REVEALED: AIR FORCE Encounters With Unidentified Flying Craft…

Last year, reports emerged about Navy fighter pilots having numerous encounters with unidentified flying objects while flying in restricted airspace off the East Coast of the United States. Details remain limited, though The War Zone has been steadily collecting more and more information that could help explain many of those incidents. At the same time, curiously, there haven’t been virtually any revelations about similar encounters with other U.S. military services’ flying branches, especially the Air Force, which is the entity primarily responsible for safeguarding America’s airspace.In May, The War Zone was first to publish details from a number of hazard reports from the Naval Safety Center, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). regarding interactions between that service’s aircraft and unknown aerial craft that offered an additional look into what might be happening, why, and how these encounters were or weren’t getting reported. We can now share information from 25 similar reports obtained through the FOIA from the Air Force Safety Center. This whole issue, especially regarding U.S. military aircraft encountering unidentified objects when flying over or near the United States proper, was thrust back into the public consciousness just this week. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said that it was looking to get a full accounting of the issue from the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Pentagon. As part of a report accompanying the latest draft of the Senate version Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, the Committee members included language asking for a detailed review of exactly what information about these kinds of incidents exists now, how new data is getting collected, how this is all shared within the federal government, and what threats these aerial objects might pose, including whether they might reflect technological breakthroughs by potential adversaries. These Air Force reports, as well as the previously disclosed ones that the Navy has on file, could easily be among the information that the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense might end up compiling for Senators to review.The 25 reports that The War Zone obtained, which cover various types of incidents around the world and come from the Air Force Safety Automated System (AFSAS) database, came in response to a request that asked for copies of “any flight incident, hazard, or similar reports that the Air Force Safety Center received during the calendar years 2013 to 2019 that deal with encounters that any Air Force aircraft had anywhere in the world with any unidentified aerial objects.” This date range was meant to capture a snapshot of similar experiences that the Air Force might have been having around when Navy pilots said they saw a spike in the number of encounters with unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, more commonly known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, off the East Coast of the United States through the end of the most recent complete calendar year.Personal identifying information is redacted throughout the Air Force reports. “Safety investigation boards’ Findings, Evaluations, Analyses, Conclusions, and Recommendations are exempt from disclosure,” the Air Force Safety Center also said in a letter accompanying the release, citing various Air Force and Department of Defense regulations, as well as relevant FOIA case law, which you can read in full, with certain personal information redacted by us, here.”All other privileged portions of the report have been withheld according to established laws,” the letter added. “Unfortunately, some pages are virtually illegible due to the quality of the microfilm record and our capability to reproduce it.”It’s not clear which of the records released, if any, were reproduced from reports contained on microfilm. The Air Force was still offering the option of sending FOIA request responses on actual microfilm in the late 2000s, but generally only for older records created years before the widespread introduction of computerized databases, such as AFSAS.#1, June 17, 2014: 27th Special Operations WingThe 27th Special Operations Wing, the main unit at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, reported an unidentified fixed-wing aircraft flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) intruding into the nearby R5104 range area. Neither the Range Control Officer (RCO) at the adjacent Melrose Air Force Range nor the base’s Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) could establish communications with the aircraft. Members of the 27th Special Operations Wing also advised the Federal Aviation Administration’s Albuquerque Center Air Route Traffic Control Center of the situation.The unidentified aircraft first appeared around 11:04 AM local time and it had exited R5104 by 11:22, after which radar contact was lost.#2, July 2, 2014: HC-130P Combat King and HH-60G Pave Hawk, 58th Special Operations WingThe 58th Special Operations Wing, a major unit at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, reported a near-collision during a nighttime aerial refueling training sortie on July 2, 2014. An HC-130P Combat King combat search and rescue and tanker aircraft, using the callsign Akela 39, was refueling an HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopter, with the callsign Skull 65, when an “unidentified helicopter” flew under the two aircraft at a distance of between 100 and 300 feet. Both aircraft were flying in Aerial Refueling Track 117 near Sorocco, New Mexico.The HC-130P’s crew had first spotted to object when they saw a bright light near the aircraft. The HH-60G crew also saw it and initially thought it might be headlights on a vehicle on the road below. However, the light grew brighter to the point of blinding the Pave Hawk’s pilots, who were operating using night-vision goggles at the time. This resulted in an extremely dangerous situation in which the helicopter’s crew was no longer aware of their distance from the HC-130P, or that they were moving backward away from it, until the HH-60G’s aerial refueling probe inadvertently disconnected from the drogue basket trailing behind the Combat King.No communication was ever established with the unidentified helicopter and there was no indication it ever maneuvered to avoid either the HC-130P or the HH-60G.#3, July 24, 2014: C-130J Hercules, 317th Airlift GroupA C-130J Hercules airlift assigned to the 317th Airlift Group had a near-collision with an unidentified light fixed-wing aircraft while heading toward the Rogers Drop Zone (DZ), approximately eight miles to the south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, during a training mission. The C-130J’s Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) alerted them to the other oncoming aircraft.”The EC [Event Crew] called a No Drop and executed a 180 degree turn during which the crew visually sighted a light fixed wing aircraft (EA2) [Eve
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