|Occurred : 2/23/2000 17:00 (Entered as : 02/23/2000 17:00)
Reported: 9/26/2003 11:15:12 AM 11:15
Location: Ridgecrest, CA
|Ridgecrest CA Documented 20 Sept., 2003 Sighting of unknown flying craft: Date: Wed 23 Feb. 2000 Time: Late afternoon, estimated about 5PM (Journal entry made at 5:30PM.) Location: Eastern Kern County, near Ridgecrest, CA.
Observer Coordinates: 35deg.,35min N Lat.; 117deg.,42min W Long.
Vehicle Flight Path: Over undeveloped desert, managed by US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The time was late afternoon, about 1 hour before sunset, clear visibility. The day had been blustery - moderate wind, partial cloud cover. I was inside, sitting at my computer when gunshots from a wash about 1/4 mile away diverted my attention. I gazed out my 8'W x 4'H picture window to the south to see if I could see the shooters. My house borders undeveloped BLM desert land; the view is unobstructed except for some low-lying bushes in the foreground. The desert floor slopes gently upward on an alluvial fan for about 2/3 to 3/4 mile, backed by low hills known locally as the Rademachers; a topographical map of the area indicates the crest of the nearest peak is 1.1 mile distant and 430 feet higher in elevation than my vantage point inside my house.
I couldn't see the shooters, but after a few seconds my attention was drawn to a rapidly moving object at the right-hand-side of the window. My first thought in the first fraction of a second was that it was a bird. Quickly I realized it was not a bird, but rather some sort of aircraft. It followed a straight horizontal path - no flapping or deviation which would be typical of birds in flight. We do have soaring birds in this area, but this was obviously no soaring bird either. The object traveled from right to left (generally west to east) across my field of view defined by the window. It was low in altitude, staying below the crest of the hills at all times, so lower and closer to me than the 1.1 mile, 430 foot elevation peak mentioned earlier; but apparently near the base of the hills where they transition to the alluvial fan. So with the aid of the topo map I have been able to make a good estimate of the object's distance and elevation: I estimate it was 2/3 to 3/4 mile distant and no more than 100 - 200 feet above the terrain it was flying over. It is unusual for an aircraft to be flying so low in that area - certainly in violation of FAA regulations.
Since I saw only a profile view at a distance, I can't say much about the appearance of the craft. My sense is it more closely resembled a small private plane than a military jet in size and profile. But it seemed thinner in profile than a private plane. My sense is there was a vertical stabilizer at the rear; I am not very sure of that. I can make a rough guess of the length of the craft. Its angular length was no less than 1/8", no more than 1/4" at arm's length (30"). At an estimated distance of 3/4 mile, this would be equivalent to 16.5 to 30 feet in length for the object or about 23 feet +/-7; at 2/3 mile the estimated object length would be about 21 feet +/-6.
Field of View: My view through the window can be determined quite accurately from the dimensions of the window and my vantage point. It is close to 36 degrees. Scaling this on the topo map yields a distance of about 2500 feet or just under half a mile that the object was in my field of view, assuming a nearly west-to-east flight path near the base of the hills.
Duration of the sighting: This is my worst data point. It was all over in a few seconds. But was it 4 seconds, was it 8? I guess 5 to 6 seconds from when I first noticed the moving object on the west end of my window until it reached the east end. Let us assume a time of 5.5 seconds in my field of view. For a 2500 foot flight path this results in an estimated speed of 455FPS or 310MPH for the craft.
After a short lapse (2 - 4 seconds?) I thought: "I must get outside to see if I can see this thing continue its path." I rushed out of the house to look toward the east (have timed it since - takes about 8 - 10 seconds). I saw no more evidence of the craft, nor was I aware of any aircraft noise in the vicinity. My biggest regret is that I didn't hurry over to see if the shooters had seen the craft. They were closer to it, and of course outside so could have heard sound during its passage. Sadly, I did not attempt to contact them.
Observer is a retired physicist, amateur astronomer and one-time private pilot. He is a long-time resident of the area and is well aquainted with the terrain over which the craft was observed to fly. Observer has 20-20 vision when wearing corrective lenses, was wearing glasses at time of sighting.
NOTE added 23 Sept. 2003: It wasn't until 16 Sept. 2003 while starting to document this sighting that I realized it has characteristics similar to a Tomahawk cruise missile; in other words, perhaps it was a Tomahawk at low altitude. Since the sighting occurred a short distance from the boundaries of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), this may not be an unreasonable hypothesis. A web search revealed several unclassified press releases of Tomahawk flight tests which have terminated at China Lake, but none were found for any time in February 2000.