The Air Force attempted to answer our questions, but the DoD official in charge of UFO inquiries didn’t share their findings or anything at all.
BY TYLER ROGOWAYMARCH 23, 2020
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TYLER ROGOWAYView Tyler Rogoway’s Articlestwitter.com/Aviation_Intel
One of the biggest questions regarding the U.S. Navy’s recent disclosuresregarding strange encounters with supposedly unidentified flying craftis why are we only hearing about this highly concerning phenomenon from just one service? A fact that isn’t commonly understood is that it is not the Navy’s job to maintain sovereignty over America’s airspace, it is the U.S. Air Force’s. If strange and unidentified craft are being detected or seen, the Air Force has the mission to respond and investigate, not the Navy, and it can do so at a moment’s notice. So far, the Air Force has been totally mum on this issue, which is extremely bizarre considering the Navy’s own messaging surrounding it.
With this in mind, last September, I reached out to the Air Force with a series of very pointed questions regarding what seems like a massive discrepancy in regards to the military branch’s ability to execute its homeland air defense mission. What seemed like a good start to finding answers to these key questions quickly turned into something of a nightmare that has made me lose all confidence in the Defense Department’s ability to address a subject, which they themselves have actively helped elevate within the public’s consciousness, in any meaningful manner.
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My initial inquiry to the Air Force resulted in a very positive experience. The folks at the Air Force headquarters’ press desk were not phased at all by the topic and seemed eager to look into it on our behalf. After discussing the issue with them directly on the phone, the questions I sent them were specifically written to move the ball forward on this critical aspect of the issue and, in doing so, getting the Air Force on the record about the issue overall in some manner. Ideally, this would have included some background as to the nature of these events from the service’s point of view, and especially in regards to its homeland air sovereignty mission, as well as information about whether its own aircrews were experiencing similar encounters.
Here are the questions I fielded to them on September 19th, 2019:
Here is what we are looking for on the ongoing UFO/UAP story with the Navy and the USAF’s position and comment on the issue:
- Have Air Force pilots encountered any similar unexplained phenomenon on radar, electro-optically, or visually? If so, what is the general frequency and magnitude of these events?
- Navy Super Hornet pilots out of NAS Oceana had constantencounters with these objects in 2014-2015, especially on radar. It got so bad that by early 2015 Oceana filed NOTAMs warning aviators about the phenomenon in the warning areas off Virginia. We have talked to the crews directly about this and are in the process of obtaining those NOTAMs and the paper trail leading to their posting. Langley’s F-22s, which have superior sensor capabilities in some respects to the Super Hornets, as well the base’s T-38 aggressors, are based right next-door and use the exact same warning areas for training daily. Did Langley aircrews experience the same phenomenon? If so, to what extent? What about other USAF assets that use the same airspace for training?
- The Navy changed its reporting practices and procedures for encounters with unexplained flying objects significantly due to the massive increase in incidents in recent years. Has the Air Force done the same? If not, why? Does it even have set procedures for these events? If so, what are they?
- Has the USAF experienced the same massive increase in incursions of UAPs over its bases and installations that the USN has?
- Does the Air Force have similar electro-optical and infrared video of UAPs similar to what the Navy has, or other data for that matter?
- Does the Air Force see this phenomenon as a national security threat? What is it doing to mitigate or better understand it?
Thanks so much for your help on this. I think it’s critical to clear these details up, especially now that the Navy has admitted that the videos depicting these unexplained craft are indeed real and show objects it cannot identify.
I quickly followed up with another question:
- The Navy is saying these things are constantly (as in many times a month or more) busting into controlled or even secured airspace. In 2015, they were out there for days off Virginia in the warning areas, even causing the base to post the NOTAMs due to near misses etc. The USAF is tasked with protecting this airspace. Has the USAF launched alerts and investigated these when the Navy (or maybe even the USAF) was calling them out? What was done in regards to homeland defense when these were in the warning areas so persistently? How did the USAF and its NORAD arm take this issue up during the 2014-2015 incidents and what does the Navy says has occurred constantly all over up through this very day?
Once again, I have to stress that the Air Force has the homeland air sovereigntymission. Fighter aircraft sit on alert across the United States ready to scramble within a matter of minutes to intercept and investigate any unknown craft flying in or near the nation’s airspace. This includes what some may traditionally call UFOs. The War Zone has incredibly in-depth evidence of how such an action is taken with regards to the presence of transient unidentified flying objects, let alone ones that are persistently operating in restricted airspace, as was supposedly the case off the east coast of the United States in 2014 and 2015.
Air Force units that fulfill the homeland air defense mission are spread across the country, but those equipped with the highest level of fighter aircraft capability are scattered around the continental United States’ maritime perimeter and are also based in Alaska and Hawaii. F-15C/Ds equipped with the most powerful fighter-optimized active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars in the world and carrying Sniper targeting pods for long-range visual target identification primarily fulfill the maritime border defense role in the lower 48 states, with F-22s in Hawaii and Alaska doing the same.
F-16C/Ds, which are also now equipped with AESA radars, based at Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington D.C., keep watch over the Capital Region. Other F-16s from a handful of Air Force units that patrol the central U.S. can also help augment the country’s perimeter aerial security, but the alert mission is one that must be specifically trained for, with unique protocols and infrastructure requirements. It is resource-intensive and not cheap to execute, either. In other words, it is not something just any fighter squadron, especially a Navy one that has a very different mission focus, can just execute on the fly under normal circumstances.
As such, my questions attempted to fill in a missing part of the Navy’s recent UFO-related accounts. If these flying craft were indeed being detected, how is it possible that the Air Force didn’t scramble to investigate them, and do so multiple times over the course of these events? If incursions over installations are ongoing, regardless of if they are drones or something far more fantastical, how isn’t the Air Force directly involved with investigating and mitigating these potential threats inside the airspace they are responsible for defending?
This is not just a UFO issue, it comes down to America’s ability, or willingness, to defend its airspace from non-traditional threats. The threat to the homeland posed by cruise missiles is already palpable, but we are now in an era where lower-end and swarming drone warfare is becoming one of the most preeminent security issues of our time. It’s a threat that has recently manifested itself in spectacular ways that some of us have warned would occur for years. So, my questions are just as relevant to the core of our national security as they are to simply finding out new details about mysterious flying objects that seem to have risen to new heights in the public’s consciousness in recent years.
After a promising start with the Air Force itself, I was told that the inquiries had been forwarded to the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s (OSD) public affairs arm. One public affairs officer, Susan Gough, would be handling the request. At first, this sounded very promising. The inquiry had been elevated to someone in a position that might be able to really add some unique context to the issue.
Sadly, this ended up being anything but the case.
Simply put, my experience with Susan Gough has been the worst I have had with any of the Defense Department’s public affairs personnel, ever. What has transpired, or more accurately what hasn’t transpired, over the last six months leaves me with no confidence or trust in this official representing the DoD on the issue. This is not personal in any way. She may be a wonderful person, but her behavior has been a clear example of everything the Pentagon’s media operations should not be and it certainly is not due to a lack of training or experience. Her resume is impressive and may even be concerning to some who are seeking some morsel of truth regarding this bizarre and historically tortured issue.
My experience is not unique in any way. Others who are working this story have had similar experiences almost to a laughable degree. The reason why so many journalists are interacting with her at all on this issue is that she now holds the entire media/public affairs portfolio on UFOs within the DoD. Sometime shortly before I submitted my questions, the decision was made to funnel every request regarding this issue to her and her alone. The services no longer had control of their own messaging on the matter. Why this decision was made has not been made clear.
I wrote and called Susan Gough for months after my initial inquiries were forwarded to her. No correspondence was answered and no comments were given—not a timeline for delivery or a simple “we cannot comment at this time” response to any of my inquiries.
In the meantime, prolific Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) filer and author John Greenwald over at the Blackvault.com had received a FOIA request that not only had my questions in it, but it also had the internal correspondence within the Air Force concerning answering at least a portion of my inquiries. John was nice enough to let me know he had received the documents and that he would work with me as to their release.
Once again, the whole idea was to get something, anything on record in regards to the Air Force, America’s air sovereignty, and this issue. The last thing I wanted to do was publish a story about how the Defense Department won’t even acknowledge these questions. I have had absolutely the best experiences with DoD public affairs over many years. We work with them daily in what we do. The vast majority of those interactions are hugely productive. In fact, I have never had a negative relationship with a U.S. military public affairs officer, even on topics that were far from positive for the Department of Defense. Overall, they do excellent work and understand our requests and process them with total professionalism in a timely manner. I cannot overstate how important their job is and how well they usually do it.
With this in mind, I dreaded having to take issue with the Department of Defense on their communications operations. But after nearly three months of getting no replies of any kind, I had to do something.
It wasn’t until I sent a very frank letter on December 5th, 2019 that I received this answer from Ms. Gough. This was the first actual correspondence I had with her since my inquiry was made in September:
My sincere apologies. It appears that your emails were being dumped into a junk/spam folder instead of my inbox, so I wasn’t seeing anything from you for a long time. Only just noticed because you are not the only one with a similar complaint. It was not intentional, I assure you, and I’m not quite sure how/why it happened; I get quite a few continuing queries about UAPs from multiple reporters, all with similar questions, so I know it’s not the subject.
I’m sorry, I don’t recall getting a voicemail from you, but I was out of the office for health reasons several times in the last several months, and may have missed it.
Anyway, I will look at your questions this morning, and will get back to you as soon as I can with answers.
I replied very positively, I was so glad we had a breakthrough and I wouldn’t have to write about how unresponsive the Department Of Defense’s representative on this matter was. Even if they weren’t willing to say much, we would actually have that on the record and I made Ms. Gough aware of the internal documents that had some answers to my questions that John Greenwald obtained. So, at least I could get some commentary on those, if nothing else. Above all else, a relationship could begin with the sole point of contact on this topic within the DoD. It’s a long game. I was happy to finally be working with Ms. Gough so that future clarifications could be had.
I followed up quickly after her response asking if we could have this wrapped by the end of next week. Her reply stated as such:
“Yes, we should be able to. Thank you very, very much for your patience and understanding!”
Finally, I could slap a deadline on this and give John the heads up that there was progress.
The reality ended up being the complete opposite. Ms. Gough never got back to me. What followed over the next four weeks was me reaching out looking for an update and getting nothing back. This was different though as her original excuses were clearly false because she just went back to doing the same thing even after her apology and acknowledgment of a timeline.
By January 2nd, 2020, yet another month had gone by and it was clear that she had gone dark once again.
This was my email to her:
It’s the New Year and still nothing. I haven’t heard anything since we last touched base nearly a month ago when you said we could wrap it up the following week. Checked in multiple times. Nothing.
I am holding off another outlet on this with their FOIAs that include the DoD’s correspondences with my name all over them, at this point, it is just embarrassing for me. I also find it odd that other outlets seem to have gotten responses and clarification follow-ups. In fact, some of them are people, not outlets.
I really want a good relationship here, as I have with every single one of my DoD PA contacts, rain or shine. I hate writing emails like this, but this is ridiculous and insulting. It has been what? FOUR months?
So what’s the next step? Do I have to file a formal complaint over this? Something is really broken here, especially when you have your own aviators claiming that craft are violating our airspace regularly and I can’t even get responses to specific questions, some of which were answered months ago in internal correspondences that the department released via FOIA long before I ever got them. In fact, I still don’t have them.
Very disappointing and frankly, stunning.
On January 7th, I sent another note, stating that I have done everything I can, given her every opportunity to respond, and that months had rolled by since my initial request and it was now weeks past our deadline. Finally, I got another response:
Sorry Tyler, I’ve been out a lot, and just back today. Let me ping the people who owe me the info and see if they have it now.
Clearly, she had something to share, as I had the Air Force’s internal emails in my hands for months via John Greenwald’s FOIA request.
After that last glimmer of hope, the gaslighting operation was made clear. Once again, Susan Gough disappeared.
By this time I was so exhausted with the issue and a ton of other long-lead projects had come due, so I set it aside. Really, I didn’t want to have to explain how terrible of an experience this was and how this DoD official evaded me for months. I thought, ‘maybe if I just gave it a little more time she would pop up again.’
That never happened.
At the time of writing this, it has been six months since my original request. I can’t thank John enough for being so patient with me on this story. He understood my important working relationship with the DoD and how I wanted to give Ms. Gough every possible opportunity for a professional and positive outcome.
I have no idea what the situation is behind the scenes with this topic at the DoD or what Gough’s directives or issues are in regard to it. Yet the fact that after the Pentagon’s own personnel have stated that constant intrusions into sensitive airspace have occurred by unidentified craft, they are not willing to even respond to questions about Air Force’s role in those events, the service that is responsible for defending that airspace, is damning. The DoD seems to have helped seed interest in this issue, but is now unwilling to offer any explanations or clarifications regarding it. That seems very peculiar if not downright suspicious. For a topic that has been so abused over the decades, this really is an abhorrent stance for the DoD to take and it negates any trust it may have developed on the topic in recent years.
The most troubling part about this whole mess is that at least some of my inquiries actually got answers, ones the DoD shared with a FOIA requester, but not the actual reporter asking the questions. Once again, Gough had at least something to offer, but didn’t convey it after months of prodding.
Greenwald’s FOIAs show that the Air Force’s public affairs officials actually did excellent work looking into at least some of my questions. They did not shy away from the topic and took it seriously, but with one unresponsive person having the authority to actually convey any of that information, it meant that in this case the results of their work were never released.
Here’s what the Air Force found out in regards to Langely Air Force Base’s F-22 and T-38 aircrews seeing similar objects in the restricted warning areas off the eastern seaboard. You can see the whole exchange below: