Fifteen years ago off the coast of Southern California, five men witnessed perhaps the most compelling account of anomalous aerial vehicles (Navy-speak for UFO). The Nimitz encounters, as the sightings became known, baffled the sailors aboard the USS Princeton and aviation experts alike. 

Nimitz chases the “UFO”

A Tic Tac shaped aircraft evaded a series of F/A-18 Hornet interceptions over the next seven days. The crew’s radar was unable to obtain a ‘lock’ on the vehicle, and it would routinely zip in and out of sight as the Nimitz  Carrier Strike Group tried to make sense of the phenomena. “I couldn’t make out details, but they’d just be hovering there, then all of a sudden, in an instant, they’d dart off to another direction and stop again,” said crew member Gary Voorhis of the encounter. 

The vehicle’s movement astounded the Nimitz observers who could see its white body during the day and “phosphorus glow” at night. Its ability to easily outmaneuver the American aircraft indicated “advanced acceleration, aerodynamic, and propulsion capabilit[ies].” The pilots who chased the craft marveled at the amount of g-forces its movements would put on its occupants, at times making right-angle turns in midair. As they approached it, the vehicle disappeared in an instant, seemingly defying the laws of physics. 

Years of Radio Silence from Pentagon and CIA

For the enlisted witnesses, what they saw was unlike anything they’d seen on Earth. Yet outside of the occasional leak, there was no word from the Pentagon or CIA on the encounters. But in 2017, the New York Times and To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science released three videos, including one of the alleged Nimitz encounter in 2004. Another similar physics-defying encounter in 2015 was captured on the corresponding videos. 

The Navy Speaks about the ufo reports

In a break from the DoD and CIA’s notorious silence on UFO reports, in 2019, the Navy admitted the legitimacy of the released videos. In an April 2020 release, the Pentagon went on to say that the phenomena observed in the videos remain ‘unidentified.’ The Department of Defense reportedly released the videos to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos.”

If there is more to the videos, perhaps there are reasons for the partial admittance. Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gogh said in the release that the videos “[do] not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.” It should be noted that the Nimitz witnesses claimed to have seen a video around 8 to 10 minutes long—far exceeding the two-minute leak the Pentagon confirmed. 

2020 Defense Budget Brings the Discussion Back

If the 2019 Navy admittance were the end of the story, then perhaps it would have simply fanned the flames of UFO speculation. But a look at the 2020 defense budget revealed that the Pentagon was continuing its Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force (UAPTA), which was believed to have been ended in 2012. Prominent Senators like Florida’s Marco Rubio wanted an answer. According to a recent Senate committee report, the once-covert task force agreed to release at least some of its findings to the public. 

No longer is the point of contention the existence of unidentified flying objects—they’re out there—the question is, what are they? Senator Rubio suggests they could indicate a significant technological leap by a foreign nation like China or Russia. Astrophysicist Eric W. Davis, previously a consultant for the UAPTA, suggested something entirely different in his testimony to Congress: “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

Another Nation or Another Planet – Advanced Military Technology

It is possible (likely) that the task force’s findings aren’t made entirely available to the public, but they may have no conclusion to hide at all. After all, the sightings have evaded the most advanced military technology more than once before. Nevertheless, the timing of these public announcements is curious. The summer of 2020 will go down as perhaps the most frenzied and contentious in recent memory—to the conspiracy theorist, a prime time to make such a bombshell announcement. In any event, the confirmation of these other-worldly vehicles is a humbling impetus for American technological information. 

The advanced capabilities of the vehicles in question appear to have even top U.S. officials searching for answers. Whether or not these aircraft are from another nation or another planet, their existence is cause for legitimate concern. Welcome to the back half of 2020. 

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Jack is a finance and economics major at the University of Nebraska and a graduate of Creighton Prep. Husker/Cub guy. Used to throw a decent curveball, but running is his game now.