The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

The Pentagon’s UFOs
How a Multimedia Entertainment Company created a UFO news story

On December 16, 2017, the New York Times published “Glowing Auras and Black Money—The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,” a now-famous article about the previously unknown Pentagon UFO study program, as reported by To The Stars Academy (TTSA). It was founded by a rock musician named Tom DeLonge, formerly of the band Blink-182, who describes TTSA as an “independent multimedia entertainment company.” This set off a media UFO frenzy that still continues.

To show how little TTSA’s people understand about what they are doing, the so-called “glowing auras” surrounding the objects in the widely circulated video shot by a military jet represent nothing more than a processing artifact of the infrared image. But TTSA’s “experts,” as well as those who look up to them, don’t realize that obvious fact and think instead that it represents something deeply mysterious.

Most people didn’t notice that Leslie Kean, one of the authors of this piece, is a dedicated UFO promoter who has written a popular UFO book. She is also very gullible, at one point promoting a video of a fly buzzing around as if it were some great proof of high-performance UFOs. (And she still has not admitted that she was fooled by the fly.) Another author of the article, Ralph Blumenthal, has also been a UFO believer for years. So this was not the customary news article written by New York Times journalists assigned to investigate a mystery and write an objective story. Instead, it was crafted by UFO believers to appear neutral and objective when it is anything but.

Now the other shoe has dropped. On May 26, 2019 the New York Times carried another article by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean—the same three authors as the earlier piece—headlined “Wow, what is that?’ Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects.” They write:

The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds. “These things would be out there all day,” said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years.

One seriously wonders why, if unknown objects were supposedly seen “almost daily” for nearly a year, and hung around “all day,” we don’t have overwhelming video, photographic, and instrumental evidence of them, removing all doubt about their appearance and behavior? In reality, all we see are the same three blurry infrared videos promoted by TTSA, over and over again. This makes no sense at all. Doesn’t the Navy have any cameras, radar and other surveillance equipment?

As for the so-called “Tic Tac” video of 2004 (see image below), serious fault lines are starting to appear in the differing accounts of various persons involved. David Fravor is the pilot who was vectored to the supposed location of the Tic Tac UFO but didn’t see anything in the air at that location. Looking down, he saw a disturbance in the water, which he presumed was caused by the object that apparently had just been airborne. Of course, it is a big assumption that the two must necessarily be the same.

Tic Tac UFO

Fravor spoke at the recent UFO Fest in McMinnville, Oregon (held annually to honor the famous Trent UFO Photos, taken just outside that town). Reporter George Knapp and documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell were also on the panel. Fravor sharply criticized the accounts of certain other people who were involved and have been speaking about the incident. He seemed to be singling out the account of the radar operator, Kevin Day, as being non-factual. He dismissed claims of Air Force personnel coming on board the Nimitz and confiscating evidence as being untrue. Fravor also referred to Dave Beaty’s “Nimitz UFO Encounters” documentary as a “cartoon.” This prompted Knapp to say to Fravor, “I guess you’re being diplomatic, but some of the stories and claims that have been made by people, who may have been on those ships, are just bullshit.” When people began commenting about these remarkable disagreements, Corbell pulled the video off YouTube.

There was little that was new or unexpected in the long-anticipated May 31 premiere of the series “Unidentified” on the History Channel. Produced by Tom DeLonge, whose efforts have more or less dominated UFO news for the past two years, it repeated the same claims that I and others have have already written about many times. Sandwiched between episodes of “Ancient Aliens,” the first of six episodes of “Unidentified” concentrated on the “Tic Tac” UFO. Here are a few things about that episode that I found to be misleading or incorrect:

  • Much is made of the fact that reports were generated by highly trained military pilots, some with combat experience. The implication is that their observations are far more credible than those of just ordinary folks. But longtime UFO researchers recall that Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the former U. S. Air Force Project Blue Book scientific consultant, wrote “Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses” (The Hynek UFO Report, 1977, p. 271). The pilot is, and must be, focused on keeping the aircraft safely aloft, and not on watching some strange-looking object.
  • The Pentagon did not “disclose” or “release” anything about UFOs. This whole “disclosure” line came about from statements by TTSA’s Luis Elizondo and others, and not from any internal Pentagon activity. The Defense Department’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) came about because multimillionaire investor (and longtime UFO believer) Robert Bigelow, a frequent campaign contributor to Sen. Harry Reid, prevailed upon Reid, then the Democratic leader in the Senate, to set up the AATIP program. AATIP then funneled $22 million in contracts to Bigelow’s company (because that’s how things are done in Washington). The only thing that AATIP is known to have produced are 38 papers in weird physics, like anti-gravity, wormholes, and negative mass propulsion.
Chris Cooke claiming in an episode preview that the Tic Tac displayed instantaneous accleration
  • TTSA has claimed from its inception that the Pentagon released the three blurry infrared videos that they ceaselessly show us. They claim to have “chain of custody” documentation for the videos, but nobody has ever seen this documentation. Elizondo recently released to George Knapp, a reporter friendly to TTSA (and it seems to anybody else making UFO claims) a copy of a document purporting to show the videos’ release. But a careful analysis by John Greenewald of The Black Vault shows beyond any doubt that the document does not prove what Elizondo claims it does. Greenewald notes,

we have no proof of any [official Pentagon] release, let alone what is being touted [the videos] is even the same evidence connected to this DD Form 1910. If we see a blatant disregard for the truth by Mr. Elizondo on display with this DD Form 1910, and we see the same disregard for the truth by To The Stars Academy as they have touted documents proving a public release—how can we believe everything or anything else from the same sources?

Elizondos slide showing five observables

In the first episode, Luis Elizondo spoke again about his “five observables”, which I wrote about September of 2018. One of them was “Instantaneous acceleration,” supposedly shown by the Tic Tac UFO’s rapid disappearance from the IR video. In a preview segment from “Unidentified” shown on Fox News, TTSA’s Chris Cooke attributes this movement to the object itself. Elizondo has made this claim in his lectures many times. In reality, back in December, 2017 Mick West of the excellent site Metabunk showed that the “sudden acceleration” of the object was, in fact, due to a change in the zoom factor of the camera at that point. Surprisingly, Cooke’s comment about “acceleration” was cut from the final show; instead, Cooke is heard to say “Somebody changed the zoom.” But Elizondo repeated the ‘instantaneous acceleration’ claim on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox news just a few hours before the series premiere. As for the other four “observables,” they are more accurately called “assumables” than “observables”.

One recent development that is significant, and is not mentioned on the program or by TTSA: According to an article in The Drive by Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway:

the Times’ story doesn’t mention that between 2014 and 2015, Graves and Accoin, and all the other personnel assigned to Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as everyone else in the associated carrier strike group, or CSG, were taking part in series of particularly significant exercises. The carrier had only returned to the fleet after major four-year-long overhaul, also known as a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), in August 2013. This process included installing various upgrades, such as systems associated with the latest operational iteration of the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and its embedded Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture. This is a critical detail. When the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group encountered the Tic Tac in 2004, it was in the midst of the first ever CSG-level operations of the initial iteration of the CEC.

In other words, in 2004 the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group got its radar upgrade, and soon was reporting “unidentified objects”, including the Tic Tac. In 2014-15, Carrier Air Wing One got its radar upgrade, and soon they, too, were reporting UFOs galore. One could interpret this to mean that the radars had finally gotten powerful enough to detect the UFOs that had long been knocking about. But a more prudent interpretation is that the radars had gotten powerful enough to begin detecting birds, small balloons, insect clouds, ice crystals, windborne debris, and various other things found in the atmosphere. Arguing in favor of the latter interpretation is that these radars are apparently no longer detecting anomalous objects, which itself is extremely significant. It suggests that, in all likelihood, after being puzzled by anomalous objects appearing on the new radar, the operators finally figured out what was happening, and no longer are troubled by anomalies.

And in a last-minute bombshell, reporter Keith Kloor finally did what reporters are supposed to do, and ask tough questions about persons in the news making claims. Writing in The Intercept on June 1, Kloor’s piece is headlined “The Media loves the UFO expert who says he worked for an obscure Pentagon program. Did he?” Kloor writes…

there is one crucial detail missing from “Unidentified,” as well as from all the many stories that have quoted Elizondo since he outed himself nearly two years ago to a wide-eyed news media: There is no discernible evidence that he ever worked for a government UFO program, much less led one.

Yes, AATIP existed, and it “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told me. However, he added: “Mr. Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in OUSDI [the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence], up until the time he resigned effective 10/4/2017.”

That directly contradicts an email sent by a spokesperson for To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, a UFO research and entertainment company that Elizondo joined after he left the Defense Department.

Kloor adds that the only supposed confirmation of Elizondo’s involvement with AATIP comes from Bryan Bender of Politico:

“Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed to Politico that the program existed and was run by Elizondo,” Bryan Bender wrote in December 2017. (Earlier this year, White, a Trump administration political appointee, resigned amid an internal probe into charges of misconduct.) But Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told me that he “cannot confirm” White’s statement.

As it happens, Bender, who is Politico’s defense editor, had a recurring role in the first episode of “Unidentified.” He appeared on camera numerous times as a kind of authoritative character witness for Elizondo, Mellon, and their UFO investigations.

So Bender cannot be considered an objective reporter on TTSA, and Elzondo’s supposed involvement with AATIP is supported only on his own word. Kloor further notes that Elizondo will not respond to his inquiries, but obviously has no difficulty being interviewed by other reporters who give him softball questions. I have seen this behavior time and again among UFOlogists who are peddling dubious claims.

Not everyone is happy about Kloor’s expose. “Disclosure” advocate Stephen Basset of the Paradigm Research Group writes:

It is the most egregious hit piece directed at the extraterrestrial presence issue and Disclosure I have ever read in 22 years. It measures up to some of the worst such articles written by Phil Klass, the most vicious debunker on record. Stanton Friedman presented a cogent case that Klass was in the direct employ of the CIA during his disgraceful career.

Note that Basset does not point out anything wrong in what Kloor has written, but he just knows it’s got to be wrong. Clearly the piece has hit a nerve with E.T. proponents. As for Phil Klass, I knew him well, and what Basset says about Klass is Loony Tunes. END

About the Author

Robert Sheaffer is a writer with a lifelong interest in astronomy and the question of life on other worlds. He is one of the leading skeptical investigators of UFOs, and wrote the “Psychic Vibrations” column in the Skeptical Inquirer for almost 40 years. His book Psychic Vibrations reprints some of those columns. His most recent book is Bad UFOs (2016), which is also the name of his Blog that casts a skeptical eye on claims about UFOs. He is also the author of “UFO Sightings” (1998), and has appeared on many radio and TV programs. His writings and reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as OMNI, Scientific American, Spaceflight, Astronomy, The Humanist, Free Inquiry, Reason, and others. He is also a founding director and past Chairman of the Bay Area Skeptics, a local skeptics’ group in the San Francisco Bay area. Mr. Sheaffer lives near San Diego, California. He has worked as a data communications engineer in the Silicon Valley, and sings in professional opera productions.

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June 30, 2019 6:19 pm

The critical fact that radar was recently upgraded suggests a high probability of observed false targets, and that the planes were relatively new, also implies a higher probability of infant errors (due to being new, and not substantially tested) in equipment utilization, such as radar calibration thresholds being set too low, such that more false targets are detected (a completely normal characteristic of un-calibrated radar, that might even be picking up ocean waves).

I have developed radar target detection software for 3 years in my career and have observed such problems first hand with radar equipment.

Attempting to observe an object at high relative speed with the naked eye is also going to increase the probability of perceptual error, such as observing a reflection of their own craft on the water.

It seems the pilots may have observed a lion in the grass, when it may as well have been the wind (or a blimp, or something else). Though, we want to believe in the extraordinary, but better to keep a beginner’s mind to observation.

Perceptual bias of extraordinary danger did great for our ancestors, and probably does for fighter pilots as well, but now, it may introduce instrumentation error in our perceptions, especially if we have people claiming a radar is accurate when they have no experience developing radar technology.

Eric Olsen
June 30, 2019 7:36 am

And my last point …. unless you possess un-disputed physical evidence of UFO’s, one cannot move from a believer to a knower unless the UFO’s themselves want that. And so you see, the phenomenon is far deeper and has far more implications than we ever imagined. The truth may be that they are no “aliens” at all, but in fact are a high level species living here as well. Remember, if you are a life form with much longer life span, then you would not live on the surface of a planet, that would be hazardous, and so living inside the planet is preferable.

Eric Olsen
June 30, 2019 7:18 am

And to my UFO believers …. Believing is NOT knowing. But trust me, moving from a believer to knower is far more of a leap than you might expect, or even want to do.

Eric Olsen
June 30, 2019 7:13 am

To all the skeptics out there attempting to use science to debunk UFO’s … Your main flaw is that you have not re-defined or re-invented the scientific method suitable for the analysis of something a million years more evolved, and has its own intelligence. The scientific method we have now is not adequate. 1) Observability: one cannot repeatedly observe a distinct phenomenon that has its own intelligence and is evading detection. 2) repeatability of observations: One cannot repeat the experiment with UFO’s.

So our basic tenants of science does not adequately prepare us for a true scientific analysis of this phenomenon. To be fair, it also does not work in the advantage of Ufologists as well.

But let’s be real. I can prove that NASA is not doing the job of acquiring the data they could, and therefore they are not letting the public know what they could be acquiring or even what’s possible. For example, all cameras on-board the ISS or other space craft could easily be “binocular”, or even “trinocular” cameras. These cameras would allow us to detect the size and distance of all objects recorded. This also provides speed data. These cameras could also be correlated with radar data … for sure NASA is doing this. Case in point: The STEREO satellites measuring the sun. Un-believably, one of the satellites is not providing information !!! So amateurs cannot get the stereo data.

Look, if NASA wanted to prove the existence, or non-existence of UFO’s, they are doing a lousy job at it. I’m an engineer, a very good engineer, and I tell you NASA is holding back data, that is for sure. So the questions is why?

June 17, 2019 6:16 am

Having seen unidentified lights (not necessarily objects) in the sky on a few occasions, I look at debunking of UFOs very skeptically. I have no reason to suspect that what I saw was anything more than light phenomena, and especially not that their origin was extra-terrestrial, but I do know with certainty that I saw something and would be happy to describe them if asked. I refer to them as WTF lights, as that is often the reaction when people see them. To refer to such phenomena as UFOs is doubly wrong: to say Flying is already making and assumption, and to call them Objects is equally wrong as I explained above. What I saw were Unidentified Aerial Lights, so let’s call them that.

Milton W. Hourcade
June 8, 2019 1:52 pm

Dear Mr. Sheaffer:

In my 60 years as UAP researcher, I have mentioned many times your excellent work on the subject. It was my privilege to meet personally Phillip Klass in his home.
Now to the point: I am the international coordinator of the Unusual Aerial Phenomena Study Group (UAPSG) and as such we publish a web page that I invite you to read.
As you will see it is written in English and Spanish.

I would like to write an introduction and put the URL of your excellent article, so our readers in English get to know it. But I want to ask your permission to translate it into Spanish, allowing our readers in this language to benefit of what you have written.

On the other hand, our web page is gladly open to you any time you would like to write something and send it to us.


Milton W. Hourcade
Iowa City, IA

Milton W. Hourcade
June 8, 2019 1:47 pm

Dear Mr. Sheaffer:

In my 60 years as UAP researcher, I have mentioned many times your excellent work on the subject. It was my privilege to meet personally Phillip Klass in his home.
Now to the point: I am the international coordinator of the Unusual Aerial Phenomena Study Group (UAPSG)

June 6, 2019 6:53 am

In the final analysis “for a skeptic, no proof is possible: To a true believer, no proof is necessary.”

June 6, 2019 12:13 am

It so amusing that Robert Sheaffer and Jim Oberg think that they are open-minded skeptics rather than mere zealots defending a predetermined position with their minds hermetically sealed to the evidence.

The only annoying thing is when the penny drops they’ll claim their previous attitudes were justified.

Can we at least have a “I’ll eat my hat, I’ll admit I’m a close-minded debunker”, Mr Sheaffer, or are you planning to have it both ways?

June 5, 2019 10:55 pm

“I don’t believe it therefore it must not be true.”

This is not skepticism. This is just misinformation.

Read the pilot testimony, look at the credentials of the people making the claims, and you will soon see this is not your usual conference-circuit drivel. If the author had bothered to research this properly, he would know what’s happening is extremely serious.

Whether it’s a foreign power with some interesting new toys, actual aliens, or the government gaslighting its own citizens, it merits better than this lowest common denominator analysis of “Haha! Look at this scam.”

Black-and-white thinking gets us nowhere.

June 5, 2019 8:23 pm

True believers? I doubt it. Perhaps some, but not unlike some preachers who lost their religion, they have become too invested monterly and culturally to admit otherwise.

The “History Channel” lost their rep long ago – perhaps the network has been overtaken by aliens;)

Kevin Dwyer
June 5, 2019 6:07 pm

The mystery of UFOs will never be solved: as soon as each is identified it ceases to be unidentified.
The mystery moves on; it is happening all the time.

June 5, 2019 12:05 pm

I get sooo tired of true believers on so many levels. So many conspiracy theory promoters, so many snake oil salespeople, so many UFO promoters, and enough gullible human beings to believe in all of these fantasies and give them life.

But, hey, we are all indeed human and are all susceptible at some level. Who among us has not at some time in our youth dreamed of inventing a perpetual motion machine and saving the world? … or or fantasized about superpowers with which to rid the universe of evil? But we humans also are fortunate to have developed the discipline, tools, and techniques of science which if properly applied are of great use to sort out the reality from fantasy.

In this case, we should at least be trying to use the powerful tool of scientific method to begin to hone in on testable hypotheses to produce explanations of what is seen on F16 tracking screens which appears to contradict everything we presently know about how physics works in the atmosphere of this earth. The principle of Occam’s razor would demand that careful investigation be mounted to look at a whole host of possible explanations of the visual output on the screen and observed by pilots. In other words, where is the careful research to prove or disprove “easy” possible explanations before jumping to the pure speculation that aliens are present who know how to change the rules of physics that so far in billions of flights in the earth’s atmosphere over the last 100 years have without exception conformed to the physics we have developed and codified.

We could start with a careful investigation of the possibility that the “target” could have been an anomaly of some internal electronics in the system, or maybe an unusual heat signature an antenna anomaly within the radome.

Unfortunately, once zealots of a preferred untestible explanation get dug in, history clearly tells us that we also must very carefully investigate the possibility of fraud. Since the “History” Channel business plan clearly is to hype and dramaticize unfounded hypotheses to pump up viewership, they turn a blind eye to rigorous vetting of what they air and so productions like the one in question need to be looked at critically.

My thanks to the debunkers out there. It is important work.

Bad Boy Scientist
June 5, 2019 11:19 am

I want to thank Robert Shaeffer and co for having the stamina to continue addressing these claims of UFOs. I suspect the only reason the general public continues to lend ears is they lack context.

Interstellar travel is extraordinarily difficult. It is, in fact, extremely hard to convey how damned difficult it is. I’ve tried analogies like a lone woman in a wheelchair winning the Super Bowl. Or, a small child with a slingshot knocking an F-18 out of the air at 25,000 ft. Interstellar travel (for living creatures or their automated probes) is more difficult than those – if it is even feasible. (Assuming, that there is another “Civilization” in our Galaxy – or nearby galaxies … IOW: the small boy who knocks the F-18 out of the air with a slingshot may not even exist!)

Carl Sagan’s rule “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” sets the bar for evidence extraordinarily high. That means that any evidence in support of these claims must be incredibly clear and unambiguous. The prima facie interpretation must be of an alien artifact and no other reasonable interpretation can exist. The claim is extraordinary so the bar for the evidence is extraordinarily high.

The null hypothesis is on Shaeffer’s side, the preponderance of evidence is on his side, too. We know the distances involved and the speed of light. We also know that eyewitnesses are far from infallible, artifacts appear on film and electronic sensors, there are myriad atmospheric phenomena that can fool the eye. I won’t listen to UFOlogist claims that begin with, “It could be”, “We don’t know but”, “It looks like.”

Sure, it could be, or it may look like, but since we don’t really know, the safe bet is it has a mundane explanation. We do know that mundane things happen all the time.

jim oberg
June 5, 2019 10:08 am

Pat Fitzpatrick — thanks for the kind words on my books. We really don’t disagree on the potential importance of what these videos may indicate, as I closed with: “Some of these interpretations may well be validated by investigation of the actual raw observables…” == But at present, we have no guaranty that the material presented by Elizondo is either complete or unaltered. As to capabilities of combat pilots, again, no disrespect [as a former active-duty but non-rated USAF officer] intended, but consider Kean’s silly argument in her ‘Generals and Pilots’ book, that because when witnessing a UFO military pilots report more aggressive behavior than do civilian pilots, this proves ‘intelligent behavior’ on the part of the UFOs which she claims are deliberately adjusting their behavior to match the expectations of their witnesses — when the far more likely explanation is that the witness expectations flavor their perceptions and reporting.

June 5, 2019 10:00 am

Preston- I agree that the visual effects are not up to Independence Day standards. However since I spent about 1000 hours looking through the HUD and other weapons systems imagery I can tell you it is compelling to my eye at least in terms of the symbology and audio. Since I know that one of the prime witnesses David Fravor is a legitimate former F/A-18 Navy squadron commander who is known to a number of my colleagues with a long history of service, I find his observations and the mission transcripts compelling. You assume that these are the only videos of this class of event and it doesn’t meet your expectations. Most of the material released is of object IR signatures which are typically of lower resolution than video from the visual spectrum. You might ask yourself why that is the case and why other event recordings such as those from the USS Princeton have not been released. There could be very prosaic explanations for these reports, that don’t discredit the observers. You may wish to be more open minded to those explanations too rather than making a weak attempt to discredit those who make the reports.

jim oberg
June 5, 2019 9:55 am

“There is also a simple explanation as to why more/better quality sensor video has not been released of other anomalous object events. The Navy may not have chosen to declassify them.”

According to John Greenewald, the Navy didn’t decide to declassify these items for public dissemination, Elizondo did, after an unknown degree of HIS choices from available materials, and an unknown degree of editing and possible omission of contextual and perhaps even exculpatory data : “…we have no proof of any release, let alone what is being touted is even the same evidence connected to this DD Form 1910. If we see a blatant disregard for the truth by Mr. Elizondo on display with this DD Form 1910, and we see the same disregard for the truth by To The Stars Academy as they have touted documents proving a public release – how can we believe everything or anything else from the same sources? “

June 5, 2019 8:35 am

What they argued is that the video and verbal testimony is anything but compelling. The video is laughable.

Pat Fitzpatrick
June 5, 2019 8:10 am

Despite the fact that Red Star in Orbit has been on my bookshelf since the 1980’s (when I was an F-18 pilot) I have to offer a contrary opinion.
It is “apples and oranges” to compare NTSB observations of poor pilot situational awareness to that of Naval fighter pilots who are trained, proficient, and current in the air defence role. They get paid to intercept, engage, and if needed destroy hostile targets that threaten the carrier. A large part of that job is having comprehensive awareness of adversary, wingman position, and overall situational awareness. Aerial engagements are routinely reconstructed in training and operational environments and backed up with inputs from sensor platforms to allow highly accurate assessments of what happened and how. You should not so easily dismiss the inputs of Commander Fravor and his colleagues. They saw something highly unusual.

Pat Fitzpatrick
June 5, 2019 7:33 am

This piece essentially throws the baby out with the bathwater. Conflating compelling video and verbal testimony from highly trained and experienced F-18 pilots with the rather unusual organizational structure of TTSA (looks more like an entertainment company than a legitimate research entity) seems to miss the point.
There is also a simple explanation as to why more/better quality sensor video has not been released of other anomalous object events. The Navy may not have chosen to declassify them.
There could also be earthly or technical explanations for these observations which the author largely ignores over ad hominem attacks on the reporters involved. It’s a grand tradition in debunking this class of observations!

jim oberg
June 5, 2019 7:21 am

The ‘5 observables’ allegedly demonstrated by the bizarre events reported by Navy pilots are NOT ‘observations’, they are INTERPRETATIONS of what the raw observations might mean. What IS ‘observable’ is that the author of the list knows less than zero about the proper function of a military intelligence officer or any investigator of unknown causes of eyewitness perceptions, which is to observe and record, NOT to interpret or explain. To jump to such interpretations preemptively is a notorious intellectual fallacy that REAL investigators have learned must be avoided because once formulated, an explanatory theory can subconsciously flavor the interpretation of new evidence, and even skew the direction of follow-on research, and through lines of questioning, even skew the memories of direct witnesses. As NTSB accident investigators know, pilots are among the MOST susceptible witnesses to memory editing, probably because of their entirely proper professional instinct to reach fast assessments of unusual observations in terms of potential hazard to themselves. This is a very valuable bias in terms of flight safety, at the cost of dispassionate intellectual curiosity.

So what was really observed?

Anti-gravity lift. [objects] have been sighted overcoming the earth’s gravity with no visible means of propulsion.

This would be ‘observable’ only through its effect on the motion of the object, or more precisely, on changes in its measured azimuth/elevation relative to Earth horizon [not to a viewscreen]. With objects of unknown size, any eyeball estimate of range is worthless.

Sudden and instantaneous acceleration. The objects may accelerate or change direction so quickly that no human pilot could survive the g-forces

Effective acceleration determination requires knowledge of a time history of the object’s angular rate, observer-to-object range rate, and accurate range value. There seems to be no description of reliable capture of any of these parameters, so ‘acceleration’ CANNOT be observed.

Hypersonic velocities without signatures. If an aircraft travels faster than the speed of sound, it typically leaves “signatures,” like vapor trails and sonic booms

Determination of raw velocity requires these same parameters, so without them the ‘velocity’ is not observable.

Low observability, or cloaking. Even when objects are observed, getting a clear and detailed view of them—either through pilot sightings, radar or other means—remains difficult.

‘Observability’ can be observed qualitatively but needs more details about which sensors are involved, from human eyeball [under what attenuation/illumination conditions] to visual sensors [visible light, IR, etc] to ground or airborne skin-track radar, lidar, or other technology. Without time history of quantifiable measurements in an environment of potentially rapidly changing range and aspect angle, the ‘observation’ observability is a dubious characteristic.

Trans-medium travel. Some UAP have been seen moving easily in and between different environments, such as space, the earth’s atmosphere and even water.

This is yet another INTERPRETATION of low-observable imagery, involving a target of unknown size and range.

Some of these interpretations may well be validated by investigation of the actual raw observables, but beginning an investigation based on pre-existing conclusions [and then selecting the evidence that fits] is a recipe for confusion and frustration and dead-ended detours. It demonstrates the sad unsuitability of such sloppy methodology to attempting to make sense of these undeniably interesting reports.

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The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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