F-22s Scrambled To Investigate A Mysterious High-Altitude Balloon Off The Coast Of Hawaii (Updated)

The fighters were scrambled by Pacific Air Forces on Monday, February 14, to intercept an unmanned airship that was floating off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The US Pacific Air Force (PACAF) confirmed the incident but has not released further details as the incident is still under investigation.

General Adjudant of Hawaii, the highest ranking military officer in the state, posted a statement “Indo-Pacific Command detected an object at high altitude in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands,” tweeted. In accordance with domestic defense procedures, the Pacific Air Defense Force launched a tactical aircraft to intercept and identify the object, visually confirming an unmanned airship with no telltale signs of presence. observable”. It is yet to be officially confirmed which aircraft or how many have been launched, but the only fighters based in Hawaii are the F-22. These jets have a quick-response alert mission and are often moved in response to crashed aircraft, unidentified aircraft and even boats, hijackings and maneuvers. enemies in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands. Residents and local officials also claimed that the F-22 was the plane that went to check the hot air balloon.

USAF

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Felicia Cowen, Kauai County Councilman, told Honolulu star advertiser that she heard two explosions, both loud enough to shake her house. “I wanted to understand explosions loud enough to shake my house in Kilauea, Kauai, and what looked like smoke in the sky. Did any object get hit and did it explode? If so, what is it, and why? However, an Air Force spokesman told the newspaper on Thursday, February 17, that “reaction aircraft did not destroy the balloon.” The spokesperson continued that the service is “actively monitoring it through general capabilities and it is being evaluated,” adding that “we don’t have anything else to offer at this time.”

Several comments on the same post on the Kauai Community Facebook group highlight that the object appears to have remained stationary.

“Someone who works in aviation here on the island received information that the F22 was intercepting a UFO. UFO means an unidentified flying object to them. I wonder what the fighter pilots saw. It is a STATIONARY object,” one comment read. “The airline staff told me that the UFO was off the coast of Princeville (?) many miles over the ocean. It stays in place for at least 40 minutes. “

“I watched this from Lihue to Kapaa. Two jets fly around. And this just stands still not even close to jet altitude,” another read.

Raven Aerostar, a company that develops advanced balloons that can be relatively stationary for long periods of time and have endurance in excess of 30 days, operated hot air balloons southeast of Kauai, off Oahu, around the clock. February 14 and during the week. leading to the event. This is the first time we’ve seen one of Raven Aerostar’s hot air balloons near Hawaii.

The company is partnering with the US military to test airships as a platform for relaying sensors and communications. You can read all about these advanced balloons that are often confused with UFOs in our past on them. It is not clear if those flights had anything to do with the balloon that caused the F-22 to be intercepted, which appears to have been off the main island of Kauai, the northernmost of the island chain.

F-22s scramble to investigate a mysterious hot air balloon at high altitude off the coast of Hawaii (Updated)

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The Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratory operate a nearby rocket launch range, the Kauai Test Facility (KTF), at the western end of the island. KTF is located on the grounds of the larger Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), which is operated by the US military and also includes Barking Sands Airfield.

F-22s scramble to investigate a mysterious hot air balloon at high altitude off the coast of Hawaii (Updated)

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An image uploaded by the DOE to Wikimedia Commons in 2013 shows a white balloon being launched from the scope. The accompanying caption states that “these weather balloons are equipped with reflectors and locators that allow scientists to track them until they expand and eventually pop, at an altitude of about 12,000 feet. Sandia scientists and technicians at KTF conduct missile flight tests, ranging from offensive and defensive weapons testing to atmospheric research and high-tech stargazing. ”

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F-22s scramble to investigate a mysterious hot air balloon at high altitude off the coast of Hawaii (Updated)

Wikimedia Commons / DOE

A photo from the 2013 hot air balloon launch posted to Wikimedia Commons by the Department of Energy.

It’s unclear if this was a case of misidentification from a balloon dropped from the Kauai Test Strip, but that seems a bit unlikely. Balloons mentioned appear at a higher altitude than the weather balloon mentioned by the DOE. However, another more efficient ball could have been deployed by the DOE or by another agency causing the mix, but one might think that’s explained now.

It does, however, point to a much larger problem associated with the use of balloons to gather critical intelligence. There is a deep history of hot air balloons being used for intelligence gathering, especially on radar and communications systems. We believe this is happening today in key US training areas outside of the US mainland. This coincides with what is emerging as a renaissance as the military uses balloons as a platform for sensors, communications relays, electronic warfare systems, and even to launch warships. or other loads.

As we mentioned earlier, the main facility of the Pacific Missile Range is located at the northwest end of Kauai. It is used for some of the most sensitive and advanced US military tests, especially when it comes to missile defense testing. This includes equipping one of the latest ballistic missile defense radar systems and conducting tests on weapons such as the MIM-104 Patriot and SM-6 among others. The Navy describes the extent to which the base is part of “the world’s largest multi-environment array capable of supporting simultaneous ground, subsurface, air and space operations. ” Such an installation is sure to be of great interest to America’s peer adversaries, and the presence of a mysterious ball nearby would prompt a stronger response from the military as the critical systems located there as well. as the sensitive electromagnetic waveforms some of them emit.

F-22s scramble to investigate a mysterious hot air balloon at high altitude off the coast of Hawaii (Updated)

Wikimedia Commons / Polihale

An aerial view of the airfield at the Pacific Missile Vision Facility.

It should also be noted that normally, the F-22 does not compete for weather balloons or other lighter-than-air vehicles. The balloon’s questionable location could have been a factor in the scramble. Another variable that is interesting to know is the naval exercises taking place nearby and whether any tests were planned or ongoing at the installation site when the balloon appeared. are not. Nearby foreign naval traffic will also be of great interest.

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Of course, there could be another explanation for all of this. The pilots warned the F-22 had hand-held cameras that they were supposed to use to gather intelligence about the balloon’s exact configuration, including its payload. We’ve reached out to the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Pacific Air Force (PACAF) to confirm. We received a reply from the FAA stating “We do not have any reports at this time. If that changes, we’ll get back to you. ”

We will update you when we have more information.

UPDATE:

Our friend @aircraftspots provided some more information on the F-22 scramble. The raptor left Honolulu as PRIMO1 and PRIMO2 around 3:45 p.m. local time and headed northwest. They actually appear on Flightradar24, which is very rare indeed (see below). As you can see, one of them is at more than 41,000 feet and is decreasing after contact point investigation north of Kauai. You can see the KC-135 warning at 25,025 feet nearby.

F-22s scramble to investigate a mysterious hot air balloon at high altitude off the coast of Hawaii (Updated)

Flightradar24.com

In addition, the air traffic control audio system reported that Air Canada Flight 519 detected a hot air balloon approaching Honolulu. We don’t know if this is the Raven Aerostar airship west of Oahu or this unidentified airship north of Kauai.

A spokesperson for the US Pacific Fleet told us they do not have anything to add at this time to answer questions about this hot air balloon incident and cannot speak about involvement. of the Navy in the response. They recommend contacting Pacific Air Forces with these questions.

UPDATE:

@aircraftspots put up a nice song about the F-22 scramble mission:

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