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Reconstruction of potential flight paths for the January 2015 “Gimbal” UAP

AIAA 2023-4101
Session: Scientific and Technical Advancements in UAP Understanding (Virtual)
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The so-called “Gimbal” video is arguably the most recognizable publicly-available footage of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP). Recorded in January 2015 off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, by a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet’s AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR targeting pod, the video shows an infrared-significant object skimming over clouds. Towards the end of the 34-second clip, the object appears to stop and rotate in mid-air. Naval aviators who participated in the event indicate that: (1) The UAP was within 10 nautical miles of the F/A-18F, (2) that, from the perspective of the aircrew’s top-down radar display, it was seen to stop and reverse direction with no radius of turn, and (3) that the UAP was accompanied by a formation of 4-6 other unknown objects. Using data from the ATFLIR video, it is possible to reconstruct potential flight paths for the object as a function of distance. We show that, at the range provided by the aviators, potential flight paths align with eyewitness accounts: The object decelerates from a few hundred knots before rapidly reversing direction in a “vertical U-turn.” Such a maneuver would have been observed on the overhead radar display as an abrupt reversal of direction with no radius of turn. The highly anomalous flight path found at the range provided by the aircrew, along with the remarkable match between the reconstructed flight path, eyewitness recollections, and the object’s rotation, raises intriguing questions about the nature of the object. This is especially the case because, at this distance, no wings or infrared signatures consistent with conventional means of propulsion (e.g., an exhaust plume in the direction of flight) are visible. An alternative hypothesis, which proposes that Gimbal shows infrared “glare” from the exhaust of a conventional jet aircraft viewed approximately tail-on 30 nautical miles from the F/A-18F, is also discussed. According to this theory, the rotation observed in the video is an artifact of the ATFLIR targeting pod. Our goal is to provide an overview of analyses of the Gimbal encounter conducted by private citizens. We encourage aeronautics/aerospace experts to provide feedback so that a better understanding of the Gimbal UAP may be achieved.