He and other officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly about the report’s classified findings.
Russia has invested heavily in hypersonics, believing that the technology offers it the chance to evade American missile defense technology. China has also developed hypersonic weapons and included them in military parades. If the phenomena were Chinese or Russian planes, officials said, this would suggest that the hypersonic investigation of the two powers would have far surpassed U.S. military development.
Navy pilots were often not uneasy about sightings. In one encounter, strange objects – one of them like a horn moving against the wind – appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, in the sky of the east coast. Navy pilots informed their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust feathers, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.
Lieutenant Ryan Graves, a F / A-18 Super Hornet pilot who spent 10 years with the Navy, told the New York Times in an interview, “These things would be out all day.” With the speeds he and other pilots observed, he said, “12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we would expect.”
In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a collision with almost one of the objects and an official mishap report was filed. Some of the incidents were videotaped, including a camera shot of an airplane in early 2015 showing an object approaching ocean waves as pilots question what they are looking at.
The Department of Defense has been compiling these reports for more than 13 years as part of a shady aerospace threat identification program little known within the Pentagon. The program analyzed radar data, video footage and accounts provided by Navy pilots and senior officers.
The program began in 2007 and was funded in large part at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was then the Senate majority leader. According to the Pentagon, it was officially closed in 2012, when the money dried up. But after the publication of a 2017 New York Times article on the program and criticisms of program officials that the government did not report on reports of air phenomena, the Pentagon restarted the program last summer as to unidentified aerial phenomena working group.