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US Navy encounters with unidentified systems

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 19 may. 2020 5:47 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 10 sept. 2020 9:34 ]
Last week, The Drive website’s The War Zone disclosed another eight encounters of US Navy pilots with flying objects of unknown origin, this time over the Atlantic Ocean near the east coast of the country, in the vicinity of the city of Virginia Beach.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter as the ones that had several encounters with aerial devices of unknown origin between 2013 and 2014 offshore Virginia Beach, in the United States.

Map of the approximate zone where the sightings of the aerial objects of unknown origin this article is about took place.
The War Zone obtained a copy of eight “risk reports,” branded as “Declassified” and “For official use only,” after making a request to the Naval Security Center through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Seven of the incidents involved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters and occurred on different dates between 2013 and 2014 in an offshore sector of Virginia and North Carolina known as the W-72 alert area. 

The eighth incident occurred in 2019 and involved an EA-18G Growler aircraft flying in a different portion of the Atlantic Ocean offshore Maryland, in a sector called the W-386 alert area. 

Incidents 

The first incident dates from June 27, 2013, when a F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter from Strike Fighter Squadron 11 had an encounter with an “aircraft that was white in color and approximately the size and shape of a drone or missile” in the alert area W-72. The crew members of the plane “visually acquired” it when they saw it “pass down the right side of their aircraft with approximately 200 feet of lateral separation” while flying at 17,000 feet of altitude. The object was on the rise and had a visible exhaust trail. 

The second sighting, by a fighter of the same model, occurred on November 18, 2013 when the crew members detected an object in the alert zone W-72 through radar, at about 12,000 feet and at a speed of Mach 0.1 (120 kilometers per hour). “The aircraft had an approximately 5-foot wingspan and was colored white with no other distinguishable features,” said the pilot, who observed the object and was able to follow it for an hour.

According to that report, the Navy concluded that it was an unmanned aerial system, but the operator could not be identified. 

The third incident is the same as the previous one, but observed by a pilot of another F/A-18F Super Hornet, who confirmed the presence of an anomalous aerial phenomenon.

The fourth sighting dates from March 26, 2014, when a fighter with the same characteristics detected a possible radar echo at about 19,000 feet and at a speed of Mach 0.1 (120 kilometers per hour) in the same area. The pilot of an accompanying aircraft did not detect it by radar and there was a discussion as to whether it could not have been a false echo due to strong winds of more than 100 knots (185 kilometers per hour) at 18,000 feet of altitude. 

“The unknown aircraft appeared to be small in size, about the size of a suitcase, and silver in color,” according to the report. The pilot only managed to pass within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of the object and could not identify it. Subsequently, he lost sight of it and had no further eye contact.

Three sightings in five days

In the fifth case, which took place on April 23, 2014, another F/A-18F Super Hornet had an encounter with multiple “unidentified aerial devices.” The crew initially detected two unknown objects on radar, one at 12,000 feet and another at 15,000 feet, both apparently stationary. Later, they confirmed the presence of the objects using the fighter's ATFLIR system.

While these objects were being investigated, two more passed through the ATFLIR system’s field of view at high speed and did not appear on the aircraft’s radar. In at least two “hazard reports” issued after these incidents, squad commanders noted that “it is only a matter of time before this results in an airborne collision.” 

The following day, April 24, 2014, two other F/A-18Fs had radar contact with another unknown flying object while performing basic combat maneuvers during an exercise. The target was stationary or nearly stationary at 11,000 feet and was not visually spotted by any of the fighters. 

On April 27, and for the third time in five days, the crew of an F/A-18F from Strike Fighter Squadron 11 flying in the W-72 alert area reported an encounter with an unknown aircraft. Although the report is more concise than the previous ones, it describes a “near-air collision with an object similar to a balloon.”

The eighth and final report dates from February 13, 2019, when the crew of an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 visually spotted what they described as “a red weather balloon” at 27,000 feet, in the alert area W-386.

According to the report, the Navy was not aware of scheduled balloon activities nor could it identify individuals or organizations that may have launched one.

Despite the strangeness of the observations, at the end of their article, The War Zone editors Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick state that they believe the reports have an explanation and suggest that they could be electronic espionage devices, possibly from foreign countries.
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