The U.S. Navy has released 35 brief reports regarding various incidents involving its ships and facilities and unidentified small uncrewed aircraft systems, or sUASs, across the entire span of the Pacific between 2016 and 2021. Not all of the reports appear to be notable, and some are clearly innocuous, but others absolutely provide additional evidence of concerning trends that The War Zone has been actively reporting on in recent years. Among the newly released reports, for instance, is one that covers a worrying encounter that the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Paul Hamilton had with four drones in the Pacific off the coast of southern California in 2019, which you can read more about in our past reporting here.
The War Zone obtained these records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) for UAS incident reports made through the OPREP-3 reporting system between 2017 and April 22, 2021. The reports that the Navy released, which may include one incident that occurred in 2016, are all unclassified and only have privacy-related redactions. PACFLT withheld in full another 116 reports that it found, but said were classified.
The 35 released reports all cover what are described as encounters with "Unmanned Aircraft System/Non Traditional Aviation Technology (UAS/NTAT)." NTAT appears to be a term predominantly used by the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense. None of them mention unidentified flying objects (UFO) or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), the latter of which is the U.S. military's current preferred term for such things. There do not appear to be any descriptions of extreme performance or otherwise unexplainable capabilities contained within them, either.
As already noted, an incident involving the USS Paul Hamilton on the night of July 30-31, 2019, is included among the reports. This was one of a series of drone swarm encounters that the crews of multiple Navy vessels reported while operating in the vicinity of California’s Channel Islands off the coast of San Diego that year. The War Zone has reported extensively on these incidents based on previous FOIA requests and other information and materials the Navy has released
This newly released report says the following about that encounter:
PHM [USS Paul Hamilton] observed four UASs with a CPA [closest point of approach] approximately 200 yds off the bow, port and starboard beams. The UASs had an on station time of approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes. The first UAS was spotted by lookouts at 0240L. observed with a single, solid white light off the port bow. At 0326L as PHM turned to course 180T, a second UAS was observed flashing the bow and bridge of PHM with what appeared to be a searchlight or photographic device. UAS closed to within 500 yds of PHM, repeatedly maneuvering aft to fwd. At 0330L, a UAS with four white lights and a flashing red light hovered approximately 200 yds above PHM and maneuvered from aft to forward. At 0332L, another UAS hovered with no lights approximately 300-500 yds off the bow of PHM and once again shined the bow and bridge with what appeared to be a searchlight or photographic device. PHM proceeded east after which the UAS maneuvered to match PHM course and speed, before departing the area to PHM's port side. UASs sighted in immediate vicinity of PHM from 0240L until 0530L. Point of origin of all UASs is unknown. UASs were observed visually, with optical sighting system, and night vision goggles. Three UASs were identified visually as quadcopters.