Late last year, the Pentagon was forced to admit that they have been secretly funding a program that aimed to investigate military reports of unidentified flying objects, or as the Defense Department refers to them, AAVs — Anomalous Aerial Vehicles. The program, given the clunky title of “The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program,” was led by Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence officer, until October when he resigned in protest, citing his concerns about the threats possibly posed by these unidentified aircraft and the lack of resources being allocated to their investigation.
The existence of the program at all seemed evidence enough to many that the government must have felt that there was something worth looking into. Over the span of five years, the Defense Department allocated some $22 million to this investigation, then allowed it to continue without direct lines of funding from 2012 forward — a small drop in the bucket of overall defense spending, but a significant expenditure nonetheless. Skeptics, however, pointed out that the program was defunded and Elizondo himself has complained that the program’s findings were not taken seriously by defense officials; both powerful indicators that UFOs as a concept may belong in science fiction, rather than defense budgets.
Soon, however, evidence that seemed to support Elizondo’s claims began to surface, including dramatic footage from a FLIR camera on the nose of an F/A-18 Hornet as it attempted to intercept a “tic-tac” shaped craft spotted near the USS Nimitz carrier strike group off the coast of California in 2004. The footage and accompanying testimony drew attention all over the world, begging hard questions about what the Navy ships spotted on radar, and even harder to explain away, just what it was pilots saw with their own eyes.
Now, Senator Harry Reid, who was among the lawmakers that first pushed to fund the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program has released the report that was provided to him about that specific incident. The details of the report not only shed more light on the now famous encounter between a pair of Navy Hornets and what the report claims was a 45 foot long “tic tac,” but it lays out a series of sightings and interactions that played out over the span of nearly a week.
According to the report, the Nimitz class’ namesake carrier and its accompanying strike group tracked intermittent radar signatures from these unusual crafts repeatedly between November 10th and November 16th of 2004. These radar signatures, which were all recorded from the waters off the coast of the Baja Peninsula of Southern California, seemed to show multiple crafts dropping from altitudes of 60,000 feet down to just feet above the water in a matter of seconds, where they would hover for a time before darting off in other directions.
After spotting these anomalies repeatedly for days, the Nimitz redirected a pair of F/1-18Fs to intercept and investigate one such radar signature as they returned from a routine training operation. The pilots reported visual contact with the craft from a distance of about one mile, according to the report. They described it as “an elongated ‘Tic Tac’ shape with a discernible midline horizontal axis.” The craft was “solid white, smooth, with no edges,” and they went on to report that it was “uniformly colored with no nacelles, pylons or wings.”
The report goes on to state that the pilots were not able to obtain a radar lock on the craft for weapon’s purposes, though they were able to track the craft on radar whenever it was stationary or traveling at lower speeds. The pilots reported that the aircraft did not assume an aggressive posture as they approached. It did, however, respond to their presence. According to the account of Commander David “Sex” Fravor, the lead pilot of the intercept whose name was redacted from the released report, the craft “appeared to recognize” him as he attempted to close the gap between them, first taking evasive action and the darting away at a speed Fravor described as “supersonic.”
More troubling, the nearby USS Princeton, a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser that was managing the intercept via comms picked up the radar signature of the unidentified craft as it slowed down once again — it had traveled to the grid coordinates the Hornets had been conducting training operations in prior to being diverted to intercept.
That intercept wasn’t the only one to take place in that same span of time either. Another incident saw an F/A-18C scrambled to intercept the unusual radar signature, only to find an unusual disturbance on the surface of the ocean, but no craft to speak of. The disturbance was circular and between 150 and 300 feet in diameter, and was defined by foaming turmoil on the surface that didn’t match the surrounding sea water. Some have postulated that the disturbance was caused by an unidentified craft submerged beneath the water, but reports from the USS Louisville, a Los Angeles class nuclear attack submarine within the carrier strike group, indicated no sonar signatures in the vicinity during the period of time in question.
The 13 page document also outlines some of the administrative aftermath of the incidents, as well as the pilots reporting a high level of ridicule in the days that followed their report — which included personnel in the CVIC (the aircraft carrier’s intelligence center) wearing tin foil hats as they debriefed the pilots.
You can read the full report here, or you can watch Cdr Fravor give his own account of the incident in the video below:
Feature image courtesy of the U.S. Navy