The Nimitz UFO Incident

The genesis of a disclosure in progress, Part 3


Published 2023-10-01 at 05:58

Reading Reading 11 min.

The USS Nimitz UFO incident involved a radar and visual encounter between U.S. fighter pilots from the 11th Naval Air Strike Group in 2004 and an unidentified flying object (UFO). The encounter included an engagement of the UFO by the 41st Fighter Squadron commander and his weapons systems officer.

The first encounter occurred during a combat training exercise taking place in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California on November 14, 2004, and apparently, related sightings occurred in the days before and after the encounter.

A video of the incident circulated on the Internet beginning in 2007, and in 2015 the incident was described in detail on an aviation website. In 2017, the video was released again via the New York Times article, accompanied by two others about UFO sightings by other pilots in 2014 and 2015 in the Atlantic Ocean. In 2019, the Department of Defense confirmed the authenticity of the three videos and stated they were "unidentified aerial phenomena." In 2020, the videos were republished by the Department of Defense. External analyses of the Nimitz incident vary. According to one professor in journalism, the emerging expert consensus on the subject is that the most likely explanation for the perceived phenomenon is secret missile or aircraft tests, possibly a drone, rather than 'anomalies'.

A GEIPAN collaborator, Antoine Cousyn, an analyst and developer of the IPACO software, (video analysis software used by GEIPAN), says he’s "very skeptical", claiming that the first two videos would show the back of a fighter plane and that he seriously thinks of a joke from the pilots, though he’s not able to draw a conclusion in the absence of details. More recently, journalist Julian Barnes declared in the NY Times: “One of the videos, called "Go Fast", appears to show an object moving at immense speed. But an analysis by the military says it's an illusion created by the angle of view against the water. According to Pentagon calculations, the object is only moving at about 30 miles per hour.

Another video, known as Gimbal, shows an object that appears to be spinning or rotating. Military officials now believe it is the optics of the classified image sensor, designed to help target weapons, that makes the object appear to move in a strange way."

"Gimbal" UAP footage, USG

What do these videos show?

The documents named Flir, Gimbal and Go Fast are in black and white. The first video was recorded on November 14, 2004 off the coast of San Diego, California. This event, dubbed Flir, is also known as the USS Nimitz Encounters. The other two are from January 2015. The three videos were taken by US Navy pilots, thanks to infrared cameras installed on the fighter jets.

Flir displays an elongated shape, which ufologists have since baptized Tic Tac, referencing the popular mint candy. A few seconds after the US Navy aircraft spots it, the mysterious shape disappears on the left of the image after a sudden acceleration. The video of 1 minute 17 is devoid of sounds.

Gimbal shows an oval-shaped object moving before a sea of clouds. The audio commentaries suggest: "There's a whole fleet of them (...) Holy cow, they're all going against the wind! A west wind of 120 knots!" says one of them, before another one points out that the object, which has no wings, is rotating, just before the end of the video which is only 35 seconds long.

Go fast shows a small visible dot above the water moving at a very fast pace. After successfully locking his sight on the object on his third attempt, a pilot happily shouts "Wow, I've got it!"  "What the heck is that thing?" questions another. The video is 34 seconds long.

Flir is supported by the testimony of the pilots. David Fravor, one of the pilot witnesses, has spoken to numerous media outlets. "First of all, it didn't have wings, so we thought it was a helicopter, but there was no blowing of the rotor on the water, no rotor," he recounted on CNN from 2017 .

"It was extremely abrupt, like a ping pong ball bouncing off a wall and changing direction," David Fravor also noted. And its ability to hover over the water and then go back to vertical from 0 to over 12,000 feet, and then accelerate in less than 2 seconds and disappear, is something I've never seen in my life." The object "was moving very quickly and very erratically and we couldn't anticipate where it was going or how it was maneuvering," also said former pilot Alex Dietrich, who also witnessed the scene, as reported by the BBC.

"I believe, like the other witnesses who saw the object that day, that it is something that is not from our world."

Speaking with Wired as reported by France Info, Former American army pilot Andrea Themely explains that these phenomena have no wings and that no means of propulsion is visible - at least no means of propulsion known until now, because they appear cold to the infrared camera.

Moreover, they are visibly moving at an extremely high speed. According to radar data from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton, the Tic Tac could reach a speed of 74,000 km/h, or Mach 60, which is 60 times the speed of sound. By comparison, among the French army's fighter planes, the French Rafale jet fighter can reach Mach 1.8, and the Mirage 2000, another French jet, can travel up to Mach 2.1. 

The displacements of these phenomena raise questions as they seem to defy what is physically possible. In the case of Gimbal, the French Aeronautical and Astronautical Association (3AF) gives the following analysis in its October 2020 newsletter: “The pilots' comments attest to their surprise at a change of attitude that defies the laws of flight mechanics, since it places the object orthogonally to the aerodynamic flow". 

Nevertheless, it is impossible not to wonder about certain unusual (to say the least) characteristics.

Picture by Military_Material for Pixabay

Stationed on a Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Princeton as the Nimitz carrier group set sail for a routine training exercise in early November 2004, Petty Officer 3rd Class Gary Voorhis was the only system technician for the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and state-of-the-art AEGIS combat system. With pilots regularly seeing ghost tracks and radar clutter, his first concern was that the ship's brand new AN/SPY-1B passive radar system was malfunctioning. Voorhis has explained that the air traffic control systems had been disassembled and recalibrated in an effort to eliminate what were supposedly false radar returns. “  Once we finished all the recalibration and got it back up, the tracks were actually sharper and clearer," Voorhis says. "Sometimes they were at an altitude of 80,000 or 60,000 feet. Other times they were at about 30,000 feet, going like 100 knots. Their radar cuts didn't match any known aircraft; they were 100 percent red. No squawk, no IFF (Identification Friend or Foe).”

Voorhies continues: "I couldn't make out the details, but they would just hover over there, and then all of a sudden, in an instant, they would dart off in another direction and stop again. (…) At night, they would emit a sort of phosphorus glow and be a little easier to see than during the day." 

What a strange luminescence, for what’s been presented to us as stealth spy drones, which would have no interest shining at night to better signal themselves... The objects would appear suddenly at an altitude of 25Km, fall towards the sea to end up stopping at sea level with unbearable accelerations (which calculations show would equate to 1000G). They would then disappear from the radar coverage or go straight up at high speed. The radar equivalent surface of the objects did not correspond to that of any known aircraft, they would fly at aberrant speeds, sometimes very slow and sometimes so high that they would escape the radar interception, not giving off heat; no wings, no apparent propulsion systems; one appeared flying on the surface of the sea, above an object under the surface of the bubbling water. Those objects were seen every day for nearly a year and a half – an astonishing fact, if you choose to consider that those things belong to an espionage program. The pilots claim to have seen other, even more astonishing objects: cubes inside translucent spheres, as reported by pilot Ryan Graves during the 2015 near the USS Roosevelt. Conventional hypotheses are given a hard time.

Picture by 12019 for Pixabay

“Members of our squadron who have seen them would simply describe them as a dark gray or dark black cube inside a transparent sphere between 4 and 6 meters in diameter” , as reported by pilot Ryan Graves during the 2015 near the USS Roosevelt. .

Like many UFO witnesses, these encounters are accompanied by strange changes in the personality of the witnesses. Kevin Day thus testifies to traumatic dreams following his observation: “The dreams I started having in 2008 can be loosely described as eschatological; global disasters, comets causing tsunamis, epic floods, earthquakes, plane crashes, and end-of-the-world scenarios."In addition, the recorded data was oddly confiscated by mysterious officers. Aboard aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, Petty Officer Patrick "PJ" Hughes was tasked with securing the hard drive data recorders of airborne early warning aircraft E-2 Hawkeye. He was unaware of the UFO encounters his fellow pilots and radar operators had encountered. He was visited by his commanding officer and two unknown men who asked him to hand over the E-2 hard drives he was securing in a classified safe. Inside the Princeton, Voorhis had a similar encounter. "These two guys showed up in a helicopter, which was not uncommon, but shortly after they arrived, maybe 20 minutes, my chain of command told me to turn over all the data recorders for AEGIS," Voorhis says. In addition to turning over his data tapes, Voorhis says his chain of command told him he needed to reload the recorders from the ship's forward combat engagement center (FAC), as it had also been wiped clean, as well as the optical drives with all the radio communications. "They even told me to erase everything in the store, even the blank tapes," he said.

Next Week: Leslie Kean
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Translated from French by Guillaume Fournier Airaud

Main picture: Military_Material for Pixabay

Thibaut Canuti

Thibaut Canuti is a contemporary historian by training and a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Sciences de l'Information et des Bibliothèques. He has written several books, including "Un fait maudit" and the two-volume "Histoire de l'ufologie française", has authored numerous articles and has also participated in various conferences. Thibaut is interested in all aspects of the UFO phenomenon and ufology. He serves as editor and writer.