The UFO subject has been going through a bit of a renaissance over the last couple of years. This has mostly followed coverage the subject received in the New York Times in late 2017, which was first to bring widespread public attention to a Pentagon program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat (and) Identification Program. The program dealt with advanced physics research and, to some extent, also with UFOs, and is believed to have been headed by Luis Elizondo, a former employee of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence who currently works with the To The Stars Academy.  

Much of the ensuing dialogue since that time has focused on a 2004 incident with an unidentified aircraft or object observed by crew members of the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. The incident, which involved an attempted interception with the object by Navy pilots, continues to be one of the most widely-discussed UFO-related incidents of the new millennium. This is due in part to the level of sophistication of the technology being utilized by the strike group at the time of the encounter.

Continuing this trend, the 2004 USS Nimitz UFO incident was also the recent focus of a Popular Mechanics piece by my friend Tim McMillan, who asked “What, exactly, did the Navy encounter 15 years ago off the Southern California coast, when fighter pilots spotted a UFO? These men were there, too—and it’s time they tell their side of the story.”

Among the different narratives touched on by the pilots and others interviewed for his article, McMillan described how several witnesses said that radar and other data collected around the time of the USS Nimitz UFO incident was allegedly intercepted, and taken from the vessel by a group of unnamed individuals. 

As detailed in his Popular Mechanics piece:

“Shortly after securing the data bricks, [Petty Officer Patrick “PJ”] Hughes said he was visited by his commanding officer and two unknown individuals. “They were not on the ship earlier, and I didn’t see them come on. I’m not sure how they got there,” said Hughes of the two men.

According to Hughes, his commanding officer told him to turn over the recently secured harddrives. “We put them in the bags, he took them, then he and the two anonymous officers left,” Hughes said.”

Another witness, Petty Officer Gary Voorhis, Fire Controlman CG-59 aboard the USS Princeton at that time, shared a similar story. “These two guys show up on a helicopter, which wasn’t uncommon, but shortly after they arrived, maybe 20 minutes, I was told by my chain of command to turn over all the data recordings for the AEGIS system.”

Following the publication of the Popular Mechanics article, I caught up with Tim, who shared the following perspectives about this largely unreported aspect of the USS Nimitz UFO incident, along with providing a few key details about the data that these individuals retrieved, and why it may have been taken. The following is a transcript of our discussion: 

MH: Tim, there are a number of ways this new information could be interpreted. Some might see it as “sinister” that radar and other information was taken, but in a less sensational capacity, it does at least point to the fact that some government agency appears to have been interested in collecting data about this incident. What, in your view, is going on here?

TM: I feel as certain as one can be, without having been there, based on everything I examined with the witnesses, that at least two individuals—somebody—showed up and seized all of the data from these ships. Which seemed to be primarily focused on the Aegis Radar System (the AN/SPY-1, and what’s called the CEC, or Cooperative Engagement Center. What that does is it projects everything to all the other ships. The USS Princeton was the missile cruiser, so this is the one that’s got most of the fancy tech. But because of the CEC, it’s able to share it amongst the entire carrier group).

Somebody showed up, and took everything that would be related to that. So all of the data, including the communications coms; so, the actual air traffic back and forth between controllers and the pilots.

Now, I feel fairly certain—as much as one could—that that happened. What it means? I don’t know. It doesn’t have to be… obviously the ‘Men in Black’ is the first thing that comes to mind.


But that’s pretty sinister. What it says to me is that somebody—some official—that definitely carried some weight and authority with them (they had enough clout to be able to fly onto these ships and, in some cases, take data without squadron commanders knowing, and that kinda stuff. If you weren’t in a need to know capacity, you wouldn’t have known. But, what does that mean? It could mean a lot of things. It could mean that whatever was recorded was highly sensitive… it ultimately means that somebody was very interested. Which I don’t think is as shocking and sinister as ‘Men in Black’ sounds.

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If it was, let’s say a very highly classified test program, well clearly they’d be interested in that. If it was something else, and truly unknown, well it actually is comforting to me to know that the U.S. Military would take these kinds of events and incursions seriously. Because I think that’s what’s kinda been said a lot lately, especially with these changes in the Navy guidelines, and even with some of the witnesses from their command staff. The tone from the command staff, and even [Commander Dave] Fravor said, [the incident] was like a joke, and nobody really cared. I think if you look at it from kind of a defense standpoint, that’s a disturbing sentiment, if true: that the U.S. government just wouldn’t care.

So in some regards, it may seem sinister to some people, like it’s a UFO coverup. It’s comforting to me in knowing that somebody takes these [incidents] seriously. Somebody looked into it. Who that is? Where that data is now? What their conclusions were? That’s part of the still ongoing mystery.

What, exactly, was the nature of the data that was allegedly confiscated, or do we know?

Well, I don’t know entirely because one thing I’ll say is that the witnesses that came forward, and that I spoke with… they were great, they were very candid, but they also would not tell me certain things that were classified. In some regards, some of the data systems were classified, so I’m not entirely sure what all that is. However, from what I understand and do know, is that this would have been a wealth of technical electronics data on the radar contacts—on the objects they were receiving—obviously, any of the airborne data from the planes themselves.

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In essence, the capability is there. Whether it happened or not I don’t know. They had enough data to recreate or observe a three-dimensional image of these encounters, outside of just the video. It would have given us more pinpoint accurate measurements of how fast the object was traveling, its movements, signatures, all this type of stuff. In large part, this data alone would have allowed anyone reviewing it to rule out some of the theories that I think have been kind of skeptically suggested, like this was just a distant plane, that kind of stuff. There would have been more than enough data to say whether that was true or not.

Again, it is my opinion, based on all of the data that I have… some individuals showed up, and they have access and authority to take highly classified and top secret systems—without question—all these guys were told, ‘turn over your stuff,’ and it went to these people, and they left. So if you look at it, fundamentally, since the Navy has said this is unidentified aerial phenomena (or UFOs), none of this data is known to exist today, or has not been released, and these individuals came on, seized all the data; collected it, and where it went, I don’t know.

Do you feel like this conforms to existing opinions expressed in the past by researchers into this subject, who feel that there is a concerted effort by government agencies to suppress or “cover up” certain information about unexplained aerial phenomena? 

If someone was to ask me if there was a government UFO coverup, well, yes. Does that mean they’re covering up aliens? I don’t know. That’s a stretch to make that conclusion. Could they be covering up or concealing their own classified technology? Absolutely. Could they be covering up and concealing a military encounter with something they truly don’t know or understand? That’s on the table as well.

But based on [the USS Nimitz] event alone, yeah… it was a UFO coverup. It was a UFO event [where] all the information was seized. It’s not like anyone boarded those ships and said… ‘this is really crazy, we wanna look into it and can we get all your stuff.” I think one point that I didn’t  hit on enough in the [Popular Mechanics] piece, but which I think is significant, is whoever these people are—whoever took this stuff—they really didn’t care about the eyewitness testimony. They didn’t interview any of the pilots, they didn’t care what they saw.

Granted, it would seem that from the data, they would have enough to see what the pilots saw. But they really didn’t seem to care what the pilot’s opinions were. Why? I don’t know. Was it just that the electronics information seemed more interesting? Was it they didn’t want to make it seem like a more significant event than it was by interviewing people? I don’t know. That’s an interesting piece to it, after realizing how these systems work and how everything would have gone on on the ship.

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[There’s] a bit of information that John Greenwald (of The Black Vault) was able to bring out that I think is extremely significant; that Joe Gradisher, the Navy spokesperson, told them that they were aware in 2007 that there was a leak of the video, and his statement to John, in essence, was that they knew about it, but the decision was made not to really launch any kind of formal investigation because there were 5000 suspects, because there were that many sailors in the carrier group. But, that’s not entirely accurate, because the scope of people who actually could have copied that video is extremely narrow. It narrows down to like the squadron level and the CVIC (which is like the ship intelligence center, where they download these videos and they’re stored). So yeah, it was not a daunting investigative task is what I’m getting at, by their statements in saying they didn’t investigate it further because it was just too grand or large scale an investigation. Well, that’s not accurate, in terms of who could have copied those tapes.

Again, we can spin that any way we want: it could be a grand conspiracy, or it’s just simply a for whatever reason the Navy didn’t feel the leak of that tape was something worth expending the resources to even interview squadron level or CVIC employees over. And that, in itself, could be true.

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