The U.S. Navy has formally declassified three now-infamous videos that pilots flying F/A-18 Hornets shot of unidentified flying objects, also referred to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), on separate occasions in 2004 and 2015. One of these videos had been floating around online for years, but all three became national news in 2017 and 2018 as part of reporting surrounding the Pentagon's still very enigmatic efforts to study these and other similar incidents, as well as the activities of the private company To The Stars Academy and its founder, former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge.
The Pentagon announced the official release of the trio of videos, commonly known by their filenames "FLIR," "GO FAST," and "GIMBAL," on Apr. 27, 2020. Naval Air Systems Command posted copies of all three online via their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) document library. The first video, which first appeared online more than a decade ago, shows an object that has become colloquially referred to as the "Tic Tac." By every indication, all three videos are identical to the ones that have been circulating widely online for years now.
The full Pentagon statement is as follows:
"The Department of Defense has authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos, one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015, which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017. The U.S. Navy previously acknowledged that these videos circulating in the public domain were indeed Navy videos. After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as "unidentified." The released videos can be found at the Naval Air Systems Command FOIA Reading Room: https://www.navair.navy.mil/foia/documents."
The comment about "misconceptions by the public" is a clear reference to a still-developing saga surrounding exactly how the videos first came out to the public and how they found their way into the possession of To The Stars Academy. In September 2019, the Navy confirmed to John Greenewald, a prolific FOIA requester and author who runs TheBlackVault.com, that the videos were authentic, but said that their release had never been authorized. To The Stars Academy claims to this day that the service had already officially declassified the clips. You can read more about this back-and-forth in great depth here and here.
With regards to "whether or not there is more to the videos," specifically, in January, Vice's Motherboard
had also reported that the Navy still had classified video about various UFO incidents. This was based on the response to a FOIA request, which the story said implied that there was additional footage that had not yet made its way out into the public eye. However, it is very possible that the FOIA response was referring to the fact that the three well-known videos were still classified at the time. The Navy has also confirmed in the past that it has given classified briefings to multiple members of Congress on unidentified aerial phenomena.
Whether or not this release and the Pentagon's statement will actually settle any of these debates or put an end to various speculation regarding the videos or the events they depict remains to be seen. Some members of Congress have expressed frustration about the information they've received behind closed doors and it has often been difficult for the media to get straight answers on even basic points.
The War Zone itself had an especially grueling and ultimately fruitless experience attempting to secure details about the U.S. Air Force's part in any of these or other UFO incidents in recent years and what that service is doing to monitor and investigate these reports. We only obtained some information in the end by way of one of John Greenewald's FOIA requests. You can read more about this bizarre situation here.
It seems very likely that the Navy's official release of these videos, so many years after the fact, is likely to prompt renewed debate and more questions about the events they show and other U.S. military encounters with and activities related to unidentified aerial phenomena.
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