We've waited a long while for a high profile UFO case, but on the weekend a new story broke and has since received plenty of coverage across the intarwebs. Unveiled by journalist Leslie Kean - author of the bestselling UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record - this latest UFO (or as they're now known, UAP...'Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon') report originated from two experienced officers in the Chilean Navy - and it was caught on video, notably infrared (see video above, object is first seen around 40 seconds in).
The sighting was made in November 2014, when the two naval officers were carrying out a routine daytime patrol aboard an Airbus Cougar AS-532 helicopter:
On board were the pilot, a Navy Captain with many years of flying experience, and a Navy technician who was testing a WESCAM’s MX-15 HD Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) camera... The aircraft was flying at an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet on a clear afternoon with unlimited horizontal visibility...
...At 1:52 pm, while filming the terrain, the technician observed a strange object flying to the left over the ocean. Soon both men observed it with the naked eye. They noticed that the velocity and the altitude of the object appeared to be about the same as the helicopter, and estimated that the object was approximately 35 to 40 miles (55-65 km) away. It was traveling W/NW, according to the Captain. The technician aimed the camera at the object immediately and zoomed in with the infra red (IR) for better clarity.
Shortly thereafter, the pilot contacted two radar stations - one close by on the coast, and the other the main DGAC Control system (Ground Primary Radar) in Santiago - to report the unknown traffic. Neither station could detect it on radar, although both easily picked up the helicopter. (The object was well within the range of radar detection.) Air traffic controllers confirmed that no traffic, either civilian or military, had been reported in the area, and that no aircraft had been authorized to fly in the controlled air space where the object was located. The on-board radar was also unable to detect the object and the camera’s radar could not lock onto it.
The pilot tried several times to communicate with the UAP, using the multi-national, civilian bandwidth designed for this purpose. He received no reply.
The unidentified object was filmed for almost 10 minutes by the crew, and upon returning to base and reporting the encounter the Navy immediately turned over the footage to the CEFAA - the Chilean government agency consisting of military and technical experts that investigates UAP sightings. According to Kean "none of them have been able to explain the strange flying object", ruling out bird, flying insect, drone, parachute or hang glider as possible explanations.
One facet of the video that has received plenty of attention is that “in two instances [the UAP] discharged some type of gas or liquid with a high thermal track or signal”, according to the infrared camera technician. You can see this occurring around 8 minutes into the video above.
According to French experts who examined the case, however, the object may have a simple explanation: the peanut-shaped infrared signature is an aircraft with twin-jet engines (as the shape was “consistent with the standard distance between the two jet engines of a medium-haul aircraft”), and the odd trails probably result "from dumping some cabin waste water, forming a plume oriented along the local wind blowing from the west.”
Kean says, however, that Chilean experts ruled this idea out for a number of reasons:
This plane would have been seen on primary radar; it would have had to be cleared for landing in Santiago or at another airport; it would likely have responded to radio communications. Airplanes do not throw out water when landing...[and] if - hypothetically - water was expelled, it would have immediately plummeted to the ground given the warm air temperature.
Reddit-detectives however seem to side with the French analysts, although a number suggest the jet may have been a military-grade aircraft, actually a fair distance from the helicopter and moving away from it on a slight angle, while the plumes are the thermal signature of the jet putting on its afterburners.
I'm a pilot. I've seen a few weird things in the air myself from time to time but the most interesting thing for me in this video is the plume it leaves behind at the end of the video.
What do I think it is? I think it's a fast jet of some kind running hot that's quite far away. The exhaust heat from it's engines is balling up behind it and the IR bloom from that heat is making it appear like a round ball in the sky and masking its shape.
The material it squirts out? It's basically igniting its afterburners and the hot exhaust heat is blooming from behind it in the line you see. If you look at a jet aircraft with afterburner like the F18 or something like that through FLIR, you will see the exact same thing.
...The object in question looks more like two orbs or circles pushed together which would what you would expect to see from a military twin engine jet aircraft like an F18 or similar style. Also as soon as the plume appears that thing speeds up really fast which is what you would expect from a jet that's just entered reheat.
Again though, the questions remain about the lack of radar ID from the ground (unless the jet was a looong way from the helicopter), and the lack of reply when asked to identify itself.
For these reasons, Chilean officials are sticking with the 'unidentified' designation. General Ricardo Bermúdez, director of the CEFAA during the investigation, told Kean...
The CEFAA is well regarded partly because there is full participation from the scientists of the academic world, the armed forces through their representatives, and the aeronautic personnel from the DGAC, including its Director. I am extremely pleased as well with the conclusion reached which is logical and unpretentious... [T]he great majority of committee members agreed to call the subject in question a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) due to the number of highly researched reasons that it was unanimously agreed could not explain it.