Mysterious Cloud Of Chaff Lights Up Radar Over Dozens Of Miles Of New Mexico Airspace

It is the latest in a string of peculiar chaff release events from across that U.S. that have drawn a lot of attention in recent months

byTyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo


Back in December of 2018, we reported on a mysterious chaff cloud that emerged over the Midwest. Just days later, we were first to point out a number of other similar and highly persistent formations that popped up across the eastern United States. In the first case, we were able to get the USAF to tell us where that cloud of metallic radar reflective material came from, at least according to them, but in the other cases we didn't have as good of luck. Now, a new radar clip shows the formation of a big chaff cloud near Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The event occurred on March 5th, 2019 at around 19:20 UTC, which equates to roughly 12:20pm local time. Over a swath of sky beginning to the west of Cannon Air Force Base, the plume first appears, covering roughly 30 miles over a couple hours time. Cannon AFB is used by Air Force Special Operations Command and is home the 27th Special Operations Wing and its MC-130s, AC-130s, CV-22s, MQ-9s, U-28s, C-146s and other propeller-driven aircraft, some of which could have deployed the chaff from their expendable countermeasures systems. 

Cannon AFB continues to expand after being converted to a master base for USAF Special Operations Command aircraft. , Google Earth

See the radar recording below. The weather was very mild at the time. With partly cloudy conditions and no precipitation whatsoever. 


There is the 'Pecos' cluster of Military Operating Areas (MOAs) just to the west of Cannon AFB that extends out nearly 100 miles, it seems as if this may have been where the release began from an aircraft. It took roughly two hours for the chaff to cross the state line into Texas. Like other chaff plumes we have seen as of late, it stayed remarkably cohesive over a long period of time.

VFR sectional shows the Pecos MOAs located to the west of Cannon AFB. Even though the release may have begun there, it spread all across the county and into Texas., Skyvector

We watched the aviation activity over the area at the time and didn't see anything out of the ordinary or a culprit that could have released the chaff as part of a test or other unique operation. Keep in mind that most military aircraft aren't tracked using the software. We also listened to radio recordings from the time period and didn't hear Albuquerque Center communicate with an aircraft about the chaff release.

We have reached out to Cannon AFB about the peculiar chaff cloud, but after 24 hours they haven't gotten back to us yet. We will update this post if they do.

Author's note 1:15pm PST 3/7/19: The time stamp was read wrong, which means the deployment wasn't nearly as fast. Changes have been made to the text to reflect this.

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