USS Nimitz UFO Incident

November 2004
One of the largest warships in the world, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier is nuclear capable.
One of the largest warships in the world, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier is nuclear capable.

The USS Nimitz incident is one of the most high-profile UFO sightings in recent history. Multiple U.S. Navy F/A-18 pilots witnessed a strange Tic-Tac shaped object in flight above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California. A FLIR video captured the object and led to widespread media attention, including being the focus of a famous 2017 article in The New York Times.

Radar Anomalies

The USS Princeton, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser serving as part of the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, began picking up frequent radar anomalies in early November, 2004, while operating off the coast of southern California. Radar operator Sr. Chief Petty Officer Kevin Day reported observing multiple instances of unusual sightings on his AN/Spy-1 radar system, the most modern radar platform in the Navy at the time.

Day observed unidentified objects flying most typically at elevations over 25,000 feet–sometimes up to 60,000 feet–and at the unusually slow speed of around 120 knots. The objects frequently operated in groups of five to ten and operated in erratic flight patterns, including zig-zags, rapid increases/decreases in altitude, and hovering. After approximately two weeks of radar observances, and following attempts at re-calibrating the radar to rule out error faults as the cause, Day communicated an active observation to a team of Navy pilots on a training exercise.

Lt. Cmdr David Fravor was a US Navy aviator and commander of the Black Aces, a strike fighter squadron piloting F/A-18 Super Hornets flying off of USS Nimitz, when, on November 14, 2004, he received word of an unusual radar sighting during a routine training mission. Fravor, who had been a Navy pilot for over 18 years at the time, was asked to investigate. Following closely behind Fravor in a second F/A-18F Super Hornet was Lt. Cmdr Alex Anne Dietrich, who was flying with Lt. Cmdr Jim Slaight in the backseat as Weapons Systems Officer (WSO). As of early 2023, Fravor's backseat WSO in this incident has to-date remained anonymous.

A Disruption in the Water Below

Lieutenant Colonel "Cheeks" Kurth, a Marine pilot on a test flight in the vicinity, had been contacted by the radar team on USS Princeton several minutes prior, during the return leg of his flight, and was asked to get a look at the object. Upon Fravor and Dietrich's dispatch to investigate, Kurth was asked to return to home. Despite this–and given his close proximity–Kurth performed a brief fly-by of the location described by Princeton. Kurth noted nothing unusual on his instruments, but visually observed a disruption in the water below, with notable white water observed to be breaking atop something that looked like a shoal, or a sinking vessel. Kurth continued past the disturbance and returned to Nimitz.

An Oblong Tic-Tac

Screenshot of USS Nimitz 'Tic Tac' UFO footage.
Screenshot of USS Nimitz 'Tic Tac' UFO footage.

Fravor and Dietrich entered the area at or around the same time Kurth was exiting. Neither Fravor nor Dietrich's planes–both brand new–were equipped with FLIR cameras, but both were equipped with APG-73 radar systems. As they approached the location, neither radar system picked up the object Princeton was observing. Despite this, Princeton urged the pilots to get a visual on the location. Fravor, operating at 20,000 feet, looked toward the target location and observed a disturbance in the water at approximately the same location observed by Kurth. Fravor then observed the object Princeton had been requesting a visual on: an oblong, Tic-Tac shaped, off-white craft hovering above the frothy ocean. Fravor visually observed the craft, approximately the size of a fighter jet, as it made lateral, darting movements above the water. As Fravor descended for a closer look, the object "noticed" him and changed its orientation to face the approaching F/A-18. The object then rose vertically as Fravor attempted unsuccessfully to get a radar lock on it. Several seconds later, the object took off at multi-Mach speed as if "shot out of a rifle" according to Slaight, who witnessed the events from the backseat of Dietrich's plane.

Moments later, the Princeton team radioed Fravor to inform him that they had observed the object again. It was hovering at 24,000 feet, precisely at the CAP point Fravor had used in earlier training exercises. Fravor performed another fly-by, attempting to re-engage the object; the Tic-Tac was nowhere to be found. Fravor and Dietrich returned to Nimitz.

Fravor encountered Lieutenant Chad Underwood upon disembarking his plane aboard Nimitz and told Underwood, who was next up for a training flight, to keep an eye out for the object they had seen. Underwood's plane was equipped with FLIR cameras, and during his flight he was able to locate the object and record video footage with his FLIR. The craft had no wings, no appendages, and seemingly gave off no heat signature. Underwood has claimed the object jammed his radar while he was observing it.

Footage Leaked

Anderson Cooper interviewed Lt. Commander Dietrich about her Navy pilot career and famous UFO sighting.

The encounter was the focus of the famed 2017 New York Times expose on the topic of UFOs or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), and Fravor has made many rounds on the media circuit to discuss the incident. Dietrich and Slaight have also made mainstream media appearances discussing the events, including segments on 60 Minutes and Fox News. Former Pentagon official and head of AATIP, Luis Elizondo, was instrumental in getting information related to this and several other incident's declassified. A partial clip of the footage recorded by Underwood was leaked and released to the public by Tom Delonge's To The Stars Academy in 2019.

The "Tic-Tac incident" has become one of the most discussed and debated UFO encounters of all time. Many believe that Fravor, Dietrich, Slaight, Underwood are among the most credible eyewitnesses to have ever come forward to discuss a UFO event in a military context. The video footage that was released is compelling to the layperson and seemingly corroborates the eyewitness accounts; rumors also circulate that there is additional video footage of the event that remains classified. Skeptics believe the entire episode might be the result of an optical illusion known as the parallax effect, and Naval authorities at the time ascribed the sightings to ice crystals picked up on the camera. Further shrouding the event in mystery, rumors have long circulated that incident logs filed on Nimitz by eyewitnesses were altered without consent. At least one radar technician on Princeton at the time is convinced the team witnessed not an extraterrestrial craft, but the testing of still-secret drone technologies.

This incident will likely be debated for years to come. Further disclosure by DOD authorities of additional video and data sets, and the coming forward of additional eyewitnesses, will better inform the debate and hopefully bring transparency to what was witnessed that day.

References

Official Explanation

Unidentified aerial and submerged objects.

Counter Argument

Aircraft of unknown origins, with capabilities beyond what top militaries and governments are known to possess.

Evidence

Radar & sonar returns, Ballistic Missile Warning system alerts, F/A-18F Super Hornet intercepted. Multiple credible Navy pilot eyewitnesses, from different vantage points.

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