As It Happens

U.S. navy pilot who saw 'something weird' in the sky welcomes U.S. report on UFOs

In 2004, Alex Dietrich was a young navy pilot out on a training flight when she saw something unusual in the sky above San Diego, Calif.

Alex Dietrich says she can't explain the unidentified flying object she saw in California in 2004

U.S. intelligence committee will release a report on UFO sightings in the U.S. to the Senate later this month. (Shutterstock)

The U.S. government is set to receive an unprecedented intelligence report next month on the mysterious sightings of UFOs. 

After years of public denial, the report will acknowledge that UFOs — which means unidentified flying objects — are not just a matter of science fiction and conspiracy theories. The U.S. government admits that there is something out there, and they want to know what it is.

Over the years, UFOs have been a cause for question and concern. They have regularly been spotted in restricted U.S. airspace. Upon further study of the sightings, most are determined to be common aircraft, stars, fireballs or other easily explainable phenomena. But there are still dozens left unexplained.

In 2004, Alex Dietrich was a young navy pilot out on a training flight when she saw something unusual in the sky above San Diego, Calif.

"I asked the more senior weapons systems officer in my back seat, 'What do you think it is?' He said, 'You know, maybe it's somebody running drugs up the coast,' Dietrich told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"Then when they merged and we didn't see anything immediately, but then saw a disturbance in the water below us, my heart sank."

Then, she says, they spotted an object in the sky shaped like a Tic-Tac. 

"We didn't know what it was and couldn't really explain why it was moving and manoeuvring the way it was … [and] we didn't have any defences." 

That sighting, which is known "the Nimitz encounter," and other reports of unidentified flying objects are part of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee's investigation, which will be released to Congress next month. 

The unclassified report will go into detail about what the government agencies know about UFOs, which it refers to as "unidentified aerial phenomena." It will include various accounts from military pilots and their own sightings.

Some videos of the sightings had been floating online until the U.S. military re-released the footage last year, confirming them to be authentic. 

The defence department proceeded to set up a task force "to detect, analyze and catalog unidentified aerial phenomena that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security."

In 2020, part of former U.S. president Donald Trump's spending and pandemic relief package included a provision that called for the upcoming report. 

The eyewitness accounts may sound similar to Dietrich and her commander's encounter.

"We didn't know what it was, and we didn't know where it came from or how it was moving the way that it was moving," she said. "But we had been vectored to it."

On that flight, Dietrich said her carrier strike group was made up of several ships. One of the ships sent her and her commander, Dave Fravor, to check what was suddenly moving in their airspace.

"Maybe it's our implicit bias as military pilots that we're either offensive or defensive," she said. "Even if there's a bird migration pattern or something like that, we'd like to know about it ... so that we can be aware and have our heads up and our eyes out looking for potential hazards."

I'm trying to reduce the stigma and I'm trying to make it easier for folks who might see something.- Alex Dietrich, former U.S. navy pilot 

But what happened next has left the pilots wondering to this day. Fravor engaged their aircraft — and Dietrich says it responded to them.

"It mirrored his movement. It responded and I don't know how else to describe it," Dietrich said.

More people are talking about their UFO sightings ahead of the upcoming intelligence report.

Along with the pilots, two other former U.S. military officers shared accounts of their close encounters on the American newsmagazine show 60 Minutes earlier this month.

As for Dietrich, she hopes this report will push forward the conversation.

"We saw something and it was weird," she said. "I'm trying to reduce the stigma and I'm trying to make it easier for folks who might see something, whether they're a pilot or whether they're just out on their boat fishing. 

"So take a picture, take a video and record it."

Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Alex Dietrich produced by Kevin Robertson.

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