’s enemies mastered such technology, most (but apparently not all) of our armed forces would be defenseless against them.

The third possibility is that the objects were alien craft, piloted by aliens or an artificial intelligence, using technology we can’t even imagine. The objects, their controllers, and their motivations could utterly alien and unknowable.

Regardless, something did happen over the Pacific Ocean on November 14th, 2004. Whether it was a mass hallucination and equipment failure, an accidental interaction with a hidden government agency, a Close Encounter of the First Kind, a combination of all three, or something else entirely is unknown. For now, the U.S. Navy’s sighting joins the list of hundreds of others that simply remain explainable.

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