The USS Nimitz Incident

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan

The USS Nimitz is a United State Navy aircraft carrier manufactured in 1972 and first deployed in 1976. After a decade of service, the Nimitz was moved to North Island Port, San Diego on November 13th, 2001 where it was extensively overhauled with an advanced combat direction system and went on to serve the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

However, the Nimitz became known for something far more peculiar in 2017 with the declassification of the Advanced Aerial Threat Identification Program (AATIP) – the US Defense Intelligence Agency program to study unidentified flying objects.

The AATIP was an unclassified and unpublicized investigatory program funded by the United States government to study unidentified flying objects (UFOs) or unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) which began in the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 2007 and supposedly ended in 2012.

The program was made public on December 16, 2007 declassifying US government files on UFO sightings and encounters. Among these declassified files was an encounter from 2004, in which two US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets from the Nimitz were interrupted during training in order to investigate something unusual.

On November 14, 2004, the USS Princeton – a guided missile cruiser, was working with the Nimitz on a training drill off the coast of Southern California. Before the exercise could begin, the Princeton contacted two of the Super Hornets informing them that the training was cancelled due to a real-world situation

Earlier that day, the Nimitz carrier and USS Princeton missile cruiser had detected more than a dozen unidentified flying objects on their radar screens – referred to by the Navy as anomalous aircraft vehicles.

The F/A-18s were tasked by Princeton’s Captain to intercept the closest anomalous target which was located about 150 miles southwest of the San Diego coastline.

When the pilots arrived at the source of the radar anomaly, they spotted from an altitude of 20,000 feet a disturbance at the ocean surface. One of the pilots, Commander David Fravor reported that he saw a white oval or “tic-tac” shaped object about 40 feet in size hovering above the churning water. Fravor and another pilot, Alex Dietrich, said in an interview that a total of 4 people (two pilots and two weapons systems officers in the back seats of the two airplanes) witnessed the object for about 5 minutes and couldn’t find any identifiable features including a propulsion mechanism to it.

Fravor also reported that when he spiralled down towards the object to get a closer look, the object slowly ascended, mirroring the trajectory of his plane, and accelerated so fast “like nothing I’ve ever seen” – He recounted in a 2017 New York Times article, until it disappeared in a blink of an eye.

As the object was no longer in sight, the Super Hornets radioed the Princeton to report back what they saw and that they were returning to the Nimitz. However, the radio controller on the Princeton told them that the object had reappeared on the radar approximately 60 miles away where the Super Hornets squadron had initially been conducting their training exercise.

A second wave of Super Hornets, including pilot Lieutenant Commander Chad Underwood, took off from the Nimitz to investigate further. Unlike Fravor, Underwood’s fighter was equipped with a ‘Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR)’ which uses a thermographic camera that senses infrared radiation.

When the fighters detected the object, to their surprise, it began jamming their radar. Underwood then switched to the FLIR camera and was able to successfully lock on to the heat signature of the unidentified craft. Obtaining a visual on the object in infrared, they began recording.

FLIR1 Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

The FLIR footage shows a black background with a white shape being targeted in the center. This is the unidentified craft – as described by Commander Fravor, staying completely stationary, unaffected by gravity or wind, and appearing hotter than the surrounding environment.

The operator cycled through different settings on the FLIR camera, switching to Black and White image mode in order to get the best view of the object and find or distinguish any identifiable surface feature to it. Until suddenly, the craft accelerated fast enough to break the FLIR targeting lock. 

This “FLIR” video footage alongside two other videos termed “GIMBAL” and “GOFAST” were published by the New York Times on December 16, 2017, showing similar encounters reported by the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier in 2014-2015, where fighter pilots operating off the US East Coast intercepted unknown aerial objects which they couldn’t identify.

Gimbal The First Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release
Go Fast Official USG Footage of UAP for Public Release

The videos were initially provided to the press by Luis Elizondo, former head of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, who had resigned from the Pentagon in October 2017 to protest against government secrecy and opposition to the investigation, stating in his resignation letter that the AATIP program was not being taken seriously. According to a Wired magazine, a copy of one of the videos had been online in a UFO forum since 2007.

In September 2019, a Pentagon Spokesman officially confirmed that the released videos were made by naval aviators and that they are “part of a larger issue of an increased number of training range incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena in recent years.” 

On April 27, 2020, the Pentagon formally released the three videos.


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