During the summer of 1992 (June-July), while I was temporarily assigned aboard a U.S. Navy Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser in the Persian Gulf, I saw a black, equilateral triangle-shaped aircraft with three bright, white lights, one in each corner, flying directly over our ship. Our ship was part of the USS Independence carrier battle-group, and at the time of the sighting we were underway in the central or southern Persian Gulf. The sighting occurred sometime between midday and 3pm local Gulf time, though I cannot recall the exact date or day of the week, and it occurred at the tail-end of an underway replenishment (UNREP) exercise between our ship and the carrier. I���d learned a few minutes earlier while I was at my workstation inside that our ship was very shortly going to pull up alongside the aircraft carrier to carry out an UNREP. Having never seen one of these exercises, I���d made my way topside in order to get a better view of the activities, and I ended up well above decks at the upper-most and most forward location of the ship that I could reach. This put me somewhere atop the forward superstructure above the bridge and very near the ship���s main mast.
Our ship was moving at approximately 10-20 knots and pulled alongside the Independence to begin the UNREP drills involving both vessels being attached to one another by lines, cables, and fuel hoses. The two ships maintained a set distance between one another while matching each other���s course and speed. Weather conditions at the time were good and typical for the region in June and July. It was mostly sunny with scattered clouds. As is typical of the region, the air was very thick with a haze caused by the high humidity. The air temperature was in the upper 90s to near 100 degrees and visibility seemed limited to just a few miles, I���m guessing three to four miles at most. There were several other sailors around me when the sighting occurred, some sightseeing and others working various assigned tasks.
The sighting started by my first hearing a deep, almost thunderous roar that was, at first, difficult to discern insofar as its point of origin. The next few seconds before actually sighting the aircraft were spent quickly glancing around to try and figure out where the sound was coming from. I spend a lot of time describing the sound below because it played such a prominent role in the sighting, at least initially. The roar sounded close but not too close. That is to say it was very similar to being near an airfield when jet fighters take off at full power and fly over you as they depart the area. In that case, for example, the viewer might be some distance away from the airbase, say, maybe a mile or two. There was a doppler-shift to the sound. Approximately three to five seconds elapsed between first hearing the aircraft and when I realized that the sound was actually coming from overhead. This confusion was due to the fact that there was so much going on around me at the moment. The ambient environment was full of other loud noises of all types, including the high-pitched whine of the gas turbine exhaust from the ship���s main powerplant, the rushing or whishing sound from the filtered air intake feeding the powerplant (which is, I believe, a DC-10 engine down-geared to drive the main shaft), plus the sounds of men shouting, bullhorns or speakers blaring, and so forth. As loud as the environment already was, this new thunderous sound, which seemed like a pulsing sort of roar, seemed to overpower all the other sounds around me. It was very strong, and I felt it in my chest as much as I heard it, and it was as if it was pounding my body.
My first thought was that the sound was coming from aircraft launching from the carrier right beside us, though I knew this couldn���t be the case during an UNREP. From my vantage point I could also see several parked aircraft on the starboard side of the carrier���s flight deck. I���d noticed that all of the aircraft were parked, many with wings folded and tie-down chains clearly attached, and it was clear that no fixed-wing flight operations were underway. I also quickly glanced back aft on the carrier to where the jet engine testing racks are located. It briefly occurred to me that squadron mechanics might be running an engine up in one of the test stands, which I���d personally seen a couple years before during Desert Shield while temporarily assigned to the Independence. There were no indications there were any engines being tested for lack of hot vapor signature or smoke. My quick visual survey had lasted just three seconds or so before finally looked directly overhead.
The aircraft I saw was black, triangle-shaped (like an equilateral triangle) with brilliantly white, round lights or spots inset within each of the three rounded corners. The aircraft appeared to be moving at around 250-500 mph on the same general heading as that of our two underway vessels, which I took to be roughly N/NE at the time based on the sun’s position. The sun was above and behind me on my left. The aircraft appeared to be climbing out, though not on a steep ascent, but rather gradually climbing to a higher altitude after, perhaps, taking off from somewhere not too far away. It definitely wasn���t descending, and it didn’t appear to be on an approach vector for landing. This aircraft was almost directly overhead our position and seemed to have flown right up our wake.
Though mostly sunny, the high temperature and high humidity caused my view of the craft to be somewhat less that crystal clear in that it wasn���t a hard or crisp, deep black color. Nonetheless, I could easily tell it was black and the view was certainly sharp enough to discern the distinct triangle shape and rounded corners. All three sides appeared equal in length. The shape and color was stunning enough to me, but the three extremely bright, circular spots on its underside were baffling. They were exceedingly bright to the point that they seemed to pierce through the high-heat haze in the sky. In fact, they were dazzling in their brilliance, though not as bright as a welding arc. There was no condensation or exhaust trail of any kind that I could tell, plus I got the immediate sense that the aircraft wasn���t at all high enough to produce a vapor trail. I could not make out any control surfaces, such as vertical tail/s, fins, canards, etc. As for size, the aircraft was as wide as my little finger with my arm fully extended (see attached PowerPoint illustration, of which there are two slides, one depicting the sighting from my position and the other depicting a zoomed view).
I immediately knew that I was seeing something radically different from anything I���d ever seen before. I was absolutely stunned by what I saw. I���d studied aircraft and aviation history since my early childhood, and I���d spent most of my time in the Navy working in the aviation community, aboard a carrier, around airfields, etc. I stayed current with aviation developments for years by reading various publications, including Jane���s Defense Weekly and Aviation Week & Space Technology. I immediately knew this was not a B-2 Spirit or F-117 Nighthawk.
My view of this aircraft lasted between 5-10 seconds, and about midway through the sighting I noticed that others standing near me were also looking at it with several guys yelling out as to what it could be. We were all just standing and looking in amazement (see Note below). The deep rumbling sound had seemed to fade away a bit. Although the initial roar or rumbling sound was the audible cue that had initially alerted me to the aircraft���s presence, the sound seemed to fade or change from the deep roar to something less distinctive. It was hard to hear due to the other noises I described earlier. In other words, the roar faded away and we were left with the ambient environmental sounds of the ships power plant, the activities going on around us, and the aircraft passing overhead and moving away.
Our view was suddenly and almost violently interrupted by an ear-shattering series of blasts from the ship’s horn which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was located very close by. These sudden horn blasts were so loud that I physically cringed, bent over, and brought my hands up to cover my ears. I yelled out in pain along with several others, and we scattered to get away from the horn. I asked what the horn was all about and was told that it is used to signal the end of the UNREP exercise itself, or in the case, to announce the maneuver we went into called Emergency Breakaway. This was all new to me, but the immediately the crew were set to action to “break the lines���, real everything back aboard, and then each ship soon began a sharp turn away from the other in order to put as much space between themselves in the shortest time possible. I suppose a blast from a ships horn is no big deal to most folks, and it wouldn���t have made such an impact on me either if I hadn���t been standing so close to it and had it not interrupted the most incredible flying craft I���d ever seen. Had it not been for that the I might’ve got a longer view of the aircraft.
I have discussed this sighting with only a few folks over the years, but I’ve never formally reported it. I���ve often wondered whether the emergency break-away drill was coordinated to distract people from spotting the aircraft over our heads, though I know that is mere conjecture. The discussions about this sighting have been mostly at work in secure settings where I���d hoped someone might have offered some amplifying information. I���ve even drawn it on a whiteboard for folks, but to date no one that I���ve talked to has ever offered an explanation other than speculating that it was U.S.-developed. A few things are for certain – It was undoubtedly directly overhead a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group underway in the central or southern Persian Gulf. Although the two vessels were engaged in an exercise between them, all the electronic apparatus on both vessels were radiating and rotating, to use a Navy expression. The vessel I was on has the Aegis combat system and the AN/SPY-1 radar system. Having been personally been inside the Combat spaces aboard ship during operations, and having worked closely with the radar guys in carrying out my own duties, I knew then and know now that the capabilities afforded by these system are exceptional, to say the least. I have believe that they were fully aware of this aircraft flying right up our wake and directly overhead the battle group.
Attached sketch: I’ve attempted to illustrate using PowerPoint what the aircraft looked like as it passed directly overhead, including overlaying a light gray matting and using transparency to depict the haze caused by the heat and humidity that day. These sketches are based on my ‘minds eye’ recollection of the aircraft’s position, the approximate time of day, estimated direction of travel, and the suns position relative to my own.
Note: I only list myself, 1, as the Total Number of Witnesses for this report because, although there were several other guys around me at the time of the sighting that I know also saw the aircraft, I was not part of the ship’s crew, did not know them personally, and we all seemed to go our separate ways once the exercise activities were completed. I believe it is possible that many, many others that day witnessed the same thing.