We were seeing UFOs daily, says former US fighter pilot
Lt Ryan Graves calls for greater awareness of problem as he describes his squad’s close encounters with mysterious objects
Lieutenant Ryan Graves is leading an effort to encourage reporting of sightings of what the military calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena
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.
Lt Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot, is now leading an effort to encourage reporting of sightings, and advocating for scientific study of what the military calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).
Last year, Congress held its first hearing into UAPs for 50 years, and the Pentagon has received 350 new reports in the last two years, 171 of which remain unexplained.
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.”
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.
Black cube inside of a clear sphere
“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.
Video grab image shows part of an unclassified video taken by Navy pilots showing interactions with unidentified aerial phenomena.
“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 per cent if they were the same objects we were seeing before [off Virginia].”
Americans for Safe Aerospace
Since leaving the Navy, Lt Graves has launched Americans for Safe Aerospace, which is aimed at promoting reporting of UAPs, aiming to help coordination between the public and private sectors.
He said: “I think it’s moving in the right direction. I think a lot of the cultural baggage that had prevented the reporting has gone away, at least in the Navy, I can’t speak for other branches.
“I’ve been getting reports from people that are still flying out there, that are still seeing these objects.
“Some of them were describing cubes and spheres. I’ve heard it described over the course of eight or nine years, basically the same object being reported. Also nondescript, white objects are reported as well.”
He added: “We have to be aware that there are objects in our airspace and we are not fully aware of what they are. Uncertainty in our airspace is a national security threat.”
In terms of what they could be – foreign drones, extraterrestrial – he doesn’t know.
“An F/A 18 is not a proper scientific tool for understanding what we’re seeing,” said Lt Graves.
“So we need to gather more data. There’s a lot of things on the table, but we need more data.
“We’re just not at a point where we can draw conclusions.”