Last week, news that the United States Defense Department had allocated some $22 million to the study of military reports of Unidentified Flying Objects since 2007 surprised the world, but perhaps even more surprising was some of the evidence that surfaced along with the secretive investigative arm of the Pentagon.  According to Luis Elizondo, the former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, the U.S. government gathered quite a bit of telling evidence throughout the years he was a part of the investigation, and he has proof to back up his claims.

Recently declassified footage from an encounter between two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and an unidentified flying object off the coast of San Diego, along with the accounts of the pilots who flew them, were released to coincide with the revelation that the Defense Department has been taking unknown objects in the sky rather seriously.

The incident itself took place in 2004, when Navy Cmdr. David Fravor and Lt. Cmdr. Jim Slaight were redirected during a routine training flight to investigate unidentified aircraft picked up on radar by the USS Princeton.  The pilots were able to close with the strange vessel, but as they approached it, it sped away at speeds the pilot recounted as “like nothing I’d ever seen.”

Screen capture from the 2004 Navy footage. (YouTube)

The footage, of course, wasn’t the regular, shaky, cell phone video we’ve come to expect from reports of unusual lights in the sky – instead, it was captured using a Raytheon Advanced Targeting Forward Look Infrared sensor, mounted under one of the fighter jets; and they’re eager to claim the credit for it.

“We might be the system that caught the first evidence of E.T. out there,” said Aaron Maestas, director of engineering and chief engineer for Surveillance and Targeting Systems at Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems business.

“But I’m not surprised we were able to see it. ATFLIR is designed to operate on targets that are traveling in excess of Mach 1. It’s a very agile optical system with a sensitive detector that can distinguish between the cold sky and the hot moving target quite easily.”

A U.S. Navy ATFLIR, designated AN/ASQ-228, mounted under a fighter jet. (Raytheon)

Of course, Raytheon, who contracts with the federal government to build things ranging from Tomahawk Cruise missiles to extended range Excalibur projectiles for Marine Corps artillery fixtures, was careful not to claim that the video captured in their infrared sensor proves the existence of extra-terrestrials in their press release.

“To really be sure, we would need the raw data,” said Dr. Steve Cummings, vice president of Technology Development and Execution at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “Visual displays alone are not the best evidence.”