Two weeks after dozens of Stephenville, Texas, residents reported seeing strange objects hovering in the night sky, the Navy has announced "our bad!"
Maj. Karl Lewis, spokesman for the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, issued a press release today saying he was mistaken in his original report in which he insisted there were no military exercises in the area on Jan. 8, the night locals reportedly saw the unusual lights.
Lewis, who had originally said he was "90 percent sure" the lights people saw were caused by the setting sun reflecting off a commercial jet, now admits that "10 F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron were performing training operations from 6 to 8 p.m. ... in the Brownwood Military Operating Area (MOA), which includes the airspace above Erath County." An "internal communications oversight" was supposedly the cause of the original misinformation.
According to a local aviation consultant, F-16 operations routinely involve the dropping of flares designed to draw the attention of heat-seeking missiles, the use of which has been proffered by the military as an explanation for other UFO phenomena, like the 1997 Phoenix Lights (Weird Arizona, p.66). Such activity, however, could not be confirmed by Maj. Lewis, who refused to release any details at all about the F-16's maneuvers that night.
Of course, Maj. Lewis's press release is too little, too late for the Mutual UFO Network, whose Texas branch made a visit to Stephenville Saturday the 19th to collect eyewitness reports. Steve Hudgeons, MUFON's senior field investigator for Texas, responded by saying he would like the Navy to repeat the exercise within 24 hours so a comparison can be made with what people saw.
Naturally, that's unlikely to happen. But, on the upside, MUFON's Stephenville investigation resulted in more than 200 UFO reports, more than half of which, says Hudgeons, covered sightings dating back 20 years. This means the Stephenville lights might be an ongoing phenomenon, upping the odds on North Texas establishing a new yoofo hotspot and drawing in those fast-flowing conspiracy dollars.