Several US ships and a commercial cruise ship witnessed the drones. Yet who was operating them and why is still unknown. This isn't a case of a lookout with a great imagination. Witnessed by several ships and for a long duration lends to the credibility of the sightings.
Multiple Destroyers Were Swarmed By Mysterious 'Drones' Off California Over Numerous Nights (thedrive.com)In July of 2019, a truly bizarre series of events unfolded around California’s Channel Islands. Over a number of days, groups of unidentified aircraft, which the U.S. Navy simply refers to as ‘drones’ or 'UAVs,' pursued that service's vessels, prompting a high-level investigation.
During the evening encounters, as many as six aircraft were reported swarming around the ships at once. The drones were described as flying for prolonged periods in low-visibility conditions, and performing brazen maneuvers over the Navy warships near a sensitive military training range less than 100 miles off Los Angeles.
It appears the incidents began with an initial ‘UAV’ sighting by the USS Kidd around 10:00 PM on the night of July 14th, 2019.
For its part, the logs of the USS John Finn simply reported possible UAV activity, and deactivation of the ship's AIS transponder system. Shortly after the initial sighting, a red flashing light was spotted.
Among the more dramatic entries in the logs from this incident is the one below from the USS Rafael Peralta, describing a white light hovering over the ship's flight deck. the encounter had lasted over 90 minutes—significantly longer than what commercially available drones can typically sustain.
By 9:00 PM, the USS Kidd had also spotted the drones and again deployed its SNOOPIE team. The drones seem to have pursued the ships, even as they continued to maneuver throughout the incident.
Meanwhile, the USS Rafael Peralta received a radio call from a passing cruise ship, the Carnival Imagination, notifying them that the drones are not theirs, and that they also see as many as five or six drones maneuvering nearby:
Investigators next sought to rule out the possibility that the drones were operated by the Navy itself. By Tuesday of the following week, a representative from the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) based in San Diego clarified that UAVs were only operated by the Navy in certain limited areas.
It is unclear why anyone would operate drones near Navy warships in such a brazen manner. Commercially available drones are not commonly capable of flying for such long durations across great distances with speeds in excess of 45 miles an hour. Based on the pooled data available from the deck logs, we estimate the drones traversed at least 100 nautical miles in the July 14th incident.
Furthermore, the drones were able to locate and catch a destroyer traveling at 16 knots in conditions with less than one nautical mile of visibility. Equally baffling, their operators appear to have coordinated at least five to six drones simultaneously. Then there is the question of line-of-sight control, and control methods in general, which make the capabilities described all that much more puzzling.