US Navy releases UFO footage: we ask former UK Ministry of Defence expert what this means

Recently released footage from a US Navy Super Hornet’s sensor pod (above) shows a currently unexplained aerial phenomenon or aircraft. Hush-Kit spoke to former UK Government and Ministry of Defence UFO expert Nick Pope for his opinion. 
What happened, and what does the footage tell us?

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There’s still a lot about this footage that we don’t know. The film does appear to be genuine (which isn’t always the case with UFO footage), but while some media reporting makes it sound as if this was an official release by the Pentagon, it was actually released by former Blink-182 rocker Tom DeLonge’s To The Stars Academy, which is essentially a commercial venture. The fact that footage like this exists formed part of a story in the New York Times on December 16, revealing that the Pentagon had a UFO investigation program, and that it focused on sightings from the military. This is a big deal, not just because of the footage, but because for many years the US government has consistently and very specifically denied that there was any official interest or involvement in the subject. It turns out that there was.

 What was the 2004 case and is this similar?

We probably know more about the 2004 case than the other footage, mainly because it caught the attention of the New York Times, who ran a second story focusing specifically on this incident, naming Cmdr. David Fravor and Lt. Cmdr. Jim Slaight as the two Navy airmen involved. Once this information was in the public domain the airmen themselves spoke out and this filled in a lot of the blanks. Both these cases tell the media and the public what government UFO investigators have known for many years: pilots sometimes encounter things that they can’t identify, and these things are sometimes tracked on military radar. Pilots have chased them, footage of these chases exists, and on occasion these objects seem to be capable of extraordinary speeds and maneuvers. Unfortunately, none of this footage tells us what these things actually are. Conspiracy theorists believe the government knows all about UFOs and is covering up the truth. The reality – as we see in these videos – is that the government doesn’t know either. There’s something going on, but we don’t know what it is.

Some have said that the gimbal footage case is a result of a misreading of the IR sensor imagery, does this make sense to you?

When I worked at the UK Ministry of Defence on their UFO project (1991 to 1994) I had access to various imagery analysis resources and capabilities. Specifically, I was able to task DIS (Defence Intelligence Staff) and JARIC (Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre) experts with analyzing any photos and videos of UFOs that we acquired. However, I wasn’t an imagery analyst myself, and had to rely on the advice of the deep specialists who I consulted. Accordingly, I know what I don’t know. It may be that there’s a misreading of the imagery here, but I don’t have the specialist knowledge to call this either way. I’m wary when non-specialists – whether they’re true believers or die-hard debunkers – get their hands on this sort of evidence and undertake what I call a ‘conclusion-led analysis’, trying either to validate it or debunk it, depending on their existing belief system. I genuinely don’t know what to make of this footage, but I’m happy to adopt a wait-and-see approach, listen to genuine experts, and see where the data take us.

What do you think the US Navy ‘gimbal footage’ was? Or wasn’t?

The basic instinct of pilots and air force intelligence officers will be to assume that these sorts of sightings are attributable to drones, missiles, or some sort of atmospheric plasma phenomenon that science doesn’t yet fully understand. This is why those of us who have investigated UFOs from within government tend to use soundbites like ‘more likely Russian than Martian’ when we look at such things. That said, few people who’ve looked at this issue officially are prepared to entirely rule out other more exotic options. ‘Never say never’, in other words. There are some intriguing clues here. We should bear in mind that these aren’t leaked videos. The footage has been reviewed, declassified and released by the Pentagon, albeit by or at the request of Luis Elizondo himself, in one of his last acts before leaving government service. This latter point may open him to investigation, given that these videos are seemingly a key part of Tom DeLonge’s commercial venture, in which Elizondo is involved, presumably as a paid consultant and/or shareholder. However, the key point to me is that given that the Pentagon declassified the footage, it’s unlikely they think it shows a new drone or missile, irrespective of whether it’s American, Russian or Chinese. Similarly, if the Pentagon genuinely thought this was the smoking gun that proves UFOs are extraterrestrial, it’s unlikely they’d authorize public release of the footage. The public release implies the authorities regard this material as unclassified. Sadly, this suggests a prosaic explanation.

What do you make of the recent Iranian claims? 

My gut feeling is that any unexplained aerial activity in the vicinity of Iranian military facilities is likely to be connected to US or Israeli reconnaissance flights, involving spy planes or drones. That said, I think we’d have to look at just how this story got out in the first place: was it leaked, was it the result of investigative journalism, or did the Iranian authorities themselves have a hand in things? If the latter, we need to consider the possibility of some sort of Iranian deception/disinformation operation – though I confess the strategic aim of such an operation escapes me.

Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read

You should also enjoy our Top Tens! There’s a whole feast of fantastic BritishFrenchSwedishAustralian, Japanese , Belgian,  German and Latin American aeroplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read as is the Top Ten cancelled fighters.

Read an interview with a Super Hornet pilot here.

 Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

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One comment

  1. gambeir

    This is not a UFO. It’s a plasma in the Infared wavelength. A bolide specifically. Probably created by the Navy itself. Sustained plasma bolides in the free atmosphere are a fact: A part of geo-engineering.

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