Did angry pilots and hi-tech radar force the Navy to acknowledged UFOs?

By Ted Bonnitt on June 7th, 2019
Did angry pilots and hi-tech radar force the Navy to acknowledged UFOs?
UFO catcher. AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar is installed in a Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. The advanced radar system spotted UFOs during training flights off the U.S. coast.
UFO catcher. AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar is installed in a Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. The advanced radar system spotted UFOs during training flights off the U.S. coast.

The US Navy twice confirmed the existence of UFOs in recent days, making headlines around the world. Many people are asking if long desired “disclosure” to the public about potentially superior, non-human intelligence is at hand. While the Navy’s news is startling, the reasons for it may be more human than alien.

On May 22, the New York Post, as part of an ongoing investigation on UFOs received a surprise confirmation from the Pentagon that the Department of Defense (DOD) actively investigated reports of Unidentified Ariel Phenomena (UAP), as they refer to UFOs.  The secret investigation was called the "Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program" (AATIP).  

News about AATIP first broke in late 2017, along with a DOD video of a UFOs being chased by two Navy fighter jets 100 miles off the coast off San Diego, CA in 2004. Commander David Fravor, one of the two F-18 pilots who visibly saw and pursued what became known as the "Tic-Tac" UFO named for its appearance said that what they saw was unlikely man made. Fravor is the most visible witness to the event, having appeared on several news media outlets to explain his encounter. Fravor recently revealed that highly placed government officials are very interested in his encounter and the implications of multiple UFO sightings recorded by the Navy and possibly other sources.

The Navy's Nimitz carrier group from where the F-18s were based saw 10 of the objects on radar rapidly descend from 80,000 feet to near sea level. At the time, the Pentagon did not acknowledge the existence of AATIP or any DOD UFO investigations.

AATIP was verified by Luis Elizondo, who claims he directed the program at the Pentagon from its inception in 2007 until the program allegedly ended in 2012. He quit in 2017 over his frustration with the DOD chain of command and the apparent "filtering" of his information, according to his friend, Cmdr. Fravor. The Pentagon continues to dispute Elizondo’s claim that he headed their UFO investigation program.

Elizondo says he left his top secret DOD job to continue his studies in the private sector with musician Tom Delonge’s newly formed, “To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences.” To The Stars conducts UFO and related investigation work and entertainment production, including the History Channel’s current UFO TV series, “Unidentified.” 

It was big news last month when Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood confirmed that AATIP did exist and that the Pentagon continues to actively investigate reported UFO encounters by military personnel. The announcement was hailed as a bombshell by veteran UFO researchers. Since then, Joseph Gradisher, spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare also acknowledged that the Navy is updating its protocols for reporting encounters with unidentified and extraordinary flying objects.

Even bigger news was the release of fresh Navy footage taken of UFOs off the Atlantic Ocean coast of the US in 2014-2015. The New York Times broke the story last week that Navy pilots had near daily encounters with UFOs at sea for at least 8 months. The bizarre craft were spotted offshore from Virginia to Florida during training missions from the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

Lt. Ryan Graves, a veteran F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot took the bold step of telling the Pentagon and Congress that he observed the UFOs daily and that some of the objects flew for 12 hours at a time, with no apparent explanation for how the fast flying objects were powered for so long a period of time.

The odd shaped UFOs showed no visible propulsion or exhaust heat trails. Yet, they flew remarkable maneuvers, including plunging from an altitude of tens of thousands of feet to sea level in less than second.  Other UFOs were clocked at hypersonic speeds (between 3500-7500 mph) and made sudden turns at high G-forces that could kill a human pilot and tear apart known aircraft. The Navy released videos of the flying objects taken by the pilots, who would not publicly speculate about the origins of the UFOs, extraterrestrial or otherwise.

Is “Disclosure” at hand?

Not necessarily. Far more bizarre UFO encounters are reported frequently by people around the world. This latest round of reports are coming from just a single source, the DOD and through AATIP. The reason the Pentagon has finally admitted that it is actively investigating UFOs may be for a more earthy reason: angry pilots.

Commercial and military aviators traditionally shy away from reporting encounters with UFOs not only because they have top secret security clearances and are ordered not to speak out, but it is also considered a dreaded “resume event” that could negatively impact their careers and deny future promotions. So, why would Lt. Graves and four other Navy fighter pilots step forward and risk their careers?

The reasons may be a combination of frustration and safety concerns. The five pilots who have spoken up about the UFOs over the east coast were members of the Navy’s Virginia Beach, VA., based VFA-11 ‘Red Rippers’ squadron who flew F-18 Super Hornet fighter training missions off the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. Two of the pilots went on record, while the others remained anonymous.

At first the UFOs were only seen on the new, AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar system that had been recently installed on their aircraft. The pilots could not see the radar objects visually.  The Navy initially thought the objects were false tracks or electronic bugs in the new radar system. Then pilot Lieutenant Danny Accoin spotted a strange object with his F-18's infrared camera, ruling out a radar mistake. But Accoin could still not see the object with his own eyes. The pilots thought that the UFOs were possibly new technology drones that they were not told about. But that explanation did not add up. The objects had no traditional flight surfaces or engine exhaust heat images to explain how the objects flew or were powered.

Lt. Graves told the New York Times that the turning point was in late 2014 when a he saw a pilot from his squadron return from a training flight, “with a look of shock on his face.” The pilot had seen the UFO with his own eyes and nearly collided with it when it flew between his aircraft and another F-18 flying only 100 feet apart. The shaken pilot said the UFO looked like a “sphere encasing a cube.”

Because the close encounter occurred in airspace restricted to fighter jet training, the pilots agreed that the mysterious objects were not experimental aircraft or drones. The frightening experience may have prompted the pilots to risk their careers by speaking out about what happened because of safety concerns over potential midair collisions with intelligently controlled craft that are clearly superior to the world’s most advanced aircraft.

The pilots were also frustrated about a lack of a formal Navy reporting protocol for their encounters. They had no clear channel for telling their superiors about safety concerns over close, mid-air encounters. The Navy’s new announcement to create UFO reporting protocols for pilots represents a big step forward to destigmatize the subject.

The objects were regularly seen by pilots for at least 8 months over the Atlantic Ocean from the time the advanced radar was installed on their aircraft until the carrier group deployed to the middle east, meaning that the UFOs may have been there long before they were first spotted and after the F-18s sailed off to war.  They could still be there, flying off the east coast of the United States. Later, it was reported that the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier group spotted the same type of UFOs when they reached deployment in middle-eastern waters.

The mesmerizing 2004 Navy footage of a “Tic-Tac” shaped UFO off the Pacific coast of San Diego was taken by F-18s on training missions from the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group, and with a similar and earlier version of the same AN/APG-79 advanced radar system that spotted the UFOs over the Atlantic Ocean a decade later.

Once again, It may be a story of humans using new technology to catch up to UFOs while struggling to manage what’s flying circles around their jets.

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