USS Kidd (and other Ships) "Drones" Encounter, 2019

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
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Article:
In July of 2019, a truly bizarre series of events unfolded around California’s Channel Islands. Over a number of days, groups of unidentified aircraft, which the U.S. Navy simply refers to as ‘drones’ or 'UAVs,' pursued that service's vessels, prompting a high-level investigation.

During the evening encounters, as many as six aircraft were reported swarming around the ships at once. The drones were described as flying for prolonged periods in low-visibility conditions, and performing brazen maneuvers over the Navy warships near a sensitive military training range less than 100 miles off Los Angeles. The ensuing investigation included elements of the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The incidents received major attention, including from the Chief of Naval Operations—the apex of the Navy's chain of command.


This article in The Drive (based on an earlier article in The Parallax blog) uses declassified emails and the USS Kidd's deck log (obtained via FOIA) to make the case that the USS KIdd was swarmed by drones on multiple nights (Nights of July 14, 15, and early AM, July 25 and 30, 2019.)

Given the (mostly) consistent identification of the things as "UAVs" or "Drones", it would seem reasonable to assume they were actually drones, but I don't think we can totally rule anything out. One account (or rather, one brief note) says:
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"White light identified hovering over ship's flight deck" - which could be a drone. But I'd also not rule out a misidentification of some other light, even Venus. We have no real context for these notes, so it's difficult to rule things out.

The Drive notes:
Article:
The log reflects that the drone managed to match the destroyer's speed with the craft moving at 16 knots in order to maintain a hovering position over the ship’s helicopter landing pad. To further complicate what was already a complex maneuver, the drone was operating in low visibility conditions (less than a nautical mile) and at night.

By this point, the encounter had lasted over 90 minutes—significantly longer than what commercially available drones can typically sustain.


The hovering over the deck isn't as complicated as it sounds, as many drones use cameras and/or sonar to maintain position over the "ground" in a strong wind. The deck being in motion makes no real difference to this.

The 90-minute duration is longer than most drones can do. But it's not clear if it's all the same drone, or even if it's all drones.

I feel there's a variety of explanations we should consider, although some will no doubt be mocked as ridiculous. Broadly breaking it down:

  1. Conventional Drones, foreign or domestic.
    1. From a nearby ship
    2. From the Kidd or other Navy ship (maybe test of anti-drone tech)
    3. From a sub
    4. From a plane
  2. Ordinary phenomena, misidentified
    1. Lights on distant planes
    2. Venus and other heavenly bodies
    3. Birds, possibly lit by searchlights
    4. St Elmo's fire
    5. On-board lights
  3. Advanced Human Technology
    1. Super long-range conventional drones
    2. Unconventional lift/thrust technology (anti-gravity, massless reaction)
    3. Plasma "holograms" or other projected images
  4. Non-Human Technology
    1. Aliens
  5. Something else (no list of possibilities is complete)
  6. A combination of some of the above


A lot of possibilities, and very little information. But certainly an interesting case.

Related discussion: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/long-distance-drones-maybe-foreign-as-possible-ufos.11678/
 
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LorentzHall

Member
Your summary makes it sound like this was an incident involving 1 ship, USS Kidd.

4 other ships in the area, USS Rafael Peralta, USS Russell, USS John Finn, and cruise ship Carnival Imagination, also reported seeing the "drones".

Makes (2) much less likely. Not to mention, while proposing Venus/Sirius/Mars/Jupiter for random civilian sightings is entirely valid, doing so for trained military observers is laughable. All major nations train reconnaissance units on this, it's beginner stuff. The idea that not even 1 person across 4 Navy ships would be able to ID Venus, is, absurd.

The hovering over the deck isn't as complicated as it sounds, as many drones use cameras and/or sonar to maintain position over the "ground" in a strong wind.

This is a rare capability given the situation of a moving ship. Especially if the ship is rolling in the waves at all. Not to mention, these systems don't work properly at night or reduced visibility.

The bigger question is, given the visibility was apparently awful at the time: how did these "drones" find & track the ship in the first place?
 

DavidB66

Active Member
Reading the article in The Drive I was struck by the following passage:

One thing is fairly sure: the U.S. Navy has a large amount of data on these events. The documents above reflect that multiple independent photographic intelligence teams were deployed. These teams are only a small part of a sophisticated suite of surveillance capabilities and advanced sensors, including the ability to detect radio emissions in the vessels’ vicinity, available to any one of the ships involved. This is on top of the land-based sensors that closely surveil the area. In fact, it is puzzling that those sensors, coupled with a likely extensive photographic record, were not sufficient in and of themselves to resolve the matter. This calls into question the “drone” designation. Was there ever even a hard description of these craft beyond lights in the sky?

Judging from this, there ought to be a good photographic and video record of the suspected drones, but there is no clear statement, either in the article or some others I found, that any such record exists.

It all reminds me of the notorious Gatwick Airport 'drone incident' in December 2018. A security officer at the airport (one of the main airports around London) reported seeing two drones inside or near the airport complex. All flights were halted, and the airport was shut down for several days while the incident was investigated. Airport staff, the local police, and the British Army were all brought into the investigation. Over the period there were numerous further 'sightings', with over 100 witnesses, 92 of whom were judged by the police to be 'credible', yet the incident was never fully resolved. (One damaged drone was found, and two people were arrested, but they were ruled out of being responsible.) A military drone detection system failed to show anything, and about 30 press photographers covering the story saw and photographed no drones. Drone experts voiced doubts that commercially available drones could do what was reported. Suspicions began to emerge that there had never been any drones in the first place (as one senior police officer incautiously admitted), but the official police line was (and I think still is) that there was a genuine threat to the airport from drone incursions.

The incident remains a mystery, but it is striking that despite hundreds of potential witnesses, most of whom had cameras or camera phones with them, little or no visual evidence seems to have been captured. (On YouTube there is a video which is claimed to show one of the drones, but it could be almost anything, including a large bird - and yes, plenty of seagulls are seen far inland in southern England!) There is a long article on the subject from the Guardian here:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/01/the-mystery-of-the-gatwick-drone
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The Kidd is a relatively sma
Your summary makes it sound like this was an incident involving 1 ship, USS Kidd.

4 other ships in the area, USS Rafael Peralta, USS Russell, USS John Finn, and cruise ship Carnival Imagination, also reported seeing the "drones".
Good point. I've edited the thread title.
 

LorentzHall

Member
Judging from this, there ought to be a good photographic and video record of the suspected drones, but there is no clear statement, either in the article or some others I found, that any such record exists.

The photos would not be made public, unless through a specific (arduous) declassification process. They're probably sitting on SIPRNet right now.

it is striking that despite hundreds of potential witnesses, most of whom had cameras or camera phones with them, little or no visual evidence seems to have been captured

As an amateur drone pilot: a small drone more than a few hundred feet away is almost impossible to see in daylight unless you know exactly where to look. Night time is totally different of course.
 

DavidB66

Active Member
Night time is totally different of course'
Well, yes, at night they wouldn't be visible at all unless they had lights on. Why would they have lights on? I know a lot of drones are equipped with lights, but they could be removed or obscured for operations intended to be secret. Active lights would suggest some other motive, such as publicity. Or not drones at all. At Gatwick, one witness at first thought he saw a drone, but then concluded it was just a helicopter in the distance.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Or not drones at all. At Gatwick, one witness at first thought he saw a drone, but then concluded it was just a helicopter in the distance.
During the 2020 drone flap it was very common for high altitude planes to be identified as drones, even planes at 30,000 feet.

Trained observers, yadda yadda, but who actually made the observations? What were the observations? When the call goes out to be on the lookout for drones, then might people see drones in any moving light?
 
As far as mistaking astronomical objects is concerned, there don't seem to be any obvious candidates. The brightest objects in the night sky at the time (other than the Moon) were Jupiter and Saturn, rising around 6:15 pm and 8:30 pm, respectively. Venus wasn't visible at all, rising at 6:30 in the morning and setting by 9 in the evening. This is the situation off San Clemente at 10 pm on July 14, 2019.

19071422L.png

Add to that the instances where lights were seen in poor visibility and it becomes even more unlikely someone would have misidentified the two planets or something like that.
 

JohnS

New Member
If these objects actually were drones, it seems like shooting one down would have been in order. Multiple encounters over multiple days. Ships logs put specific numbers to their altitude (700-1,000ft). I'd like to believe those numbers are based on some sort of objective measurement.

It seems absurd to me that a foreign power would use drones to spy on our military. Certainly not a fleet of hovering/stationary drones. That's the sort of thing that would only work once and would alert the Navy to a nearby sub or airplane that they launched from.

Don't know what these things were, Drones seem unlikely. I feel like the person making the logbooks used drone/UAV labels as sort of a 'what else should I call em' sort of thing.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
The Navy logs report that they deployed Snoopy Teams.

"we go up and figure out what the vessel is and what it's capable of. It's our job to say, 'hey, this is the vessel's country of origin' and we specify what type of vessel, see if there's any weapons topside, or people,"
https://allhands.navy.mil/Stories/Display-Story/Article/1840071/the-away-team/

They basically get on a boat and try to take pictures and collect electronic signals from unknown vessels. They should have all the data necessary to identify those objects.

If they couldn't identify their origin at the very least they would be able to see exactly what they looked like and the tech they were using.

Snoopy teams use pretty long telephoto lenses

And this interesting analysis https://www.technik-consulting.eu/en/analysis/drone.html puts the theoretical maximum height reachable by a quadcopter drone at 5000 meters above sea level but a more ordinary maximum at around 2k meters.

They should know what those things were if this was any kind of flying object using "traditional" means to fly (such as a drone). Then there would not be any need for an investigation.

Could some atmospheric phenomena explain this? Seems more probable than drones.

In any case: the Navy has all the data you could imagine on this event (radar, optical, IR signature, video, etc.). Will they ever share it if this is truly unidentified?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
They basically get on a boat and try to take pictures and collect electronic signals from unknown vessels. They should have all the data necessary to identify those objects.

If they couldn't identify their origin at the very least they would be able to see exactly what they looked like and the tech they were using.

Snoopy teams use pretty long telephoto lenses
Depends on how far away they were, and the sightings seem to have been at night, which makes taking photos challenging. But if they could see with the naked eye it was a drone, then a 500mm zoom should give you a much better visual.

But there's a huge black hole of information here. People are reading a lot into a few notes.
 

Mauro

Active Member
I couldn't read that and not think of a certain cartoon dog, flying a kennel off the deck of a carrier.

They are actually SNOOPIE (Ship Nautical Or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Exploitation) teams.

In my opinion the most probable explanation is yet Mick's number 2: ordinary phenomena, misidentified. They remember me the 'foo fighters' of world war 2 vintage.
 

LorentzHall

Member
People are reading a lot into a few notes.

The interest in this case comes not solely from the deck logs, but from the statements of Dave Beaty's claimed source.

Beaty reported on this case almost a year ago: https://silvarecord.com/2020/06/11/navy-vet-claims-uss-kidd-had-ufo-encounter-in-2019/

ordinary phenomena, misidentified. They remember me the 'foo fighters' of world war 2 vintage.

Given we understand next to nothing about it, I would not describe ball lightning as an ordinary phenomenon.
 
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Mauro

Active Member
The interest in this case comes not solely from the deck logs, but from the statements of Dave Beaty's claimed source.

Beaty reported on this case almost a year ago: https://silvarecord.com/2020/06/11/navy-vet-claims-uss-kidd-had-ufo-encounter-in-2019/



Given we understand next to nothing about it, I would not describe ball lightning as an ordinary phenomenon.
I was not referring to ball lightings, which are, to my knowledge, unconfirmed phenomena except maybe in some special circumstances. Foo fighters were never positively identified: ball lightings were one of the proposed explanations but, being they unproven at the time as they are today, it explains little and looks improbable.

What I wanted to say is that people have seen 'unexplained lights in the sky' since a very long time and Kidd's sightings seem to be yet another case. Does this have any relevance on understanding what the lights actually were? It may be: if Kidd's lights are a phenomenon analogous to foo fighters this rules out Mick's explanations number 1 (conventional drones) and 3 (advanced human technology: we should know by now). It also makes number 4 (non-human technology) improbable, because, yet again, we should have come to learn at least a little more about 'them' by now. So what's left is 'ordinary phenomena, misidentified' and 'something else (maybe supernatural?)': I'd put my bet on 'ordinary phenomena, misidentified' (starting with stars, planets and distant lights/reflections, and ball ligthings being a very remote possibility). Rescue the 'non-human technology' possibility and my bet does not change.
 
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LorentzHall

Member
We've gone very off-topic here (moderator, feel free to split this chain into a new thread if possible) but:

Ball Lightning is a confirmed phenomenon. Like many unusual phenomena it was first thought to be myth, but that is no longer the case.

Here is the first, and as far as I know only, spectral analysis of it: https://www.researchgate.net/public...nd_Spectral_Characteristics_of_Ball_Lightning

What do you mean by "it explains little"? It's quite literally an orb of what looks like light in the sky. Seems like it explains a ton of such sightings.
 
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gtoffo

Active Member
The interest in this case comes not solely from the deck logs, but from the statements of Dave Beaty's claimed source.

Beaty reported on this case almost a year ago: https://silvarecord.com/2020/06/11/navy-vet-claims-uss-kidd-had-ufo-encounter-in-2019/

Interesting....

From the link:
My contact knows his (stuff). So when he tells me something, this guy is legit as they come people. He said his friend on USS KIDD said about the 2019 Tic Tac:

“I know 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.”

Agree with others that the most probable explanation here is some misidentified/unknown natural phenomena... if those were man made objects visible for so long the tools/sensors of the US Navy would have identified them easily at such close range.
 

Jon Adams

Member
We've gone very off-topic here (moderator, feel free to split this chain into a new thread if possible) but:

Ball Lightning is a confirmed phenomenon. Like many unusual phenomena it was first thought to be myth, but that is no longer the case.

Here is the first, and as far as I know only, spectral analysis of it: https://www.researchgate.net/public...nd_Spectral_Characteristics_of_Ball_Lightning

What do you mean by "it explains little"? It's quite literally an orb of what looks like light in the sky. Seems like it explains a ton of such sightings.
Thank you for the link to that paper. Was quite "illuminating". Their hypothesis appears to require typical components of soil (iron, calcium, silicon) in order to store the energy required to keep the ball lightning running. Also, their observations indicated that BL lifetimes of 1-10 seconds were practical.

The USN ships' observations were at sea, perhaps near (in the global sense) to land, but it would seem not close enough to allow ball lightning of the type described in the paper. As well, that part of California does not get a lot of thunderstorm activity, so that would seem to reduce the probability of purported ball lightning. And in any event, the ~90 min duration for the ships' observations far exceed the 1-10 second range described in the paper.

Nonetheless, pretty cool that someone did capture useful data regarding BL.

Cheers - Jon N7UV
 

LorentzHall

Member
To be clear, I was suggesting WW2 "Foo Fighters" (brought up by Mauro) were ball lightning, not the USS Kidd incident (hence my off-topic disclaimer/apology to moderator).

I don't think it's a coincidence that the Night Fighter squadrons were the first to use powerful airborne microwave radars, as were the B-29s in the Pacific reporting the same phenomenon: https://arxiv.org/abs/1608.00450

One would almost wonder if some of the incidence of UFOs around military installations & vehicles are creations of these powerful radars with atmospheric conditions - an ultimate observer's paradox.

I don't think most people realize that we still don't have a complete understanding of even regular lightning, yet alone ball lightning. UFO discussions often assume we live in a vacuum, but we do not, we live in a complex dynamic atmosphere of gases, EM fields, and radiation. It's conceivable that in some rare scenarios, perhaps influenced by human technology, plasmoids arise that can dart around with no apparent inertia.
 
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Rocky

Member
Your summary makes it sound like this was an incident involving 1 ship, USS Kidd.

4 other ships in the area, USS Rafael Peralta, USS Russell, USS John Finn, and cruise ship Carnival Imagination, also reported seeing the "drones".

Makes (2) much less likely. Not to mention, while proposing Venus/Sirius/Mars/Jupiter for random civilian sightings is entirely valid, doing so for trained military observers is laughable. All major nations train reconnaissance units on this, it's beginner stuff. The idea that not even 1 person across 4 Navy ships would be able to ID Venus, is, absurd.



This is a rare capability given the situation of a moving ship. Especially if the ship is rolling in the waves at all. Not to mention, these systems don't work properly at night or reduced visibility.

The bigger question is, given the visibility was apparently awful at the time: how did these "drones" find & track the ship in the first place?
 

Rocky

Member
Then why are there no pictures or video of the incident? I've seen some post on here that the Navy would not allow footage to be released, but if there was a Carnival cruise ship that witnessed this encounter as you suggest then they would be filled with civilian. Surely someone has footage since everyone I know has a cell phone these days.
 

LorentzHall

Member
but if there was a Carnival cruise ship that witnessed this encounter as you suggest then they would be filled with civilian. Surely someone has footage since everyone I know has a cell phone these days.

If you live in an area with constant light pollution you may not be aware of just how useless cellphones are for capturing distant moving objects at night.

Phones have these tiny little sensors and next to no optical zoom. The latest models can take half-decent night photos by using machine learning to merge multiple exposures over multiple seconds, but this doesn't work with moving or distant objects and doesn't apply to videos.

Plus, it may have been spotted by the bridge crew but not the passengers. People board cruise ships to get drunk, party, eat, gamble, and have fun. There's typically not even good cellphone network coverage, if there's any at all.
 

DavidB66

Active Member
Ball Lightning is a confirmed phenomenon. Like many unusual phenomena it was first thought to be a myth, but that is no longer the case.

A few months ago for some reason YouTube started recommending videos of ball lightning for my viewing pleasure. Most of them were obviously either fakes or misinterpretations of other phenomena, such as fireflies or distant aircraft lights. I did not find any that seemed clear evidence of ball lightning as an atmospheric phenomenon, but I did a little further online reading on the subject.

There seems to be good evidence, from the Chinese case cited above, and from laboratory experiments, that some kind of ball lightning can be produced when lightning, or a strong electric discharge in the lab, strikes the ground. But as pointed out in other comments, this cannot account for observations of ball lightning over water or in mid air - even inside aircraft or submarines. There is a list of alleged cases in the Wikipedia entry on Ball Lightning, but many of these are either very old or too vague to exclude other interpretations, such as visual after-images.

However, one account does stand out as a clear first-hand description by a recognised scientist. This is the account by R. C Jennison in Nature, vol. 224, published on 29 November 1969. An abstract and a link to a free PDF download of the full text is available from Nature here:

https://www.nature.com/articles/224895a0

R. C. Jennison was an academic in the Electronics department at the University of Kent in England, with a previous career as a radar and electronic expert at the famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. This might seem to give an unimpeachable authority to Jennison's account. However, there are a few reasons for caution. One is that Jennison may have been a bit of an eccentric. While searching the online archive of the London Times (paywalled) for any mention of his ball lightning experience, I was startled to find an article on April 14 1965 headed 'Expert wins in radar case'. Jennison had been charged with a speeding offence as a result of a radar 'speed trap', but he persuaded the magistrates that there might be technical reasons for the apparent excess speed of his car. Some may be amused to see that these included the possibility that 'a bird flying through the beam could have affected the reading'. Whatever the merits of his arguments, it is unusual for someone, in effect, to act as an expert witness in their own defence. I doubt that his employers at Jodrell Bank will have been happy at the publicity attracted by the case. According to the Wikipedia entry on Jennison (Roger Clifton Jennison) he was appointed to a post at the University of Kent in the same year (1965), and I wonder if the two events are connected.

But the main reason for caution is some odd features of the 1969 Nature article itself. One is that there was a very long delay between the incident reported and the published account. According to the article, the event occurred on March 19 1963, but the article was not submitted to Nature until August 25 1969, more than 6 years later. Why the delay? Did he make any earlier reports elsewhere? The other odd feature is the circumstances of the event as reported. According to Jennison, it occurred on a scheduled late night passenger flight from New York to Washington. A 'glowing sphere' is said to have 'emerged from the pilot's cabin and passed down the aisle of the aircraft', passing within a meter of Jennison himself. The obvious question that arises is: did anyone else see it? Pilots, cabin crew, passengers? Surely there would have been panic? Jennison does not refer to any such effect. One must at least congratulate him on his sangfroid in making such careful observations in the circumstances. While I don't suppose that Jennison would have invented the whole account, without corroboration from other witnesses I don't think we can exclude the possibility that he was dreaming or hallucinating.

The doubt could be resolved if there is corroboration, closer to the date of the event, that something resembling ball lightning was seen by other people. The obvious place to look would be in American press reports in the few days afterwards, or in reports submitted by air crew to the airline or relevant aviation authorities.
 

LorentzHall

Member
A few months ago for some reason YouTube started recommending videos of ball lightning for my viewing pleasure. Most of them were obviously either fakes or misinterpretations of other phenomena

You are entirely correct. Like with UFOs, and other rare phenomenon, >99% of alleged footage is fake or misidentified prosaic events. Charlatans and fools are everywhere in life.

The problem is stopping here and making the assumption that because something is commonly faked, it does not exist at all.

Ball lightning typically lasts for only 10-60 seconds, and is likely incredibly rare, so it's not surprising at all there's no good footage of it.

But as pointed out in other comments, this cannot account for observations of ball lightning over water or in mid air - even inside aircraft or submarines.

So this leads to 2 possibilities:
  1. Ball Lightning does not exist and all these reports are mistaken/lying
  2. Our understanding of ball lightning is wrong or incomplete
That's why I stress that even our understanding of regular lightning is limited and contradictory.

Remember: Earth's atmosphere is bigger than all its oceans combined - by a factor of 50! Lots of strange things happen in it, from Red Sprites to the Hessdalen lights.

However, one account does stand out as a clear first-hand description by a recognised scientist.

While I don't suppose that Jennison would have invented the whole account, without corroboration from other witnesses I don't think we can exclude the possibility that he was dreaming or hallucinating.

That is certainly a compelling account, but it's far from the only "one"!

According to this summary, there have been 37 documented cases of ball lightning inside aircraft cabin: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/252391694_An_Analysis_of_Ball_Lightning-Aircraft_Incidents

There are multiple detailed reports in this paper: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2012JD017921

Here is a report from 2014 from the UK, in which ball lightning being in the cabin is part of the official AAIB report: http://avherald.com/h?article=4813ed2d&opt=1024 (interesting note: the ball here appeared before the lightning strike!)

It forms (or enters, not sure the right word) one end of the aircraft, sometimes just after St Elmo's fire, and then moves along the cabin perpendicular.

Here's a clip of singer Liz Phair describing being in exactly such a situation:




Here's an eyewitness report from a couple of one entering their home, rolling into their TV, and imploding - have a look in the comments for dozens of similar reports.
 
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MapperGuy

New Member
There is a lot missing from these reports. Perhaps the Navy has more information or perhaps the crews of these ships have no curiosity. Was anything detected on navigation radar? Most of these ships presumably have a Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) on board. These systems are designed to detect and shoot down missiles headed directly toward the ship, and will be capable of detecting objects much smaller in size and closer to the ship than radars being used for navigation. Did any of the ships power up a CIWS and try to detect any of these drones. NOT to shoot at them, just to detect and track them?

One of the entries lists times and bearings to groups of UAV's. Did they query any of the other ships at what bearing they saw these same UAV's at the time? Stars and planets, being effectively infinitely far away, would appear to be at the same compass bearing to all ships in the area. A quick way to prove or debunk the idea they misidentified astronomical objects.

Once upon a time being able to accurately track the bearing to a target was a vital piece of the art of naval gunnery. Such information today, combined with GPS data and basic triangulation, could be used to precisely track the location and movements of UAV's like these and determine their speed and altitude (using differences in angle above the horizon for altitude). Nobody collected any of this sort of data?
 
The maps on that website looked rather confusing to me so I mapped out some of the coordinates from the deck logs in Google Earth in hopes of a clearer picture but that only left me more confused than before.

Taking the July 15 map, the first thing I noticed was that they consistently placed the markers for the three drone sightings (the three red dots) roughly 10 nm west of the positions I got from the deck logs. They do state they're 'approximate positions' and there will be minor discrepancies from my placement of the image overlay in GE, but still.
overlay.jpg

Next I looked at the log for the (1) sighting again, which puts the UAV at a bearing of 140° true from the Rafael Peralta at 8:38 pm. If this is an absolute bearing (and I'm quite sure it is - later on there's talk of an object off the starboard wing, bearing 310°, which wouldn't make sense for a relative bearing), then that means it showed up somewhere in the southeastern sky, but that doesn't agree with where they place the ship on their map at 8:45 pm (the black 1 marker - a mere 7 minutes later and 15+ nm from where I put them). It would make much more sense if the black (1) is actually the Peralta's position at 9:45 pm, an hour later, coincident with the (3) sighting (taking my own placement, not theirs).

One could then argue that the line of dots sticking out of the black (1)'s two o'clock position are the tail end of the Peralta's movement between (1) and (3), ie the ship moved roughly 17 nm on a SW course between 8:38 and 9:45 with only the latter part tracked by the AIS receivers.

Also, what that odd 'lorem ipsum' placeholder doing there! And yes, I do feel like I'm going off on a tangent here, but this map has been doing my head in this morning.
 
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Landru

Moderator
Staff member
They are actually SNOOPIE (Ship Nautical Or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Exploitation) teams.

In my opinion the most probable explanation is yet Mick's number 2: ordinary phenomena, misidentified. They remember me the 'foo fighters' of world war 2 vintage.
This is a case of the acronym being created to fit a common usage. Back in the early 90s I was an enlisted Intelligence Specialist 2nd class aboard a carrier and would go up to the O10 level when they deployed the snoopy team (made up of a fellow IS and a photo mate). The notion of them being highly trained is funny. Passing a ship/aircraft identification test (which was part of IS-A school) and taking a picture is not highly trained.
 

Landru

Moderator
Staff member
This is a case of the acronym being created to fit a common usage. Back in the early 90s I was an enlisted Intelligence Specialist 2nd class aboard a carrier and would go up to the O10 level when they deployed the snoopy team (made up of a fellow IS and a photo mate). The notion of them being highly trained is funny. Passing a ship/aircraft identification test (which was part of IS-A school) and taking a picture is not highly trained.
Here is a picture from the old days (I'm not in the picture).
FB_IMG_1617383949990.jpg
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
In a Facebook post by Dave Beaty:
Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AATIP/permalink/815831762347020/

Nonkoshertruth's brother via Dave Beaty.jpg

So if accurate, then this first with the #1 hypothesis of drones from a ship.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
OCR Transcript


Dave: Holy shit!

By using the USS Kidds position as a starting point, we were able to identify
several other ships in close proximity to it during the incidents in question, including
U.S. Navy destroyers USS Rafael Peralta, USS Russell, USS John Finn, and the USS
Paul Hamilton. Subsequent FOIA requests for these ships' records allowed us to build a
composite picture of the events as a whole.

Remember I told you about this - I was in this formation on the Hamilton and we saw the drones and everyone was wondering what they were Someone said there was a Chinese oil tanker nearby at the time and they suspected the swarm came from that I just double checked and it was that exact date too!

Dave: Oh really?
Dave: What did they look like?
Dave: Did they make noise


We couldn't really see them - just red and green lights. They were pretty fast and far away so definitely not consumer drones

Dave: How did they know for sure it was drones? Cause of the running lights on them?

Yeah and the guys manning the radars and stuff could see they were really small
They were fast for drones but too slow to be any other kind of aircraft' At the time I think the intel guys were staying quiet but the rest of the crew wasn't super fazed by it

Dave: It said the tanker was Liberian
flagged Did they suspect it was Chinese?


Yeah I read that - I dunno I just remember at the time one of the sailors told me there was a Chinese tanker. Possible it was just a rumor or possible the intel people had a reason to suspect that

Dave: Ah. Why didn't they just shoot one down. lol

They told us at the time it was a Chinese tanker that had been following our general location since the start of the exercise which is pretty common. They said they use civilian ships to do intel gathering sometimes

Dave: Makes sense

And yeah dunno why they didn't shoot them - on our destroyer they never set armed watches or went into River City comms like it says the
others did.
The attitude towards it onboard wasn't very serious at least on the deck where there weren't intel guys - most were just waving at them and joking around

Dave: Haha. So it has to be some military type
drone


Yeah gotta be - commercial ones can't fly that far and run out of battery in like 20 mins

Possible that in the story where the email trail transfers to the SIPR side it could be someone from one of those commands admitting it was a test?

Dave: Maybe. How high up were they? The drones

The ones passing over us were really high - they passed through cloud cover a bunch

Dave: Oh damn so like military grade drones

Gotta be - we couldn't hear them and the lights were really far off looking

Dave: Maybe it was that Chinese ship

I gotta dig through my hard drive from that - pretty sure I had some footage of the lights at least

Dave: Oh shit. Yeah look for it

Also unrelated but damn the Drive does really good reporting That was super well researched

Dave: Yeah they do. What if it wasn't Chinese drones. Could it be a test of some sort

Yeah there are tons of test ranges around the area the military uses And SPAWAR is right on the coast there where they do a ton of classified scientific stuff

If I do have video it's like just two tiny lights far away

Dave: I told them you're 100% sure it was
drones
Dave: And no one seemed to think it was
anything else but a drone


Yeah

Dave: Drones I mean

Nobody was worried about them being dangerous - people were just smiling and waving at them
Assuming it was Chinese taking photos or video
We weren't doing anything secret - I think they just were watching our missile exercise

Dave: Do you think the navy would ever let the fact that it was drones come out? I don't get why they wouldn't just say "we think it's drones, probably Chinese"

l dunno - possibly political reasons when it gets to a certain level - maybe trying not to raise tensions with China right now

The public doesn't seem aware of how much interaction we have with China, Iran, Russia when operating and always freak out when some video comes out showing it even though both sides kinda fuck with each other a lot and it's pretty normal

Dave: Makes sense

Yeah like on deployment Iran would do a lot of dangerous shit to take pies of us but we were operating in their backyard so I don't think anyone really cared as long as they weren't hurting anyone

Dave: Why would they want that secret

I don't think it's a secret but for public perception reasons I could see them wanting to keep it quiet - makes it look like weakness that they can freely operate right near our coast and watch our training like that
Obviously not a lot we can do especially if it's a foreign flagged vessel

Dave: Yeah I guess shooting them down when they aren't doing anything would be an escalation

I think that could be part of it too - it's a pretty bold accusation to say they're breaking rules like that using civilian ships to do military ops and possibly a huge political headache to do that publicly
 
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jarlrmai

Senior Member
Liberia is a very common port of convenience for ship registrations. The gist seems to be that countries use drones to spy on US ships on the regular and the navy don't do anything to intervene because it's not worth it. They are probably keeping track on it though.
 

Alexandria Nick

Active Member
It isn't even without prior art to rely on. Those famous Soviet spy trawlers loaded down with SIGINT and ELINT gear were fully functional fishing boats that really did bring back the bounty of the sea...along with whatever intelligence they were able to gather while they were out there. Their merchant fleet was similarly equipped. They were nominally all civilian vessels. Of course, they did have dedicated intelligence gathering platforms with more sophisticated gear, but pretty much any ship that could end up wandering around near Western areas was prepared to do a little snooping while it was there.

Granted, there's no direct evidence of the Chinese doing this, I'd be stunned if they weren't. Why wouldn't I have a couple of guys on every container ship that are able to launch some drones for me to snoop around the US Navy at San Diego or Kings Bay while the ship is approaching Los Angeles or Savannah? They don't have to operate it. My guys back at Hainan are doing that. I just need someone to take it out of the case.
 

LorentzHall

Member
The PLA [China's People's Liberation Army] drones covertly operating from "civilian" ships hypothesis sounds like the most likely, assuming those messages are real.

Would actually be quite a big story, given the endurance required (advanced expensive drones), and the ability to track the ships even in low visibility.

If this is also the explanation for the mysterious drone incursions on the THAAD site in Guam, it suggests a much more aggressive PLA than the public is led to believe.



The War Zone has a new article on this now: Navy's Top Officer Says ‘Drones’ That Swarmed Destroyers Remain Unidentified

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday
Asked by Jeff Schogol of Task & Purpose if the Navy had positively identified any of the aircraft involved, Gilday responded by saying:

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," Gilday added. "I don’t have anything new to report, Jeff, on what those findings have revealed thus far. But I will tell you we do have a well-established process in place across the joint force to collect that data and to get it to a separate repository for analysis.”

No new info, but interesting to see a clear statement that the aircraft have not been identified.

If the PLA drones hypothesis is correct: does US DoD know but not want to admit it? Or worse: is it genuinely unaware?

Given current US-China tensions, wouldn't this be something the US would want to point to when laying out the case against China internationally?
 
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jarlrmai

Senior Member
A lot of these cases hinge on what the US DoD counts as 'unidentified' and how potentially useful using that term is for then to not give away what they actually do or don't know.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
The most probable hypothesis definitely. The color of the lights (red/green) points to something earthly as it matches ordinary navigation lights.

It raises a lot of questions though.

Why would covert military drones have high visibility lights on them?
Why couldn't the navy track them and see them originate from the ship?
Why didn't they board the ship or positively identify it?

Also interesting would be the tech being used.

Military drones are big machines. They are basically jet powered aircraft. That's how they fly in the air so long. Unless the Chinese have some super secret battery breakthrough.
- alternative 1: they have some new battery/other tech
- alternative 2: they ship launched and recovered large jet powered drones from that ship without anyone noticing. An interesting capability...

Can we come up with more data on that cargo ship? Has it been identified or is it identifiable from the info we have?
 
Can the US Navy just go and board random ships though? Even if they were in territorial waters and if the other ship was not registered to a different nation, that sounds more like a job for the Coast Guard, and at least one of these things wasn't the case here.

I agree that the high visibility doesn't make much sense for a conventional spying mission. Could this then maybe have been some sort of deliberate harassing action instead? Imagine you're a foreign actor who would like to get information on the Navy's ships' systems, capabilities, radar signatures etc. whilst maintaining plausible deniability, a neat way of achieving this would be to launch a couple drones from a nearby foreign-flagged vessel and swarm the Navy ships in hopes of getting a reaction out of them. Have receivers in the vicinity (maybe simply on the vessels you launched from) to gather electronic intelligence. Low risk / possibly decent gain.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
Can the US Navy just go and board random ships though? Even if they were in territorial waters and if the other ship was not registered to a different nation, that sounds more like a job for the Coast Guard, and at least one of these things wasn't the case here.

I agree that the high visibility doesn't make much sense for a conventional spying mission. Could this then maybe have been some sort of deliberate harassing action instead? Imagine you're a foreign actor who would like to get information on the Navy's ships' systems, capabilities, radar signatures etc. whilst maintaining plausible deniability, a neat way of achieving this would be to launch a couple drones from a nearby foreign-flagged vessel and swarm the Navy ships in hopes of getting a reaction out of them. Have receivers in the vicinity (maybe simply on the vessels you launched from) to gather electronic intelligence. Low risk / possibly decent gain.

Military ships can do what they please. There are no rules when talking about the military. Just consequences.

They could have accosted the ships without boarding them to collect a lot of data and watch as the drones were recovered with no consequences at all.

I think they would have done it if they had seen the ship as the origin of the drones. Remember those ships have some of the most sophisticated radars in the world.

Ordinary drones, amateur drones or even ordinary military grade drones would be perfectly visible on radar and they would have complete flight paths.

The fact they can't explain it points to extraordinary tech necessarily unless you think the Navy is incompetent at doing its job. Which I don't think is realistic given the manpower, tech arsenal and sensor redundancy involved. We are talking multiple ships, with multiple radars, multiple intelligence and signal gathering teams, and hundreds of sailors.
The chances of them all being fooled by ordinary drones is unrealistic.

This was something they had never seen before. Given the descriptions that point to something technical rather than "physical" the probability that some adversary has leapfrogged the U.S. technologically at this point is pretty high and the most likely explanation. As crazy as it seems.
I imagine the Soviets had similar reactions when the SR-71 was flying overhead uncontested.
 

gtoffo

Active Member
90 minutes is actually just on the edge of the most advanced tech available - no breakthrough needed.

Here's a US example: https://www.anduril.com/ghost

Not at the altitudes reported.

Dave: Maybe. How high up were they? The drones

The ones passing over us were really high - they passed through cloud cover a bunch

Dave: Oh damn so like military grade drones

Gotta be - we couldn't hear them and the lights were really far off looking

Just reaching high altitudes would be a significant hassle for a battery powered ship launched drone.They normally fly for minutes if they need to reach such altitudes. Forget 90 min.

Battery breakthrough definitely required with the current publicly known tech.

P.s. Or with an "exotic" design such as a dirigible kinda thing. So something like a small blimp that stays up in a non propulsive way.
 

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