The drones that hovered around U.S. destroyers for hours off the California coast remain unidentified more than a year and a half after the episode, the senior Navy officer said.
Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, spoke about the July 2019 flights on Monday at a Defense Writers Group event in Washington. Gilday said the incident and other similar sightings were still being assessed.
When asked if the Navy identified the drones that were flying near US warships near the Channel Islands off Southern California, Gilday replied: No, we didn’t.
I am aware of these sightings, and as has been reported there have been other sightings by airmen in the air and by other ships not only from the United States but from other countries and of course other elements within the US joint force, Gilday said. .
These results have been collected and are still being analyzed, ”he said.
The admiral said there is a well-established process in place within the joint force to collect this data and route it to a separate repository for analysis.
Gilday appeared to be referring to a pending report requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which asked the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Defense Ministry, to provide a report by June 25 on the unexplained sightings aircraft and advanced drones documented by the military. The report is supposed to examine whether there are any foreign adversaries behind the unidentified plane.
When asked if the plane was alien, Gilday replied that he had no clue about it.
The thefts were first reported by The Drive website, based on flight logs and emails released as part of a Freedom of Information request. NBC News obtained the same documents.
Up to six drones flew around the warships at a time in often low visibility conditions for several days, with the drones flashing lights and prompting for safety measures on board.
The drones were able to stay in the air for 90 minutes or more, exceeding the capacity of commercially available drones.
According to the logbooks, the drones were also able to fly at the same speed as a destroyer traveling at 16 knots in low visibility conditions, which is defined as less than 1 nautical mile visibility.
The episode raised the possibility of a serious security breach.
The drone flights took place near San Clemente Island, which is home to sensitive military installations including a Navy SEAL training site, a ship-to-shore live fire range and an airfield.
The mysterious drone flights sparked immediate investigations by investigators and intelligence officers from the Navy and FBI, including a special agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI Los Angeles field office and the director of the Maritime Intelligence Operations Center within 3rd Fleet, according to emails obtained by NBC News.
The emails made it clear that the matter was attracting high-level attention, right down to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
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