By John Greenewald, Jr. – The Black Vault – Originally Published October 18, 2019
Just last month, the U.S. Navy went on the record stating that three videos that have circulated the mainstream media in the last two years were, in fact, considered “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” or UAPs. Now, recently obtained e-mails from the Navy and the Air Force reveal that ranking members of both branches express different views on what they refer to as a “phenomena,” along with showing disagreement with how the overall story is being reported by the mainstream media.
The series of documents were provided to The Black Vault through two different Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Navy and to the Air Force. Records were released for both requests in June and October respectively.
Navy E-Mails Outline Different UAP Narrative
The Navy released to The Black Vault in late June nearly one hundred pages of correspondence relating to the “UFO Guidelines” first reported by Politico in April. The emails consist primarily of correspondence from outside journalists and media agencies all looking to cover the news about the “UFO Guidelines” that Politico broke, but also within those messages, were internal communications by Navy personnel not yet seen by the general public, until their release to The Black Vault.
One such message offers much more detail about the “UFO Guidelines” than previously reported. However, what it outlines is a much different narrative than the one published largely by the mainstream media. Nowhere in the three hundred and sixty nine word statement does “unidentified” appear; nor is there anything about any “phenomena.” On the contrary, the statement offered a much more nuts-and-bolts, identifiable definition, but a threat to the Navy none-the-less.
“The wide proliferation and availability of inexpensive unmanned aerial systems (UAS) such as commercially available quadcopters has increasingly made airspace de‐confliction an issue for our aviators,” said John “Jay” Stratton, an Office of Naval Intelligence Senior Analyst from the Nimitz Operational Intelligence Center. “Based on this increased airspace complexity, US Navy aircrew were provided with reporting instructions in order to determine the frequency and location of any UAS operating in our training areas.”
Some of Stratton’s wording should sound familiar to those with a sharp memory. Although it is unclear if Stratton’s version of the Navy statement was truly the original to be crafted (the e-mail in the release is dated after the Politico article), it is likely that it was. Joseph Gradisher, spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, was the one responsible for issuing shorter, but similar statement that was later published by Politico, and repeated throughout multiple media outlets in the days that followed.
Stratton was never quoted or was responsible for issuing any statements to the media. His take, was internal only.
Gradisher refers to Stratton in an internal e-mail dated May 7, 2019, as having “provided most of the info” that he used to craft the “UFO Guideline” statements that he had sent to Politico. (The date discrepancy on Stratton’s e-mail could be explained by the fact it may have been a copy and paste from another e-mail thread, however that cannot be verified as the Pentagon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.) However, in the final statements that Gradisher sent to Politico, he inserted “unidentified aircraft” within the wording, as they related to UAS’, however, there was still no reference to “UFOs,” “UAPs,” or any “phenomena.” Once that two-word phrase was issued, it was then morphed into “UFO” by the mainstream media.
Classified Briefing Details Revealed
The e-mails also reveal that Stratton was the one who conducted at least one of the classified briefing on UAPs, a fact not yet reported by the mainstream media.
“OLA [Office of Legislative Affairs] is responding to interest from staff members of both chambers of Congress, led by the national security advisors to Senators McConnell (majority leader) and Schumer (minority leader) and will also likely include House staff, as well as staff from the Armed Services Committees,” one e-mail stated sent from a sender whose name was redacted. “With N2N6 concurrence, Mr. Jay Stratton (DISL, ONI NIMITZ) will brief Congressional staff in a classified session on Tues 7 May on the Navy’s efforts in this area.” N2N6 refers to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance.
The e-mail seemingly contradicts the widespread claim that To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science (TTSA), the organization largely credited for leaking the three UAP videos known as “FLIR1,” “Gimbal” and “GoFast,” played a role in the classified briefings. Nowhere in the internal communications are they referred to; listed as taken part in; nor are they credited for organizing the closed-door meetings.
TTSA has not responded to repeated attempts for comment from The Black Vault.
The U.S. Air Force and UAPs
The second batch of e-mails obtained by The Black Vault were released by the Air Force on October 3, 2019. Since the Navy has gone on the record about UAPs and UFOs earlier this year, the Air Force has stayed mysteriously quiet. Arguably, the military branch that should have the most interest of unidentified objects in the sky, has shown little to no interest, and has not issued any detailed statements on UAPs or UFOs in recent months. However, their internal e-mails reveal details on how they view the UAP topic along with the UFO phenomena.
On April 26, 2019, Air Force spokesperson Laura Mcandrews sent an e-mail to the Deputy Director of [Air Force] Public Affairs, Mr. Jerry Renne. This message came just days after Politico broke the story about the “UFO Guidelines,” and her interpretation of the story was a bit different than the final statements issued by the Navy to Politico.
“They mentioned the Air Force by saying ‘For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report.’ (Which is true.),” said Mcandrews. “What the Navy was trying to talk about was unmanned aerial systems… that got turned into UFOs and aliens.”
The e-mail by Mcandrews reflects that of what appears to be the Navy’s original statement by Stratton, which got truncated and altered before submission to Politico. It appears that the Air Force focus on this threat surrounds unmanned aerial systems, and not “[unidentified flying objects]” as asserted by Politico.
When asked if the Air Force had any “UFO Guideline”-like protocols; the Air Force has not commented publicly as of the writing of this article, and the Pentagon did not respond for comment after multiple attempts. However, the e-mails offer insight into that very question.
Josh Aycock, Chief of the Public Affairs division for the Air Force Safety Center (AFSC) was enlisted by the Air Force main public affairs office for guidance on answering that question, as submitted by one journalist. He was tasked to look into whether Air Force encounters with UAPs had occurred, along with being asked to provide evidence, if any, that the Air Force had a similar “UFO Guideline” similar to the Navy’s.
“Gut reaction is that we would not track these unless the pilot almost crashed into one or something like that,” Aycock responded almost immediately. Two days later, he offered the official answer. “The flight folks do not believe we have anything in our system regarding unexplained phenomenon,” Aycock sent to the main public affairs office. “I also checked with my FOIA team to see if they have encountered anything like this. They said they typically send those requests to the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]. I could see that as a potential repository for those types of events.”
The FAA did not comment on questions sent from The Black Vault relating to their stance on UAPs; specific guidelines or protocols for commercial pilots to report encounters; or the Air Force forwarding requests to their agency. Rather, the FAA only issued the following statement: “The FAA does not track UFOs. Please contact The National UFO Reporting Center: http://www.nuforc.org/.”
Navy Response to Query (RTQ)
Another key document revealed by the Air Force FOIA release, was actually a Navy one. This is called a “response to query” or RTQ record and is used internally by public affairs offices to help coordinate responses to various questions on a certain topic. In this case, this was the RTQ for all “unidentified aerial phenomena” related queries to the Navy. This particular document was shared with the Air Force.
Designated “For Official Use Only” and listed as an “internal working document,” the RTQ offers a detailed breakdown at how the Navy handled “UFO Guideline” related questions. “The Washington Post and other outlets queried following a Politico article on the Navy changing its reporting procedures for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” the document began.
What followed were familiar “talking points,” with one considerable difference. In the days that followed the original article by Politico, the Navy removed reference to the Air Force, and their statement was changed to, “For safety and security concerns, the Navy takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.” It remains unclear why the Navy removed the reference after the initial statements were given.
After the two “talking points,” the internal Navy RTQ lists eight questions breaking down various responses to each. One addressed the topic of “UFO Guidelines” within other branches of the military, like the Air Force. The Navy was set to respond with, “Military and civilian aviation have always had channels for reporting airspace violations and hazards to aviation safety authorities.”
Another asked about the type of analysis that would be done on UAP related questions. The Navy had that ready to go as well. “Navy, Department of Defense, and other government agencies will analyze all reports, to include any eyewitness statements, flight profiles, any video, and any other materials to support the safety and security of our aircrew and operations.”
Throughout most of the answers generated internally by the Navy, one theme remained consistent: UAS’.
The Drone Question
Despite the similarity between UAS’ and drones, there is a difference between the two. A ‘drone’ is often used to refer to the craft itself, wherein a ‘UAS’ refers to the craft and the remote operator. UAS’ are a common thread between the internal Navy e-mails, Air Force communications and other key records that surfaced via a FOIA response to The Black Vault in mid-August.
The mid-August document release by the Department of Defense (DOD) to The Black Vault, revealed all internal communications between Mr. Luis Elizondo and the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review (DOPSR). Elizondo, a former government employee who now works for TTSA, is largely credited as bringing the “FLIR1,” “Gimbal” and “GoFast,” videos to the public, but this release of records created more questions, than revealed answers.
Not only does it show the three videos were not cleared for public release, it revealed that Elizondo referred to them also as UAS’, nearly identically worded to most other internal documents now revealed from the Navy and Air Force.
In Elizondo’s own words, the three videos that the Navy admits to designating as “UAPs,” were described as, “UAV, Balloons, and other UAS,” on the official paperwork and written in his e-mails. There is no mention of “phenomena” by Elizondo behind-the-scenes, contradicting his public statements on various media interviews and connected with press releases by TTSA. However, his wording confirms internal stances of the Air Force and some members of the Navy about what the threat actually is.
This is where confusion reigns for many. Despite recent statements by the Navy about their “UAP” designation for the three videos in question, where does the widespread talk about UAS’ come from? Three agencies which include the Navy, Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) within the Pentagon all refer to this phenomenon depicted within the videos as being about UAS’. One of the questions sent to the Pentagon for comment, was asking if the Air Force would test their technology on another branch of the military without their knowledge, like the Navy. There were no official statement given by the Pentagon for any questions submitted.
There is also no evidence, yet, that these “unmanned aerial systems” is a new code-word for “unidentified flying objects” or other related “phenomena” as some have suggested.
Change in Response Policy Regarding UAPs
The internal communications and documents produce more questions that have yet to adequately be addressed. However, the e-mails also shed light on a recent change of policy regarding the DOD and the UAP topic.
In the last six months since Politico broke the “UFO Guideline” story, the Navy has been issuing their own statements about UAPs. That has now changed.
In an e-mail dated September 20, 2019, sent from Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough; she informed the Air Force that, “Navy has requested that OSD take the lead from now on for these queries, so please continue to work any USAF-specific responses through me.” The Navy is not the only agency to now be silent on the UAP issue and referring enquiries elsewhere.
While researching information for this article (and others yet to be published), questions were sent to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), USAF, Navy and OSD, all with different questions, but surrounding the topic of UAPs and programs rumored to have investigated them. Each agency referred those lines of questioning to Gough at the Pentagon, as she is now the point contact on the topic, DOD-wide.
It remains unclear why the change for all agencies has taken place.
Navy RTQ on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena
Note: Orange redactions are added by The Black Vault as a courtesy to shield some personal, private sector, information. Also the Navy RTQ document above is within the .pdf below, but you need to check the “attachments” tab.
To ensure it was ok to public, I did verify with USAF about the release. They confirmed; it was all releasable.