Article by Tim McMillan November 12, 2019 (popularmechanics.com)
• Popular Mechanics magazine and website recently assembled five former sailors who served with the USS Nimitz carrier group and witnessed first hand the Navy’s November 2004 encounter with ‘tic tac’-shaped UFOs, one hundred miles off of the coast of San Diego. Gary Voorhis, Jason Turner, P.J. Hughes, Ryan Weigelt, and Kevin Day were all featured in the documentary film The Nimitz Encounters.
• In November 2004, Gary Voorhis was a Petty Officer 3rd Class on the USS Princeton guided missile cruiser on a routine training exercise. Voorhis was a six year veteran having served two combat tours. They were getting the “kinks out” of the ship’s new Spy-1 Bravo radar system. Voorhis was told by radar techs that they were getting “ghost tracks” and “clutter” on the radars. As a system technician, Voorhis was concerned about a possible malfunction. The air control systems were re-calibrated. But the ghost tracks were only clearer. Said Voorhis, “Sometimes they’d be at an altitude of 80,000 or 60,000 feet. Other times they’d be around 30,000 feet… Their radar cross sections didn’t match any known aircraft. …No squawk, no “IFF” (Identification Friend or Foe).”
• Kevin Day was the Princeton’s Combat Information Center Operations Specialist Senior Chief. It was his job to protect the airspace around the strike group. Day noticed strange radar tracks near San Clemente Island. But they were appearing in “groups of five to ten at a time and they were pretty closely spaced to each other,” said Day. “[They] were 28,000 feet going a hundred knots tracking south.” Ryan Weigelt remembers Senior Chief Day’s name being called over the comms.
• In the meantime, Voorhis was watching the highly precise radar returns. He would plot the UAP’s position, run up to the bridge, grab a pair of heavily magnified binoculars, and could faintly see the UAPs hovering there in broad daylight. [T]hen all of a sudden,” says Voorhis, “in an instant, they’d dart off to another direction and stop again.” “At night, they’d give off a kind of a phosphorus glow and were a little easier to see than in the day.”
• By November 14th, the strange returns had been continuously showing up for close to a week. With an air defense exercise scheduled for that morning, Day convinced his commanding officer to let him direct aircraft to attempt an intercept of these anomalous radar returns. Squadron Commander David Fravor was sent to engage with what Fravor would later describe as “an elongated egg or a ‘Tic Tac’ shaped” flying object, 46 feet long.
• Voorhis, Day, and the rest of the Princeton listened to the live comm chatter, as the UAPs effortlessly evaded the two fighter jets by demonstrating “an advanced acceleration, aerodynamic, and propulsion capability.” Outmaneuvered, Fravor and his wingman returned to the USS Nimitz. Another F/A-18 was sent to the intercept point. Lieutenant Chad Underwood would record the infamous “tic tac” video which would be released by ‘To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science’ and the New York Times in December 2017.
• While delivering supplies to the ship’s Signal Exploitation Space, former Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Turner happened to see a video display of the tic tac object which was not part of the brief video released to the public. (see FLIR1 video below) Said Turner, “This thing was going berserk… It made a maneuver, like they were chasing it straight on,… then this thing stopped turning, just gone. In an instant. The video you see now, that’s just a small snippet in the beginning of the whole video. But this thing, it was so much more than what you see in this video.” Weigelt and Voorhis confirmed that the video they watched was far longer – 10 minutes – and clearer than the released version.
• Petty Officer Patrick “PJ” Hughes job on the Nimitz carrier was to secure inside a safe the hard drive data recorders from the airborne early-warning aircraft, the E-2 Hawkeye, which contains the plane’s operational software and recorded data that the aircrew sees during flight. He was unaware that the Hawkeye had encountered the tic tac UFOs. Hughes was visited by his commanding officer and two unknown individuals who ordered him to give them the data recordings for the AEGIS system, and then they left. He was told that the ship’s advanced Combat Engagement Center along with the optical drives with all the radio communications had been wiped clean. Voorhis remarked, “They even told me to erase everything that’s in the shop—even the blank tapes.”
• Weigel reports that the two unknown individuals wearing generic flight suits also visited the USS Princeton, went to the Admirals Quarters and posted a guard at the door. Pilot David Fravor has acknowledged that his squadron’s video tapes of the “Tic Tac” intercept had mysteriously vanished. But he never saw any ‘unidentified’ personnel removing data recorders and conducting an investigation, and he himself was never interviewed. Fravor calls all of that “bullshit”.
• The enlisted witnesses were disappointed to hear Fravor suggest some of their accounts are inaccurate. They all stand by their experiences, and also support Fravor’s account. Paco Chierici, a former F-14 pilot and the person credited with first sharing the news of the Nimitz UAP encounter in a 2015 Fighter Sweep article, had this to say: “The combination of those aviators, the Princeton Aegis Radar operators, and the E-2 crew convinced me beyond a doubt of the veracity of the story.” “I know those people and how that world works. There is no way it could have been fabricated or misinterpreted.”
• Popular Mechanics was able to locate a previously unknown witness who was with the Nimitz carrier group in 2004, but asked to remain anonymous. He says he was an Operations Specialist aboard the USS Princeton. Says this witness, “What really made this incident alarming was when a Blackhawk helicopter landed on our ship and took all our information from the top secret rooms.” “We were all pretty shocked and it was an unspoken rule not to talk about it because we had secret clearances and didn’t want to jeopardize our careers.”
• Since none of the witnesses or pilots involved say they were ever interviewed at the time, it appears the most significant concern for the ‘two unknown individuals’ who showed up after the incident was the ship’s electronic data. Nick Cook, the former aviation editor for Jane’s Defense Weekly, says there are a number of reasons why personnel might have boarded ships and seized electronic data. “It could mean it was sensitive information.” But in Cook’s opinion it is unlikely this was some sort of classified test or exercise. Says Cook, “It would be so against the norm of my experience with how the black world conducts testing.” Cook also says that it’s possible, but not likely, that the “Tic Tac” was some type of classified drone. “I searched for 10 years, and never found any compelling evidence that the type of technology exists.” “In the balance of probabilities, I don’t think it’s ‘ours’.”
• This is a portion of the Executive Summary filed on the Nimitz encounter.
The five men share an easy rapport with each other, playfully ribbing one another while also communicating a deep sense of mutual respect. It’s clear they all share the bond of having once served in the armed forces. Yet for Gary Voorhis, Jason Turner, P.J. Hughes, Ryan Weigelt, and Kevin Day—assembled together (right) in a private group chat by Popular Mechanics—something much bigger ties them together beyond simply serving in the U.S. Navy.
These men also share a connection of being witnesses to one of the most compelling UFO cases in modern history: the Nimitz UFO Encounters, an event that the Navy recently confirmed indeed involved “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
Largely overshadowed by a grainy black-and-white video, and a former Topgun fighter pilot eyewitness, these veterans offer new and intriguing details on what occurred with the Navy’s Strike Carrier Group-11 as it sailed roughly 100 miles off the Southern California coast in 2004—details that a former career intelligence agent who investigated the Nimitz Encounter while at the Pentagon can neither confirm, deny, or even discuss with Popular Mechanics.
Ultimately, these five men—the “other” Nimitz witnesses—could be key to understanding an event that a leading aviation defense expert says “likely wasn’t ours.”
So whose was it?
Stationed on the USS Princeton, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, as the Nimitz carrier group went underway in early November 2004 for a routine training exercise, this would be the last time former Petty Officer 3rd Class Gary Voorhis would set sail aboard a Navy vessel.
Having already done almost six years in the Navy, including two combat tours, Voorhis was ready to transition to life outside the world of passionless grey metal hulls and vast leavening seas.
“The group was going to be deploying in a few months and there was a bunch of new systems, like the Spy-1 Bravo radar,” Voorhis tells Popular Mechanics. “It was really about getting all the kinks out.”
While chatting with some of the Princeton’s radar techs, Voorhis says he heard they were getting “ghost tracks” and “clutter” on the radars. For Voorhis, the Princeton’s only system technician for the state-of-the-art Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and AEGIS Combat System, news of these systems possibly malfunctioning was especially concerning.
Fearing the ship’s brand new AN/SPY-1B passive radar system was malfunctioning, Voorhis says the air control systems were taken down and recalibrated in an effort to clear out—what’s assumed to be false radar returns.
“Once we finished all the recalibration and brought it back up, the tracks were actually sharper and clearer,” Voorhis says. “Sometimes they’d be at an altitude of 80,000 or 60,000 feet. Other times they’d be around 30,000 feet, going like 100 knots. Their radar cross sections didn’t match any known aircraft; they were 100 percent red. No squawk, no IFF (Identification Friend or Foe).”
Sitting in the Princeton’s Combat Information Center (CIC), Operations Specialist Senior Chief Kevin Day was tasked with the critical role of protecting the airspace around the strike group. “My job was to man the radars and ID everything that flew in the skies,” Day said in the documentary film The Nimitz Encounters.
On or around November 10, 2004, roughly 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, Day began noticing strange radar tracks near the area of San Clemente Island. “The reason why I say they’re weird [is] because they were appearing in groups of five to 10 at a time and they were pretty closely spaced to each other. And there were 28,000 feet going a hundred knots tracking south,” Day said in the documentary.
In another YouTube clip, Ryan Weigelt, the former Leading Petty Officer and power plant specialist for the SH-60B “Seahawk” helicopter, recalled the tone aboard the missile cruise at the time.
“Senior Chief Day, his name, was being called over the comms, no bullshit, every two minutes.” Weigelt said. “I recall hearing something, like a big, real-world scenario was going on, but I just didn’t really understand.”
While Day and the Princeton’s air traffic controllers continued to monitor the strange radar returns, Voorhis says he began to take the opportunity to use the ship’s advanced tracking systems to catch a glimpse of whatever these objects were.
“When they’d show up on radar,” Voorhis says, “I’d get the relative bearing and then run up to the bridge and look through a pair of heavily magnified binoculars in the direction the returns were coming from.” Describing what he saw during the daytime, Voorhis says the objects were too far off to make out any distinguishing features, however, he could clearly see something moving erratically in the distance.
“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,” Voorhis says. “At night, they’d give off a kind of a phosphorus glow and were a little easier to see than in the day.”
2:45 minute “FLIR1” video of “Tic Tac” UFO off of San Diego in 2004 (‘To The Stars Academy’ YouTube)
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