Event Date: 05.15.1999
Investigator: Chuck Reever
Disposition: UNKNOWN UAV
In the summer of 1999, I was a F/A-18 pilot flying with a tanker escort to Rota Spain. Our mission was to move 12 of our aircraft to support NATO Operations in combat missions against the Serbian armed forces in Kosovo.
While flying across the Atlantic with a block altitude of FL260-FL290 and approximately 900 nm west of the Azores I had my radar scanning the ocean for ships. I had the radar running in SEA mode to track ships. This mode will give us a contact on the radar display and also a vector of the direction of travel and its speed. My radar picked up a contact 80 nm in front of my aircraft and 20 degrees to the right.
What struck me, was this contact was at 3,000 feet and tracking slowly east at about 10-50 knots. That was very unusual. I watched it for a few moments changing direction and altitude as low as 1,000 feet. I decided to try to lock the object with my radar. I put the radar back in air to air mode and I got a steady lock at 60 nm but what happened from there was truly shocking. The object started to accelerate and climb. Within 13 seconds, which is a full sweep of the Hornet APG-73 radar, the object went to over 1,000 knots and climbed to 70,000 feet and still climbing. My radar continued its lock until the object gimbaled the radar and I lost contact. This object reacted to my radar and it appeared to know that it was being tracked. The radar was fully functional. I never saw the object but it did come close to me, less than 20 nm, as it accelerated and climbed. The weather was cloudy with about three miles of visibility.
As a highly trained fighter pilot, I know that this was not a radar anomaly. I was in shock that this happened. I did not tell anyone in the flight for fear of ridicule. My background was an F/A-18 pilot and flew F-16's with the Air National Guard. It has been some time, but I remember this experience as if it was yesterday.