The Navy, A Rock Star, and UFOs by Ryan Sprague

Written By
Ryan Sprague

The sordid history of UFO investigations by the U.S. Government dates all the way back to the beginning of the modern UFO era. After reports of UFOs being sighted over the Cascade mountains by a pilot named Kenneth Arnold, the term flying saucers had been coined and had permanently been placed into history. Several other reports by seasoned pilots and credible witnesses on the ground had pressured the United States Air Force to look into the growing phenomenon and potential threat to the American skies. From this, Project Sign was created. Answers were scarce, and the reports kept coming in. From here, Project Grudge was created in 1949, and no determination was made on just exactly what these objects were and where they came from. In 1952, the most visible and perhaps most famous of these military and governmental studies came in the form of Project Blue Book. 

Working in tandem with the Air Force, several scientists were brought in to study UFO reports, and in essence, find a prosaic explanation for as many reports as they could. Perhaps the most notable of these scientists was J. Allen Hynek; an astronomer brought in to debunk the reports and show the public that most of these sightings were misidentifications or pure fabrications. At this point, Project Blue Book was nothing more than a strategy for the government to calm the public’s nerves on unknown intruders in our skies, and explain away each and every report brought in. This would culminate in the Condon Committee: an Air Force sponsored project led by physicist Edward Condon at the University of Colorado. The data collected by Project Blue Book was scrutinized, and the final word on UFOs was that they were not a threat to our nation, and they could be explained in conventional and prosaic terms. Yet, with 701 cases remaining unexplained by the end of Project Blue Book in 1969, this would be the final stance and official investigation pertaining to the UFO issue by the U.S. Government. At least, this is what the public was told. But all that changed in 2017.

Ryan Sprague Talks UFOs with Jim Harold – Livestream Replay

It was the article read round the world. Accompanied by three extremely compelling UFO videos, the New York Times released an expansive write up titled, Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program. Co-written by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal, and Leslie Kean, the article exposed, for the very first time to the public, a classified program within the Pentagon that was researching and investigating UFOs. We learned that from 2007 to 2012, the Department of Intelligence had spent $22 million on AATIP, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. Under the request and initiation of former Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who had a keen interest in UFOs, the black-budget program flew under the radar and with very little oversight, investigating UFO reports from military witnesses in the skies and military witnesses back on the ground as well. Not only did we learn of the program, but we even discovered the man tasked with directing it: Luis Elizondo.

Elizondo’s resume boasted that of being a Career Intelligence Officer with the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and the Office of Director of National Intelligence. With an extensive background in supervising highly sensitive espionage and terrorism investigations, it would only make sense that if this Pentagon UFO program were to work and continue to receive funding, the “threat” angle had to be at the forefront. Were UFOs a threat to national security? And if so, how and just exactly what were these exotic craft and phenomena in our skies? It was Elizondo’s job to try to figure that out. But just like many before him, he hit a wall at every turn, both internally within the Pentagon, and with the elusive nature of the UFO phenomenon at large. Frustrated with the lack of support and transparency of AATIP, Elizondo resigned from the position. But he most certainly wasn’t done hunting UFOs. This is where things get downright weird.

Tom DeLonge was no stranger to UFOs and aliens. As a former guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for the band Blink 182, he traveled the world playing to sold-out arenas throughout the mid-90s and into the mid-2000s. As part of the growing pop-punk scene, the music of Blink 182 spoke to a generation of teenagers longing for rebellion and change in the world. And while most of the music from Blink 182 was riddled with raunchy jokes and pissing the night away with friends, there was an undertone of conspiracy theory, aliens, and UFOs sprinkled throughout. It became clearer as the years went on that DeLonge was responsible for these UFO-themed lyrics, and it wasn’t just a passive interest in the topic. It was an obsession. He’d spend hours on the tour bus absorbing every UFO book he could find. He would make pit stops in towns to meet with those who claimed close encounters or having worked on secret projects dealing with UFOs. His obsession followed him for many years until it became not only an obsessive hobby of searching the skies, but he’d make it a career.

Only months prior to the release of the now-famous New York Times article on UFO Pentagon program, DeLonge started a new company called To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. The organization presently boasts ambitious projects in three distinct areas: science, aerospace, and entertainment. The controversial team behind the company includes not only former members of intelligence agencies and advanced development programs but the former director of the AATIP program itself, Luis Elizondo.

To date, To the Stars Academy has been responsible for major mainstream media coverage of the UFO topic and has assisted in pushing the U.S. Navy to change their protocols for reporting UFOs The company is also working directly with the U.S. Army in analyzing and implementing highly anomalous materials said to have been recovered from UFOs. It’s a lot to digest, and in order to continue their work, DeLonge created an entertainment sector that has already cranked out several fiction and non-fiction books pertaining to UFOs, an investigative television series on the History Channel, and several documentaries and feature films currently in development. Whether supporting the efforts of DeLonge and company or not, it’s undeniable that they have made waves in the intelligence communities, the military branches, and the perception of the UFO issue by the public-at-large through mainstream media.

Returning to the New York Times, we were treated to three very specific UFO videos within the contents of the online version of the 2017 article. They included the “Go Fast” video in which an unknown object appeared to whiz across the surface of the ocean at breakneck speeds. The video was taken aboard a Navy fighter jet from the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt off the eastern seaboard, near the Florida coast in 2015. Similarly, another video dubbed the “Gimbal” video doesn’t give us an exact date of the incident, but it speaks for itself in terms of importance. We see an almost “saucer” or “spinning top” – shaped object traveling across the cloud cover and then rotating, mid-flight in characteristics that can only be described as highly unusual. The final video and the most talked about is the “FLIR1” or its more pedestrian name now, the “Tic Tac UFO.” In the video, we see an oblong-shaped object hovering in mid-air and then suddenly accelerating and shooting off at an extremely high velocity. While the video may not be the most exciting of the three, the story behind it gives a context and amplifies the truly anomalous nature of this Tic Tac UFO.

So, originally this story broke with the cooperation of Commander David Fravor, a Top Gun fighter pilot, who was on a routine training exercise over the Pacific Ocean on the coast of California on November 14th, 2004. In the middle of the exercise, he was instructed to intercept a strange object by his superiors on the USS Princeton, an accompanying carrier to Fravor’s USS Nimitz carrier. As Fravor began to head towards the direction of the object, he noticed a strange churning of the water below, as if something were under the water. A few moments later, Fravor noticed an object floating about fifty feet above the water. He would state that it was about forty feet in length, it had no wings and no rotors. He described it simply as “Tic-Tac- shaped.” He said it began to move both swiftly and erratically. According to Fravor, The G-Force alone would have killed any pilot inside of this object. Fravor then watched as the object ascended and came right at his plane: “All of a sudden it kind of turns, rapidly accelerates—beyond anything I’ve seen—crosses my nose, and…it’s gone.” He would later tell the press, “I have never seen anything in my life, in my history of flying that has performance or the acceleration like this. I can tell you; I think it was not from this world.” 

Fravor eventually landed his plane to report what had happened. Another pilot, Chad Underwood, has since come forward to confirm that he in fact, trailed the object and captured it on the plane’s camera system. But another interesting aspect to all this were the people involved with this incident on the carriers. In fact, if it weren’t for the following individual, this entire event may have never have been officially acknowledged. Or even worse, it’s possible it could have interfered even more dangerously with the training exercises occurring at the time.

Kevin Day was the air intercept controller and senior radar operator on the USS Princeton that day. He had over twenty years in strike group air defense, including war times operations. He had also graduated from the TOP GUN school, which is the most elite school of naval officers. For over a week, Day had been picking up strange objects on radar. By the time this intercept had occurred, he stated that his radar screens had showed at least a hundred objects, sometimes traveling in groups of ten or more in tight formation along the California coast. He said, “Watching them on the display was like watching snowfall from the sky.” Because of the taboo of reporting UFOs, he kept quiet. But according to Day, the objects appeared at an altitude of about 80,000 feet, far higher than commercial or military jets typically fly, so this was a red flag that something was definitely not normal. For a moment, they thought perhaps the radar equipment had malfunctioned. But after shutting it down and rebooting, it soon became clear that the equipment was just fine, and the objects remained on radar. It was at this point that Day even watched as one of the objects dropped in altitude at impossible speeds to right above the surface of the water. Day contacted his commanding officer and said that they had to intercept the object because of the threat it could cause to the pilots and the carriers. “I was chomping at the bit,” Day remembered. “I just really wanted to intercept these things.”

This is when Commander Fravor went up, and the Tic Tac UFO story solidified its place in the annals of UFO history. When asked his personal thoughts on the incident, Day had this to say: “The objects were aware. They were observed as having astonishing flight capabilities but reacting to us as if they simply wanted to be left alone to continue their journey. I don’t know what they are. But I sure know what they weren’t. They weren’t ours. Take that for what you will.”

After the 2004 Nimitz encounter of the Tic Tac UFO story broke, many other officers came forward to describe what they had experienced that day. As the list grows, it became quite obvious that this was an alarming event, and showed that while each individual did their job to the best of their abilities, there simply was no strict protocol on how to deal with the elusive objects in the skies that day. And clearly, something had to be done. Not only for the curious minds of those who wanted to know what it was, but for the safety of those who experienced it, and perhaps on a grander scale, the skies over the entire nation as well.

With mounting pressure due to the tenacious work by To the Stars Academy in obtaining the three Navy videos, and their continued efforts to work with military branches on deciphering these mysterious objects and their capabilities, Luis Elizondo assisted Commander Fravor in obtaining several meetings with members of Congress to explain what he’d encountered and why something needed to change in terms of reporting UFOs within respective military branches. And while the contents of these meetings would remain classified, one Senator, in particular, did comment briefly on one of these meetings. Senator Mark Warner, the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated the following to the press: “If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern I believe we need to get to the bottom of.”

This meeting with Warner, and several other meetings with members of Congress and Intelligence communities, put the U.S. Navy in the limelight and they had no choice but to officially comment on the subject and even announce new protocols for pilots and ground crews to report UFO sightings and encounters. In an official statement to Politico, a Navy spokesperson said the following: “The Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. These kinds on incursions can be both a security risk and pose a safety hazard for both Navy and Air Force aviation. For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”

So there’s one last development in this entire affair that adds to the rich tapestry of the Navy, the Department of Defense, To the Stars Academy, and the UFO issue here in the United States: The Pentagon’s official acknowledgement of the three Navy videos and the release of them. In an official statement on April 27th, 2020, the Department of Defense stated: “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. 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.”

This statement shot across mainstream media outlets and once again, these videos circulated as if they were brand new. The videos came to a surprise to many, unlike most who’d spent every waking moment studying the UFO topic and these videos for the past two years, some even a decade or so ago when at least one of the videos had been uploaded to online forums and websites. So, while there may be a media-driven amnesia by most, it can also be argued that while the videos aren’t new, it shows that they were never supposed to have seen the light of day. It proves two other things as well; these videos were not hoaxed or fabricated, and they remain, even to this day, unidentified and truly unknown. With the tireless efforts of Tom DeLonge, Luis Elizondo, and countless UFO researchers hammering the intelligence agencies with Freedom of Information Act requests, there’s no denying that a sizable amount of progress has been made in terms of an official acknowledgement of the UFO reality by the U.S. Government. Elizondo, being directly involved with the 2017 release of the Navy videos, said the following in an official To the Stars Academy statement: “We are fueled by the Pentagon’s significant actions and hope this encourages a new wave of credible information to come forward.” 

But the real question remains; is this the nail in the coffin in terms of Pentagon releases and acknowledgment of the UFO phenomenon? Well, for that rockstar-turned-UFO researcher, Tom DeLonge, he believes that his company is partially, if not completely responsible for the official release of the videos. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, he stated: “I can’t believe we pulled this off. It’s a big deal, and so much more is coming. I think people need to buckle up.”

So, as To the Stars Academy continues their work, so do many other UFO researchers whose collective passions have only been reignited and fueled by all the attention UFOs have been getting. Gone are the days of retracing footsteps on UFO cases from fifty-plus years ago, and looking forward at modern cases dating all the way up to 2015. These cases are within reach, and many of the witnesses are still coming forward to detail their involvement. A new flame has been lit and it’s an exciting time to be in the self-proclaimed field of “ufology.” And perhaps DeLonge is right; there’s certainly going to be more to come, whether the government likes it or not. And as we move forward and rebuild our world after a global crisis, we can hopefully take an opportunity to rebuild the way we look at UFOs and piece it back together in a whole new light. Could this usher in a whole new era of study, perception, and acknowledgment of a legitimate and physical reality the UFO phenomenon?  

UFOs exist, according to the Pentagon. It’s official. And some of the most credible evidence we have has been given to the public. And while many argue it’s not a lot, it’s all we have. And that’s a big step. But perhaps even bigger are the follow-up questions that remain; What exactly are these UFOs? Who is in control of them? And what do they want? Like DeLonge said, “buckle up.” It’s going to be an exciting, frustrating, weird, and wonderful ride as we continue to search for answers somewhere in our skies.

Bio: Ryan Sprague is a lead investigator and co-host of the CW television series, Mysteries Decoded, and is also a regular on the Travel Channel series, Mysteries at the Museum. He is the author of Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon, and is also the creator and host of the Somewhere in the Skies podcast. His UFO journalism found him interviewing witnesses in all walks of life about UFO sightings and possible encounters with extraterrestrials. He’s interviewed military and intelligence officials directly on the topic, writing for such news sites as Open Minds Magazine, Rogue Planet,, and Futurism. Speaking on the UFO topic, he has been featured on ABC News, Fox News, and the Science Channel. For more info, visit: