By Aaron Kesel
Heavily redacted internal emails from the Air Force show that the mystery of the drones that flew over Colorado in December and January remains.
Communications obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal just how serious the Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) reports were taken.
The emails come from Douglas D. Johnson, a volunteer sleuth in affiliation with the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU). Johnson recently obtained the heavily redacted emails through a FOIA request. The emails document the shocking internal communications of the Air Force’s public affairs office at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base and the 90th Security Forces Group in response to various drone sightings.
The Drive reports:
Johnson filed two separate FOIA requests for all official correspondence to and from Jon Carkhuff, a public affairs officer and/or spokesman associated with F.E. Warren Air Force Base, and all official correspondence to and from the headquarters staff of the 90th Security Forces Group that contain any of the following terms: drone, drones, counter-drone, counter-drones, unmanned aerial system, unmanned aerial systems, UAS, counter-UAS, unidentified aircraft, unidentified aerial, unidentified flying, unknown aircraft, UFO, and anomalous. The FOIA requests were for communications ranging from December 15, 2019, through January 18, 2020. The requests were filed on January 18, 2020, and were fulfilled on February 14.
In one heavily censored email the confusion of officials shows noting the situation is becoming severe.
“[Redacted] — understand you’re part of the FBI TF [task force] looking at this? Pls send me an update,” the email reads. “This is becoming a bigger deal. What’s our PA [public affairs] play here right now WRT [with regards to] this (ongoing drone) effort?”
In another email, confusion is expressed by an unknown sender who asks their superior if there are any operations ongoing.
Northeastern Colorado is in a tizzy about drone sightings. They all seem clustered in an area that has quite a few Minuteman sites. Do you know if security forces is playing with UASs [unmanned aircraft systems] up there?
In a third email that question above is answered within the 90th Security Forces Group FOIA release dated January 8, 2020. The group states that the drones are “100000000000% not us.”
“I’ve seen some articles pointing the finger as us,” the sender writes, “but I can definitely say this is not our team.”
However, emails depict this could be a defense system being tested. With the subject line “Autonomous Base Defense System,” the sender discusses there was a capabilities demonstration (“capes demo”) at an unknown military base:
Good morning sir,
Since this capes demo they have continued to develop and field their systems. To that end, they just successfully completed a very high visibility demonstration at [Redacted] that is continuing to drive interest and deployment of the system [Redacted] as well as a one-month long combat validation deployment to [Redacted] that was so successful they are now deploying four additional systems in country on a permanent basis.
The [Redacted] proposed Jan 15th to come to FEW [F.E. Warren] and provide a brief and answer any questions. I will work with your front office to get it on your calendar.
Another message states that engineers from an unknown organization would be on base on January 17 to lead a briefing on an unspecified autonomous base defense system:
The lead engineer for [Redacted] will be briefing [Redacted] on Jan 17th @ 1030 in the Wing Conference Room on their autonomous base defense system and associated systems.
The C-UAS section hit me up and said they were attending which is awesome however, this is less about actual blue force sUAS development and more about the system used to detect, track, classify, and identify the threat. [Redacted]
That organization may be Dedrone, an anti-drone company, as another email indicates. However, there is no way to be certain due to the fact that the emails are heavily redacted.
In an email in the F.E. Warren public affairs release writes in the subject line “[Non-DoD Source] Quick question”, the author asks, “Do you know if security forces is playing with UASs up there?”
Another purported follow up email with the same subject line responds, “I believe this is the Dedrone contract.”
Perhaps one of the strangest emails found in the 90th Security Forces Group release, states that the “drones” appeared to be dropping “potatoes” according to media reports. The unknown sender adds that the Perkins County Sheriff’s Office collected some of these “potatoes” for analysis:
Sheriff’s deputies are responding and seeing the drones as well. They reported seeing a “mothership” 6’ in diameter flanked by 10 smaller drones (some fixed wing, some not). When deputies follow the drones, they clock them at speeds of 60-70 mph. The drones also appear to be dropping or picking up things that look like “potatoes” [Redacted]
The FBI in Colorado and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Omaha are currently looking into the sightings. Perkins County Sherriff’s [sic] Office has three of the potatoes frozen in storage and will likely transfer them to the FBI for analysis. The FAA is sending an agent to Colorado this upcoming weekend to help investigate and handle the news coverage.
Someone else retorts: “The “potatoes” have an agricultural purpose and are used by farmers with their large center pivot irrigation systems.”
However, a report by the Denver Post stated the “potatoes” were actually SOILPAM Tracklogs, a tool that is used to help fill the trenches left by wheels on large irrigation systems.
One email within the 90th Security Forces Group FOIA release, dated January 16 even blames Starlink satellites as being responsible for the sighting:
Sir, BLUF [Bottom Line Up Front]: We have a high degree of confidence that the on-base visual phenomenon was not sUAS [small Unmanned Aircraft Systems] activity; it is likely this was a result of the [Redacted].
BACKGROUND: [Redacted]. It uses passive, library based RF detection capability in order to locate sUAS activity. It has a very high degree of accuracy and we have tested it extensively since June 2018. We receive regular hits of sUAS activity (daily) but nothing that is on the installation or over our specific area of interest.
DISCUSSION: [Redacted] did detect some activity in the area but nothing near the installation (at least 3km away). These detections were not out of the ordinary. After reviewing the photography and doing some quick research, the pictures are consistent with [Redacted] satellites. The last launch was 6 Jan 2020 which contained 60 satellites. These satellites are visible by the naked eye as they trust [sic] to their parking orbit altitude of 550km which usually takes a few weeks; they look like a string of lights in the night sky. Based on hobbist satellite tracking website, a string of [Redacted] satellites were in the area last night.
In another exchange about how to respond to media inquiries, an unknown sender writes, “We need to ensure he doesn’t feel like we are hiding anything.” On the following page in the same release, following the statement “we do not know the origin of the drones,” another person inserts: “#aliens.”
In an official press statement on January 17, after receiving input from Major General Ferdinand ‘Fred’ B. Stoss III, commander of 20th Air Force, F.E. Warren Air Force Base released the following statement:
We can confirm that the drones spotted in Colorado and Nebraska are not from F.E. Warren Air Force Base and are not affiliated in any way with the United States Air Force. We have provided this information to the FAA, FBI, and state and local authorities, as they investigate this matter.
The drones have not posed a threat to any of our sites, facilities or operations.
F.E. Warren AFB does conduct counter-UAS training within the confines of the installation, however, any drones spotted outside of the installation are not part of our fleet.
The emails also purportedly included redacted images of the aircrafts. For more information and to see additional emails, read the full release by The Drive available here.
With emails depicting confusion within the Air Force itself, we are left even more perplexed than before. One thing is clear: the Air Force was involved in the investigation despite outlets like Vice seeming to have suggested otherwise in reports.
“As you can imagine this activity has gained the attention of our Commander here at NORAD and USNORTHCOM,” a 90th Security Forces Group email from January 7 reads. “We are fully engaged as well with our FBI and DHS representatives here.”
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