The five men share an easy rapport with each other, playfully ribbing one another while also communicating a deep sense of mutual respect. It's clear they all share the bond of having once served in the armed forces. Yet for Gary Voorhis, Jason Turner, P.J. Hughes, Ryan Weigelt, and Kevin Day—assembled together in a private group chat by Popular Mechanics—something much bigger ties them together beyond simply serving in the U.S. Navy.
These men also share a connection of being witnesses to one of the most compelling UFO cases in modern history: the Nimitz UFO Encounters, an event that the Navy recently confirmed indeed involved "unidentified aerial phenomena."
Largely overshadowed by a grainy black-and-white video, and a former Topgun fighter pilot eyewitness, these veterans offer new and intriguing details on what occurred with the Navy's Strike Carrier Group-11 as it sailed roughly 100 miles off the Southern California coast in 2004—details that a former career intelligence agent who investigated the Nimitz Encounter while at the Pentagon can neither confirm, deny, or even discuss with Popular Mechanics.
Ultimately, these five men—the "other" Nimitz witnesses—could be key to understanding an event that a leading aviation defense expert says "likely wasn't ours."
So whose was it?
Stationed on the USS Princeton, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, as the Nimitz carrier group went underway in early November 2004 for a routine training exercise, this would be the last time former Petty Officer 3rd Class Gary Voorhis would set sail aboard a Navy vessel.
Having already done almost six years in the Navy, including two combat tours, Voorhis was ready to transition to life outside the world of passionless grey metal hulls and vast leavening seas.
"The group was going to be deploying in a few months and there was a bunch of new systems, like the Spy-1 Bravo radar," Voorhis tells Popular Mechanics. "It was really about getting all the kinks out."
While chatting with some of the Princeton's radar techs, Voorhis says he heard they were getting "ghost tracks" and "clutter" on the radars. For Voorhis, the Princeton's only system technician for the state-of-the-art Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and AEGIS Combat System, news of these systems possibly malfunctioning was especially concerning.
Fearing the ship's brand new AN/SPY-1B passive radar system was malfunctioning, Voorhis says the air control systems were taken down and recalibrated in an effort to clear out—what's assumed to be false radar returns.