A former US Navy fighter pilot has told how his squadron encountered UFOs almost daily for months while training off the American coast.
The sightings included a near collision with an object that appeared like a cube inside a sphere and a close encounter with a fleet of objects moving at 120 knots into the wind.
Lieutenant Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot, is now leading an effort to encourage reporting of sightings, and advocating for a scientific study of what the military calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena [UAPs].
Lt Graves told the Telegraph how in 2014 his squadron – the VFA-11 “Red Rippers” – was based on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, preparing for a deployment to the Persian Gulf.
The pilots trained in a sealed-off block of airspace called W-72 off the coast of Virginia, where nothing else was allowed to fly.
After the planes’ radar was upgraded pilots began picking up objects in the training area.
They were initially dismissed as radar errors, but then they flew closer and started seeing them on their FLIR systems, which are infrared cameras that detect heat.
“It was almost as if the sun was shining a flashlight [on the UAPs],” said Lt Graves. “We would have them on a radar, and then we’d have a FLIR. We’d fly by them as low as we could trying to see them.
“We were trying to figure out what the heck these things were. We were seeing them pretty much daily. We’d go out there and they’d be out there in the morning, they’d be out there in the evening.
“These things were pretty much always out there. That would range from two to three of them, to six or seven,” he told the Telegraph.
Pilot says near-collision happened with UFO
Then, the near collision happened when an object passed right between two jets, within 50ft of the lead aircraft.
Lt Graves said the pilot involved was shaken up after landing back on the carrier.
“He said ‘I almost hit one of those damn things!’ and we all knew what he was talking about,” he said.
“It was completely stationary and he described it as a dark grey or black cube inside of a clear sphere.
“He cancelled the flight, not trusting his ability to clear his airspace in front of him.”
The pilots began operating in different parts of their training area to avoid hitting the unidentified objects.
In early 2015 the USS Theodore Roosevelt relocated, as scheduled, from Virginia to Jacksonville, Florida.
But the sightings of UAPs continued near the ship even though it had moved 600 miles south.
That was when an F/A-18 pilot filmed one of the most famous of all UFO videos, showing an object looking like a “spinning top” or “gimbal”.
“It was a unique object that we recorded on one particular night only,” said Lt Graves.
“One aircraft from my squadron, they were returning to the boat, they were east of the ship, about three or four miles off the shore. That’s when they saw the gimbal.”
On the video, which was later declassified, the pilots can be heard shouting “Oh my gosh!” and “Look at that thing dude!” and “It’s rotating!”
Lt Graves was in the post-flight briefing with other pilots and a sizeable group of “intelligence folks”.
He said: “No one thought this was benign. It was very clear that this was unusual and outside the normal.
“What you don’t see [on the declassified footage] is the radar information, which shows a formation of four to six objects that were operating kind of outward of the gimbal.
“They turned very quickly, and they all kind of got jumbled up, and then they rolled out and reformed in the opposite direction. They turned, it was a sharp turn.”
He added: “I don’t know 100 percent if they were the same objects we were seeing before [off Virginia],” the pilot told Telegraph.
366 reports of UFOs
The U.S. military and intelligence agencies gathered 366 reports of “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP), the military’s terminology for UFOs, since March 2021.
This was when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued its preliminary assessment on UAPs, according to a report released by ODNI on Thursday.
Only 144 UAP sightings had been reported to the military in the preceding seventeen years.