What are we to make of this?
The New York Times reports, May 26, 2019, that U. S. Navy pilots reported that they had seen unidentified flying objects (UFOs) almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a near collision with one of the objects, and an official mishap report was filed.
The pilots began noticing the objects after their 1980s-era radar was upgraded to a more advanced system, which suggests that the UFOs had been present before, but were undetected.
The UFOs had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds. Some of the incidents were videotaped, including one taken by a plane’s camera in early 2015 showing an object zooming over the ocean waves and pilots asking what they were seeing. One pilot exclaimed: “Wow, what is that, man? Look at it fly!”
The pilots’ reports prompted the Navy, earlier this year, to issue an update of its classified guidance for how to report suspected intrusions into our airspace by “unexplained aerial phenomena”.
No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents. Navy spokesman Joseph Gradisher said, “There were a number of different reports.” Some cases could have been commercial drones, but in other cases “we don’t know who’s doing this, we don’t have enough data to track this. So the intent of the message to the fleet is to provide updated guidance on reporting procedures for suspected intrusions into our airspace.”
The pilots reported their sightings to a little-known shadowy Pentagon agency called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Founded in 2007, the secretive program investigates reports of UFOs, consuming $22 million of the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget. Until October 2017 when he resigned, the AATIP was run by military intelligence official Luis Elizondo from the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring. Elizondo is quoted by the NYT as calling the sightings “a striking series of incidents.”
In interviews with the New York Times, five Navy pilots said they saw the UFOs in 2014 and 2015 in training maneuvers from Virginia to Florida off the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. The pilots are Lieutenants Ryan Graves and Danny Accoin, F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots in the VFA-11 “Red Rippers” squadron, and three other pilots of the squadron who declined to be named. In the summer of 2014, the squadron was training out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., for a deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Lt. Danny Accoin said he interacted twice with the objects:
- The first time, after picking up the object on his radar, he set his plane to merge with it, flying 1,000 feet below it. He said he should have been able to see it with his helmet camera, but could not, even though his radar told him it was there.
- A few days later, a training missile on Lt. Accoin’s jet locked on the object and his infrared camera picked it up as well. He said: “I knew I had it, I knew it was not a false hit, but I could not pick it up visually.”
Lt. Ryan Graves, who has been with the Navy for 10 years, still cannot explain what he saw. He said the UFOs showed up at 30,000 feet, 20,000 feet, even sea level. The objects could accelerate, slow down, and then hit hypersonic speed:
“These things would be out there all day. Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect. People have seen strange stuff in military aircraft for decades. We’re doing this very complex mission, to go from 30,000 feet, diving down. It would be a pretty big deal to have something up there.”
Lt. Graves said that in late 2014, he was back at base in Virginia Beach when he encountered a squadron mate just back from a mission “with a look of shock on his face” who told Graves “I almost hit one of those things.” The pilot and his wingman were flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach when something flew between them, right past the cockpit. The UFO looked like a sphere encasing a cube.
The near-miss so spooked Graves’ squadron that an aviation flight safety report was filed.
What was strange was that the video showed objects accelerating to hypersonic speed, making sudden stops and instantaneous turns — something beyond the physical limits of a human crew. Lt. Graves explains: “Speed doesn’t kill you. Stopping does. Or acceleration.”
Until then, Lt. Graves and the other pilos had thought the UFOs were part of some classified and extremely advanced U.S. drone program. But the near miss angered the squadron, and convinced them that the objects were not part of a classified drone program because government officials would know fighter pilots were training in the area and would not have sent drones to get in the way.
Asked what they thought the objects were, Lts. Graves and Accoin refused to speculate:
- Lt. Graves said: “We have helicopters that can hover. We have aircraft that can fly at 30,000 feet and right at the surface. But combine all that in one vehicle of some type with no jet engine, no exhaust plume.”
- Lt. Accoin said only that “we’re here to do a job, with excellence, not make up myths.”
Lts. Graves and Accoin, along with former American intelligence officials, appear in a six-part History Channel series, “Unidentified: Inside America’s U.F.O. Investigation,” to air beginning tomorrow, May 31. Below is a snippet.
The pilots said the UFO sightings tapered off after they left the United States when, in March 2015, the aircraft carrier Roosevelt left the coast of Florida and headed to the Persian Gulf as part of the U.S.-led mission fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
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