Mystery Drones of the SOCAL
The following article is published by The Black Vault with permission from the author, Dave Beaty. It can not be reproduced without permission. It coincides with the interview you will see at the top, and surrounds his 3-year long journey trying to unravel the unexplained encounters between the U.S. Navy and the “mystery drone” craft [...] The post Mystery Drones of the SOCAL appeared first on The Black Vault.
The following article is published by The Black Vault with permission from the author, Dave Beaty. It can not be reproduced without permission. It coincides with the interview you will see at the top, and surrounds his 3-year long journey trying to unravel the unexplained encounters between the U.S. Navy and the “mystery drone” craft that were seen through the month of July 2019.
2021 will go down in history as the year the US government did an about-face on its long-standing position that it has no interest in the study of UFOs. First, we had the June 25th, 2021, release of the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) called the “Preliminary Assessment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”. Then the December passage of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s UAP amendment in the Fiscal Year 22 National Defense Authorization Act mandating the establishment of a permanent office and multi-agency task force inside the Pentagon to investigate, respond to, and report on unidentified aerial phenomena as a potential threat to national security.
What was going on? What had changed? Many of us who follow such things let out a collective sigh.
The U..S. government has not had a stellar record with its past investigations of UFOs. The 1968 Condon Report comes to mind. The June preliminary UAP report was was somewhat of a letdown not because it was a disappointment in its conclusions, but rather, it didn’t provide any conclusions about UFOs, I mean UAPs, unidentified aerial phenomena — the current euphemism Uncle Sam is using these days.
The report did say they could not identify most of the 144 military UAP cases they examined and that UAP “may” pose a “challenge” to national security and further research and resources were needed. That’s where the new UAP office comes in. Sadly most, if not all, of the case files and reports are classified with no indication the new UAP office would be any more open with publicly accessible information. In fact, as we shall see, in some cases the DoD is going out of its way to make sure some of the data is kept out of the prying eyes of the media and FOIA investigators alike.
This twisting and confusing story has many roots which go back well before 2021 and any official reporting by the military about UAP incursions. In fact, it goes back to 2004.
As an investigative filmmaker, I was studying military UAP cases from 2004 to the present. And what I found left me puzzled about a real mystery that remains unexplained to this day.
For me, that research began in December 2017 when the New York Times broke the story on the AATIP program being run out of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSD(I)) and the Navy’s 2004 Tic Tac case with the FLIR videos they released described as “UAPs”. When I first learned about that curious case of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, California in November of 2004, I was enthralled by the descriptions of a 50-foot-long white capsule-shaped UFO that had out-paced F/A-18F Super Hornets.
One of those fighter pilots, Cdr. Alex Dietrich described to 60 Minutes how she and her squadronmates had first encountered a strange “roiling” sea-surface water disturbance, and when they descended to investigate a single, smooth, white cigar-shaped object that suddenly appeared and rose up towards the jets before taking off at lightning speed, leaving the pilot’s wide-eyed and baffled. Even the ship’s radar operators were dumbfounded by the returns displaying remarkable flight characteristics which had been popping up on their scopes for the entire week. Some of them were also blind-sided when USAF officers showed up to retrieve those data recordings from the radars and E2 Hawkeye early-warning planes. At least that’s how some of the witnesses remembered it. Not all of them agree on the details.
The USS Nimitz event inspired me to create a short animated documentary called “The Nimitz Encounters” in 2018. I actually made it for myself, as I set about to interview the witnesses and then re-create in 3D animation those amazing descriptions and stories, just as the pilots like Cdr. Jim Slaight and Top Gun Anti-air warfare controller Senior Chief Kevin Day described.
I released it for free, and I asked viewers to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they had a military UFO encounter. Little did I know the can of worms that would open up, along with the 5 million-plus views to date the film has received. That, plus the winding trail of incredibly complex and challenging research that followed. You can find that film HERE.
One contact led me to explore a whole new series of events that opened up the “Mystery Drone” encounters with the U.S. Navy.
The July 2019 Navy Incursions – First Contact
The email subject line read “??”. It was April 24th, 2020. Whoever was contacting me didn’t know what to put in the subject heading. The writer explained that he was a retired 20-year Navy vet with 14 years at sea. And that he was there in 2004 just after that November Tic Tac event. In fact, he was in the Combat Information Center (CIC) on the destroyer USS Chafee. Based on my FOIA’s of Chafee’s deck logs (see document archive at the end of the article), they had just arrived from Hawaii in December of 2004 just after Cdr. David Fravor’s November 14th dog fight with the Tic Tac and as the USS Nimitz Strike Group returned to the SOCAL operations area for further flight training.
Now a retired Chief Warrant Officer (CWO), he had a long and decorated Navy career. I was able to confirm his identity with several of the other Navy veterans including Kevin Day who worked with him in 2004. He told me of another, yet unpublished and unverified, account of his own radar-controlled air intercept with the Tic Tacs from the Chafee. This occurred after the November 2004 event Cdrs. Fravor, Slaight, and Dietrich reported.
“I was there …during that shit show. One of the controllers and I actually intercepted one of these…. We had a 1 versus 1 (F/A-18 Super Hornets) go up and one of the jets went down for maintenance before launch, so it was up as a single ship. We got permission from “Whiskey” and they ran out on it. On the intercept, the pilot was radio silent but once he came back on the radio he was “freaked out” and said he had never seen anything perform like that as it descended vertically right in front of him. Also, I know of another OS (Operations Specialist) from the ship who has run into these again in the SOCAL OPAREA recently!… Did you hear about the incident involving the USS Kidd in 2019?” — CWO anonymous
No, I hadn’t. In fact, no one had. This was the first mention of this event that I know of. A sighting by the Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer USS Kidd in 2019? In the same place as Nimitz? I had never heard of it nor any U.S. Navy UFO sightings in 2019. Presented with this new lead from the CWO, I quickly fired off a few Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the USS Kidd’s July deck logs.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, a little perspective is needed.
The Southern California Naval Operations Range (SOCAL)
The SOCAL operations area where this all went down in 2004 and 2019 itself is a very unusual place. Its mission is to “organize, train, equip, and maintain combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.”
They do that by constantly training Navy ships and crews before they deploy overseas. The range includes over 120,000 square nautical miles of open ocean, stretching 600 nautical miles west of San Diego out into the Eastern Pacific. The airspace vernacular is called the “Whiskey Area” and is the controlled military airspace above the sea extending up to over 30K feet over the sea ranges of the SOCAL OPAREA AKA the “warning area” which only describes the airspace. And the sea range descends from the surface of the ocean to the ocean floor hundreds of fathoms below. It’s portioned up into sea ranges each with specific training designations, like the pieces of a big navy cake. Training goes on 365 days a year.
Fear of The MIBS
My anonymous email CWO source told me that he’d been “freaked out” for years fearing a visit from the men in black — the notorious MIBs, since his 2004 experience. He said his PTSD acts up occasionally, and maybe that’s why. He recalled how Nimitz brass had hastily demanded all audio and radar recordings be sent over immediately and removed from the CIC on his ship. He told his controllers in the CIC not to talk about it, just in case. But it wasn’t enough to stop him from providing details about the other event in 2019 that he believed needed to be exposed.
He explained that his Navy buddy had witnessed these same types of Tic Tac objects in 2019, this time on the USS Kidd. Not just with a jet interceptor or radar contact, but it was up close and personal with multiple unknown objects trailing the ships, flying around the ships, and hovering over the ships.
There wouldn’t be many concrete answers. Not yet anyway. Maybe it’s ours? Maybe it’s theirs? Maybe it will be the “Nimitz II?” Or maybe, just maybe, it would defy all reasonable attempts at identifying it… and become, well, unidentified?
Striking Pay Dirt
Luckily, the Navy saves all vessel logs from the bridges of every ship going back to pre-WWII. Or, at least, that’s what I thought, but more on that later.
These logs record the minute-by-minute goings-on, speed, heading, engines, and other minutiae. These logs are all boxed up and sent to the Navy History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C.
One may think it’s odd to search for UFO reports in the Navy’s history museum archives, but that is essentially what I did. They finally arrived in early May of 2020 and I scoured the 400+ redacted pages for UFO sightings. Instead, I quickly found Snoopy and UAV sightings. Rather SNOOPIE team sightings. There were numerous reports of, “AWAY SNOOPIE TEAM AWAY!”, “SPOTTED UNIDENTIFIED DRONE”, all usually at night.
A quick internet search led me to the answer on what “SNOOPIE” stood for: Ship’s Nautical Or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Examination. It’s a quick response team of navy mass communications specialists, photographers who film and videotape any unknown ship or aircraft for intelligence gathering. The team runs, climbs, and hauls their gear to the top of the bridge superstructure, day or night, 24/7, and in any weather.
“Whenever the Snoopie Team is called away they come with high-end DSLR cameras and video cameras also. Calling away the Snoopie Team in US waters is definitely not something normally done and doing so at night is really unusual. The team’s main purpose is to help ID a vessel of interest or document something unusual about a vessel or aircraft. ” — CWO anonymous
But what else did the Kidd’s deck logs show? They revealed that It was not just USS Kidd having these sightings; many other ships were present; and the mystery UAVs seemed to only appear at night, often in the fog.
The Kidd logs also show multiple sightings on the 14th, 15th, 16th, and again on the nights of July 23rd, 24th, and 25th. Pretty much the entire month.
In June 2020, blogger Danny Silva of Silvarecord.com wrote up the story online. He was the first to contact me about the USS Kidd sightings and write about my research. Next, freelance writer and French air navigation control engineer, Marc Cecotti contacted me after I published my findings publicly on social media and we both began seeking more official documents and the SNOOPIE reports via FOIA. Marc and I were able to get many more documents released via FOIA.
The USS Kidd’s deck logs alone revealed month-long, multi-night, multi-witness sightings of unknown aerial objects that ultimately I would discover included ten other ships, including the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The boatswains mates creating the deck logs did not use the terms UAP or UFO. The logs describe them as “Unidentified UAVs”, “Suspected Drones”, “Red lights”, “Flashing red lights”, “Red flares” and “White lights” all documented by numerous SNOOPIE teams tracking, filming, and recording them night after night near the Channel Islands of Southern California.
Were these training exercises or a real military threat to the strike group? The logs fail to mention any call to “General Quarters” or “Battle Stations”, the first thing I’d expect if any threat to the ship was perceived. What did my anonymous CWO source think about this whole case being caused by remote control drones?
“My boy said they looked like big tic tacs nothing like a drone.” … “He said he could see them with the naked eye and they were almost eye level with the bridge, hovering. They were the same tic-tac shaped objects.” — CWO anonymous
But alas, he was not there, and this was second-hand information. But was he wrong?
Researchers Lend A Hand
Marc Cecotti again contacted me about his own follow-up on this case. He too had begun independent FOIA requests with the Navy which he shared with me. Marc related his beliefs that these were foreign military drones. He had received some emails: a collection of communications from Navy brass revealing they too were searching for the owners of these “UAS” (Unmanned Aerial Systems).
The Navy was in contact with the US Coast Guard and NCIS, the navy’s criminal investigative service. They were looking at nearby vessels, including foreign-flagged merchant vessels M/V Bass Strait and even a US-based ocean research vessel called ORV Alguita studying ocean flotsam. The Carnival Cruise ship Imagination was also contacted via radio during the sightings. They reported seeing the lights but were not flying any drones. At one point the bridge officer’s frustration becomes evident when USS Kidd logs show them hailing on a common marine radio channel for “whoever” is operating the “UAVs” to “Secure Usage”. It went unanswered. These FOIA’d emails show the navy’s frustrating efforts to locate the operators.
Dr. Adam Kehoe is a software developer and freelance writer. Working alongside Marc Cecotti, he located publicly available 2019 ship transponder data in the SOCAL range. Most Navy and merchant vessels must use these AIS or Automatic Identification System transponders that are monitored globally and tracked hour by hour. Adam coded a computer search algorithm to zero in on the area near San Clemente island in the Navy operations area. He could then plot the navy ships with AIS by name and movements minute by minute. With his help and tutelage, and my own database filtering, I was able to load that same GPS data into QGIS, a free publicly available mapping app to create my own maps of the Navy ships’ positions.
In some cases, they were hundreds of miles apart over thousands of square miles of the Pacific when the sightings took place.
Through this mapping effort, I saw the true extent of the sighting and the vast number of Navy vessels involved. None of us were prepared for the sheer strangeness of the story nor the Navy’s overt efforts to put the lid on this case forever.
In late 2020, I submitted FOIA’s for the USS Kidd SNOOPIE team reports, photos, and videos with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). I also asked for the deck logs of the littoral combat ships USS Omaha and USS Gabrielle Giffords, as well as the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill for the entire month of July. Marc Cecotti’s March 2021 FOIAs only covered the week of July 14–16, 2019. Yet as you recall the sightings on USS Kidd continued the entire month. So, in March 2021, I also filed FOIAs for July 17–31 logs from destroyers USS John Finn, USS Paul Hamilton, USS Raphael Peralta, and USS Russell.
It would turn out that I would have a long wait for logs that prior only took a couple of months.
Navy ships we had identified as involved were:
- USS Kidd (DDG-100)
- USS Russell (DDG-59)
- USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60)
- USS Pinckney (DDG-91)
- USS John Finn (DDG-115)
- USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115)
- USS Omaha (LCS-12)
- USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10)
- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)
- USS Bunker Hill (CG-52)
The weather was bad in July 2019 out in the SOCAL OPAREA. Rain, wind, and fog rolled in over and over. The air temp hovered around 60º F and the nights were very dark.
“Woooooonnk!” the foghorn blasts every 20 seconds.
The MC1 ship loudspeakers crackled to life and blared, “FIX LOW VISIBILITY DETAIL! AWAY THE SNOOPIE TEAM! UAVs OFF THE STARBOARD SIDE!”, The photo team ran up the clanking gangways and out into the fog again. The red lights were there, but this time, close to the ship. And they were getting even closer and they came out of the mist.
Drones? UAVs? UFOs? Whatever they were, these were not ours. Numerous drones, if that’s what they are, were menacing the ships.
“SECURE HORN BLASTS TO LISTEN FOR UAVS” one log entry read. No report followed of what the bridge heard above the waves.
That’s how it was logged and how I imagined the scene. What a docu-film that would make!
You Don’t Waltz Up To A Destroyer
The destroyers have a sophisticated bridge-mounted and stabilized FLIR system called the Mark 20 EOSS used for targeting and tracking contacts in infrared and optical that is tied in with the AEGIS radar system and deck-mounted cannons. We can be assured the officers were using both the Mark 20 EOSS or electro-optical sighting system and SNOOPIE teams to track these objects.
But let’s rewind a bit. The 282 sailors aboard the USS Kidd cast her lines off at the Navy base in San Diego and were underway July 5th, 2019, heading out for training before the planned January 2020 deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. They had a good reason to be out there. During this phase of their training called SWATT or Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, they practice air defense, anti-mine, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and ballistic missile defense. They launch surface-to-air missiles, test sonar & torpedo decoys, fire the deck mount cannons, and test the close-in Phalanx 20mm CIWZ Gatling gun known as the “R2D2” or the “Sea Whiz”.
Destroyer Squadron 23 or DESRON 23 consists of the USS Kidd (DDG-100), USS Russell (DDG-59), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), USS Pinckney (DDG-91), USS John Finn (DDG-115), and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115). Also participating: The trimaran littoral combat ships USS Omaha (LCS-12), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), and the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) along with her cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) from CSG-9 or carrier strike group 9.
Make no mistake, destroyers are big ships — over 500 feet. These warships present a true floating armada each with substantial weapon systems, radar tracking, and electronic jamming. They are not ships you mess with. These are the tip of the spear of our Navy’s surface warfare fleet. So how could any enemy drones get anywhere near these vessels? You just don’t waltz up to a Navy destroyer.
If one thing our nation has learned in the war on terror since the October 2000 USS Cole suicide attack by Al Qaeda extremists, it is that unconventional attack is the new norm and a “non-linear battlefield” with non-state players are the chess pieces at play in many cases. Yet, like the lumbering battleships of yesteryear, the investment in billion-dollar weapon systems often ties down the military’s ability to react quickly and counter the emergence of unconventional and largely civilian technology such as small autonomous drones.
According to Lieutenant JG Artem Sherbinin, U.S. Navy, and First Lieutenant Richard Kuzma, U.S. Army, in their May 2020 article for the US Naval Institute, titled “How Drones Could Mission Kill A U.S. Destroyer” the threat is very real indeed. I contacted both men who did not reply to my request for comment.
“To know how to strike the ship, the terrorists could study open-source images of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers to determine the locations of key weapon and communications systems. This expensive electronics equipment is vulnerable to drone-carried explosive devices or kamikaze-style attacks. Hobbyists with coding skills have shown they can reprogram drones to track people. Building on this knowledge base, the terrorists could program drones to focus on communications antennas, weapon systems, or radar arrays.” — US Naval Institute
So how does a destroyer deal with an incoming airborne threat? A destroyer is locked and loaded with a suite of powerful offensive and defensive weapons. The powerful electronic scanned array of the AN/SPY-1D(V) radar sees out to 254 nautical miles into the sky — the exact range is classified. AEGIS ships have shot down failed satellites in orbit. The AN/SPS-48 and 49 pulse doppler air search radars cover the sky closer in. The Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system combines the radar picture of many naval assets to produce a beyond-horizon blanket of radar coverage.
The 122 surface-to-air missiles carried on a destroyer, called the RIM-116 SM-2MR Block IIIA radar/IR missiles, have a 90 nautical mile range fired from forward and aft MK-41 vertical launch tubes. The MK-45 5-inch deck mounted cannon can strike sea and air targets out to 10 NMs. The remote control 25mm chain gun known as the Mark 38 can kill ships or air targets out to 2900 meters. The automatic Phalanx CIWS can fire 20mm rounds at incoming missiles and threats 2000 meters away when unleashed. Then there is the crew deployed .50 caliber and M240 machine guns, both capable of putting up a wall of lead at any incoming threat closer in. A destroyer is one mean son of a bitch when provoked. “A literal tin can of whoop-ass,” one navy vet described them to me.
Face it, the idea that an enemy military reconnaissance drone could fly up to a destroyer without being disabled or destroyed is pretty far-fetched. But in a peacetime training environment in international waters, the rules of engagement are a little more strict and weapon systems may not even be loaded with ammunition. That said, the logs do reflect a few times where guns were manned and the weapons posture was changed to “Weapons Posture 1” right after the UAVs were spotted. That means the guns are locked, loaded, and ready to fire. But there is no mention of them actually pressing the trigger. As tempting as I am sure it was.
What Does This All Mean?
The logs don’t say “UFO”. They don’t say “UAP”. They say “UAV” or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Simply put: a drone.
Why? It’s possible “UAV” and “Drones” are the catch-all terms used for anything that does not behave like an airplane or helicopter? “UFO” and “UAP” were not used in any deck logs I reviewed.
Were these objects some type of foreign military surveillance drones being flown off nearby civilian ships? That’s just speculation at this point. The logs reflect the confusion of the sailors, and no structural description, no loiter times, or unusual performance of the objects is given, just lights. No sound is described. It appeared the Navy was at a total loss at figuring out who was operating these mysterious flying objects, where they came from, where they went, or more significantly if they were a threat.
Numerous red and white lights emerged from the fog, surrounded multiple Navy ships but they did not attack. They were just, well, there.
Let’s look at one night as an example, on the evening of July 14th, 2019. This was the first night the UAPs appeared, and the ships were spread over the entire range complex. When the bridge uses the term “away” it means they order the deployment, such as “Away the SNOOPIE team”.
9:16 PM USS Bunker Hill which is north of San Clemente kicks off the reports and spots an “Unidentified UAV” and sends “SNOOPIE team away port bridge wing”.
9:56 PM USS Kidd “Calls Away the SNOOPIE team for 2 UAVs” they “Set River City 1 Set Bancon 1”. (This “River City” order shuts down all RF emissions and internet).
10:03 PM USS Paul Hamilton calls “Away SNOOPIE team, secure people working aloft”.
10:05 PM USS Bunker Hill “Secured weather decks due to unidentified UAV”.
10:05 PM USS Paul Hamilton sets “River City 1”.
10:10 PM USS Rafael Peralta calls “Away SNOOPIE Team, John Finn Reports Two Drones Overhead.”
10:22 PM USS Bunker Hill sets “River City 1”.
10:27 PM USS Rafael Peralta notes “USS Kidd reported UAV overhead warned operators to secure usage”.
10:31 PM USS John Finn “Secured AIS due to possible UAV activity in the Area” (AIS is the location GPS transponder).
11:27 PM USS Rafael Peralta logs a “White light identified hovering over the ship’s flight deck” and that “Visibility reduced to less than 1nm”.
11:33 PM USS John Finn sends the “SNOOPIE team away”.
11:37 PM USS Rafael Peralta “Sound Signals secured due to sound search of suspected UAV” (The foghorn).
11:46 PM USS Russell “Set EMCON ALPHA 1” (Similar to River City 1)
This next map shows the ship’s relative positions the next night in SOCAL OPAREA on July 15th when the next wave of sightings occurred. I’ve included the USS Omaha’s position during the leaked FLIR footage recording.
“Overall, I regard the incident as very much unsolved. We only know a few things at a high confidence level. At the basic level, we know via FOIA that a large number of contacts were observed on multiple days…In terms of the incident itself, there are frustratingly few concrete details. While some witnesses have come forward, none have done so in a way we can fully vet and report. There has been a great deal of focus on surrounding civilian traffic, with some accusations that nearby ships may have been launching drones. The operators of the ship(s) deny those claims and claim that their crew was only minimally aware of the incident. Given the potential sensitivity of leveling an accusation against a particular country, we’ve been extremely careful. To my mind, there is not enough information to credibly accuse any particular country…
In recent years, there has been more discussion about information warfare. One aspect of information warfare involves targeting the ability to recognize and positively identify the source of a probe or even an attack. Creating ambiguity that lengthens the process of political response is a well-known strategy. This is something that the United States is particularly vulnerable to, given how distracted lawmakers often are. … Since we don’t have all the facts, I don’t know if that is the case here. However, it remains one of my greatest concerns with this incident, namely that the defense and intelligence bureaucracy has become stymied and somewhat paralyzed by uncertainty.”— Dr. Adam Kehoe — Freelance writer / software developer
In another FOIA release to The Black Vault, a unredacted briefing slide was released that plotted each encounter point between the UAS’, as they buzzed the USS Paul Hamilton. Also noted was the point where a video/photo was captured.
Information Warfare, specifically, electronic information warfare, is one of the biggest threats we face in the U.S., as seen by the cybersecurity breaches on a national scale. The ship’s logs reflect that they often turned off AIS transponders and ordered condition EMCON ALPHA 1 and RIVERCITY 1 as the UAVs approached. Both orders instruct sailors to cease all electronics emissions, radars, radios, cellphone use, and internet usage.
As I scanned through the numerous deck logs and created a spreadsheet to analyze the locations, dates, times, and descriptions of the encounters; several things began to crystallize.
It was apparent that nearly all the ships were test-firing surface-to-air missiles on the morning and afternoon of July 14th and 15th preceding the UAV encounters. These were the SM2-IIIA’s missiles and according to one source, they were conducting anti-missile tests, in other words, shooting a missile at another missile.
Is it coincidental that the UFOs first appeared that very night?
UFOs and nuclear missiles have always been a part of the historical case files. There are many reports of UFOs approaching weapon storage areas. Today, Navy warships do not carry nuclear weapons. The last warships armed with nuclear weapons were in the first Gulf War around 1992–1993. Only submarines have them today. So what might attract these flying objects to the missiles that were fired that day?
Many of the destroyers have been recently upgraded to the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense system, or BMD, which is a new capability to shoot down incoming ICBMs in space and in the terminal descent phase of the attack. This naval capability, part of the SDI or the Strategic Defense Initiative, may create an imbalance in worldwide nuclear deterrence. One part of that deterrence is called NUTS — Nuclear Utilization & Target Selection or nuclear second-strike deterrent, having the ability to launch a retaliatory strike against an adversary who attacks first. Being able to blanket the globe with anti-ballistic-missile-capable AEGIS destroyers that can knock out an opponents’ first or retaliatory strike, creates this strategic imbalance. Does China have a reason to approach the ships soon after these tests? Or could someone else? There is also no evidence to even suggest the Navy was conducting BDM tests in July 2019 rather these were just standard tests of SAMs. So, the verdict is not in.
There are ample examples of Chinese long-range drones such as the CR500 Golden Eagle reconnaissance rotorcraft drones undergoing testing in 2019. Is it possible they were using civilian merchant ships to launch these to conduct Electronic intelligence (ELINT) on the destroyers? It’s possible. But why use lights at night, and such overt approaches to the ships? The destroyers often went into EMCON 1 and RIVER CITY 1 when these objects appeared to shut down emissions. But given the lack of evidence, this hypothesis remains speculation only. The Navy likely knows more than they are saying about this.
They All Ghosted Me
In early 2021 I was beginning to question if I would ever find out what really happened or verify the ship’s log entries with eyewitness testimony. Most Navy warships have a public social media group page. They publish all types of reports about the ships and sailors during training evolutions including hundreds of photos and captions.
One by one, I began contacting every sailor I could find on the USS Kidd from July 2019. In the end, I had about 50 names, even the captain.
Now I don’t think it’s the best operational security to have all this available publicly. Should I contact these fighting men and women about an alleged UAP? That’s another debate. I began messaging and emailing them. Out of nearly 50 contacts, I heard back from 3 people asking what I wanted. But as soon as I mentioned the July 2019 incident they ghosted me. I did speak to one man who claimed his brother-in-law was onboard the USS Paul Hamilton during the sightings and he was told that the objects were “Chinese drones” flown off a nearby oil tanker, and that they were tracked on radar as small drones. His brother-in-law refused to talk to me in person so his account has to be taken as third hand, unverified information, only. To date, I am not aware of any public statements from the thousands of potential witnesses on the ships. I believe that there could have been a gag order issued by the Navy, but my line of inquiry with active-duty sailors thus far has been futile. I was semi-concerned there might be blowback from my inquiries.
Out of the blue, I received a friend request from Lt. Ross Myers. I had no mutual friends with Ross. I looked at his profile, and it revealed he was a “Former Surface Warfare Officer” AND an Attorney. Oh shit. I had done it, a lawyer AND destroyer captain or something! I slowly and reluctantly hit accept on the friend request. It turns out it was a good thing!
Lt. Myers coincidentally contacted me the same week I had my failed Navy email expedition. He was interested in UFOs, and he wanted to help with my research. Lieutenant, Senior Grade, Ross Myers was in the Navy years ago, and today, he is a trial attorney in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
I asked him about the vexing problems with this entire event — the warships’ seeming lack of response to the incursion; to not fire on the intruders; and their total failure to identify whatever they were — even with their sophisticated AEGIS sensor suites.
“This area where the drone swarms occurred is very much the Navy’s backyard and the 3rd Fleet has trained there for over a hundred years. My first thought after hearing about these incidents is that they had to be training exercises. …A ship’s captain would have called the ship to General Quarters if he or she perceived any threat from the drones…Almost all Navy combatants have at least one Phalanx close-in weapon system that can be immediately activated & would shoot down the same. Also, I believe most combatants now have handheld anti-drone guns that are supposed to be effective. Of course, that is assuming these are drones and not other exotic vehicles of some sort. For whatever reason, these drones, or whatever they are, were not perceived as a threat to the ship or crew because almost certainly the ship’s captain would have ordered them shot down otherwise.… There of course is the open question of just what these things are and whether or not our ships went there with the goal of encountering them.” — Lt. Ross Myers, Fmr.
What about the hundreds of hours of footage, the thousands of photos, and FLIRs from the numerous SNOOPIE teams reports and the Mark 20 EOSS videos? Not to mention SPY-1 AEGIS combat systems recordings? My September 2020 FOIA requests to the Navy for all SNOOPIE team reports and videos on USS Kidd resulted in some interesting responses. First, in January 2021, Commander, Third Fleet (C3F) reported to me that they had located 6 pages of classified documents pertaining to the USS Kidd SNOOPIE TEAMS and fully denied my request with exemption (b)(6).
In addition to the Third Fleet, in June 2020, I submitted a SNOOPIE FOIA request to the Office of Naval Intelligence. They also found responsive records, but this time, explained they could not release them as they belonged to another command. Specifically, the Naval Intelligence Activity (N2N6/NIA), Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Nine, and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division(NSWCDD). And those commands would have to provide an appropriate review of these documents to determine release. ONI said they sent my FOIA request to these commands. The Naval Intelligence Activity (N2N6/NIA) appears to be part of the intelligence and investigative arm of the Navy and the Naval Surface Warfare Center is involved with technology and weapon systems development.
To date, I have never received a reply.
Another area of FOIA investigation I conducted was with the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC), San Diego. They maintain control over the military airspace called the “Whiskey” areas in the SOCAL OPAREA including radar. If military drones were being operated, they would know. They also investigate unauthorized airspace incursions called “Whiskey Alerts” that could threaten air safety. These unidentified drones could be both. My FOIA’s did bear some fruit. They located about 90 pages of documents but withheld them as “Defense Critical Infrastructure Technology” pending further security review and only released to me several emails detailing the exchanges with commanders inquiring about our own military drones being operated that July. Marc Cecotti also shared with me a fully redacted FACSFAC spreadsheet of navy drone operation schedules from July which he believed indicated no flights were taking place in that area and on those dates.
To date, I have never heard back about the determination of the status of the 90 pages of information they had found responsive to my FOIA.
The Missing Logs
Another puzzling fact is that numerous warships’ July 2019 deck logs were “missing” including the LCS USS Omaha, LCS USS Gabrielle Giffords, and the USS Pinkney. My original April 19, 2021, FOIA for the USS Omaha requested the dates of July 13 to 15 of 2019. Yet the Navy sent me only July 19th with no explanation for the discrepancy.
The partial logs showed me that on July 19th, the USS Omaha tied up to the pier at the Navy base in San Diego. The Black Vault website’s creator and researcher John Greenewald has often offered me advice on this case and he suggested I use the FOIA appeal process to force the issue with the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office.
My appeal was successful and in May 2021 and I received the official answer.
I was told that the USS Omaha uses digital voice recordings on the bridge for the deck logs. They are stored on a hard drive rather than the traditional pen and ink binder used for hundreds of years by the Navy. They were required to copy the monthly logs onto a CD or flash drive and send them for archiving at the History and Heritage command. Yet, they didn’t. The crew was asked to look for the missing logs on the ship and simply could not locate them.
One final discrepancy never explained is that the logs I did receive when the vessel was at the pier were all pen and ink. I have never sent appeals for the lack of explanation for the missing July logs of USS Pinkney and USS Gabrielle Giffords.
On the week of April 6, 2021, The USS Omaha and USS Russell were also featured on filmmaker Jeremy Corbell’s Instagram and website and also in an article by KLAS TV reporter George Knapp’s on MysteryWire.com with the headline “Pyramid-shaped UFOs swarm above Navy destroyer” including video from a handheld FLIR night vision monocular and PowerPoint-style slides showing photos of the USS Omaha FLIR screen. The video, they later said, came from the deck of the USS Russell showing what they described as “pyramid-shaped UAPs”. The Mysterywire website reported that
“The new images were gathered by the (UAP) Task Force and obtained by investigative filmmaker Jeremy Corbell, who confirmed their authenticity. Mystery Wire has independently confirmed that the visual materials are included in the briefing presentation prepared by the UAP Task Force.”
On April 9, 2021, The Black Vault first broke the story that Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough had responded to his inquiry about the leaked material, and confirmed they were taken by Navy personnel, and utilized by the UAP Task Force in their “examinations” of UAPs. However, although they confirmed them as real, the Pentagon would not indicate if the military was able to identify them or what they designated them as (ie: “UAP”, “UFO”, “drone”, “balloons” etc.).
On May 14, 2021, Knapp and Corbell released a new video from the USS Omaha of what they described as a “spherical UAP” and “trans-medium vehicle” “disappearing into the ocean”. A sailor, from what they described as a “VIPR Team”, on the USS Omaha apparently filmed several encounters on a cell phone of the ship’s targeting FLIR screen and of the ship’s radar scope showing the same alleged UAPs. And these images, slides, and videos were all part of a briefing package created by the UAP Task Force in advance of the June 2021 task force report due to Congress.
While I did not succeed in locating the USS Omaha deck logs, I can report that none of the other vessels’ thousands of pages of deck logs, including the USS Russell, ever described “spherical” or “pyramid” shaped objects, only “drones”, “UAV’s”, “UAS” and “lights”.
Persistence Pays Off
One frustration I had in all of this was the lack of response from my March 2021 FOIA’s for all the deck logs of the destroyers Finn, Russell, Hamilton, Raphael Peralta, and Spruance, for July 17–31. Marc’s original FOIAs only covered the 13–16th.
My FOIA had been approved with “expedited processing” so I should have had a quicker response time. In August 2021, I contacted the liaison office at Third Fleet and was told it had been referred to “big Navy” aka DNS-36 Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon as part of a group of “UAP Requests”. My FOIA only asked for deck logs with no mention of UAP. Yet it was now considered a “UAP request”. I contacted the FOIA office at Chief of Naval Operations to inquire.
As a new year dawned in 2022 it had been nearly two years since I had first discovered the mystery drones of the SOCAL and a year since my simple FOIA for these logs had been approved. One more email to the liaison office at the third fleet in January finally did the trick. A week later I had all the deck logs delivered to me, including documents I never requested, which led to a strange discovery.
The Navy was now redacting the same logs they had previously released. The USS Russell logs sent to me were from July 14–31. My request was for July 17–31. So I began reviewing. Suddenly I recognized a page from the Russell logs Marc Cecotti had sent me the previous year. Now it was all blacked out.
I went back and checked, yes, sure enough, the same page was unredacted on Marc’s version and now redacted on mine with (b)(3) 10 USC 130 — “Unclassified Technical Data with Military or Space Application”. I went to The War Zone and checked their March 2021 article. That same page was right there in the clear as well.
What was going on? That specific exemption code seems to be for technical information or data that could be a threat to US national security if exported. But the unredacted page shows what was hidden was simple bearing and altitudes of suspected drones. “Drone Spotted 280ºT 1000 FT Elevation” for instance. One theory I heard was that the bearing and altitude information gave away blind spots on the ships.
It would appear the Navy first released the logs as standard unredacted training workups, then after the national press reports following my discovery of this mystery drone event, they began sequestering all requests for the 2019 incident and began re-routing them to the Chief of Naval Operations as “UAP requests”, which most likely resulted in the 2nd round of redacting under this obscure exemption code. Why was the Navy now trying to prevent this information about drone sightings from getting out? Was it really a “technical data or space applications information exemption” when a petty officer boatswains mate on the bridge logged sighting a “drone” at a specific direction and angle? That answer is elusive.
Note: John Greenewald of The Black Vault received the same page in a FOIA release, yet his had no redaction citation of (b)(3) — only a black box redaction. As of the publishing of this article, the Navy told him that his release should only have (b)(6) redactions, and the (b)(3) was “removed,” however he still can’t get clarification why the redaction itself remains. It is a confusing mess.
The sun sets once again on the SOCAL OPAREA. For a hundred years the Navy has trained here. As the night and fog rolls in once again on the destroyers of DESRON 23, it obscures the truth from all of us on what they truly encountered.
Is it ours? Is it theirs? Who can ultimately say?
As I ponder the statements from my original anonymous CWO source that these were tic-tac shaped UAPs observed directly from the bridge; or the stories of flying pyramids and trans-medium spheres reported by Corbell; or the theories of Chinese espionage and one-upmanship being played on the high seas in a high stakes gamble of might; to me the anomalous tic-tacs seem like the lesser threat these days. Perhaps they represent the future of free-energy reactionless flight, rather than the paranoid-deluded enemy commanders’ attempts at ELINT collections of military-technical showmanship. The answers are out there, we just have to keep hammering away at the black walls of secrecy. To admit that government may not hold all the secrets and you and I can find the answers ourselves if we look to the horizon and imagine. Imagine that mysteries still dance out there. Out over the dark waves.
On April 5, 2021, at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington DC, reporter Jeff Schogol of the Task & Purpose news site asked the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, if the July 2019 SOCAL range incursions had been explained by the Navy.
“No, we have not. I am aware of those sightings and as it’s been reported there have been other sightings by aviators in the air and by other ships not only of the United States but other nations — and of course other elements within the U.S. joint force…Those findings have been collected and they still are being analyzed… There is a well-established process in place across the joint force to collect that data and to get it to a separate repository for analysis.” — Admiral Michael Gilday
If this Admiral, the Chief of Naval Operations, says that the Navy itself has not solved these encounters nearly three years after they occurred, will we ever really know the truth?
If the Navy truly can’t solve it, will we, the general public, ever really know what happened out there in the Pacific so that we can identify these “Mystery Drones” that plagued the U.S. Navy?
If you have any pertinent information or can add factual details regarding my research into this case, please contact me at email@example.com. You can remain anonymous.
Here you will find the entire batch of documents that Dave Beaty has collected with his research efforts. These were obtained via FOIA, and shared with The Black Vault to disseminate with this article.
ZIP Downloads of EVERYTHING below are also available.
.zip of ALL files listed below [166MB]
Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, San Diego
Ship Log Files
2019-07 Kidd (DDG-100)_Redacted.pdf 65M BUNKER HILL JUL 2019 MODIFIED_Redacted.pdf 11M JOHN FINN 17-31 JULY 2019_Redacted.pdf 17M OMAHA 19 July_Redacted.pdf 228K OMAHA JUL 2019 MODIFIED_Redacted.pdf 6.8M PAUL HAMILTON 17-31 JULY 2019_Redacted.pdf 25M RAFAEL PERALTA 17-31 JULY 2019_Redacted.pdf 22M RUSSELL 17-31 JULY 2019_Redacted.pdf 23M USS OMAHA July19_Redacted.pdf 228K