Jul 24, 2021 I Brent Swancer

The Bizarre Northern California-Oregon F-15 UFO Incident

There have been many UFO incidents over the years, involving a wide range of phenomena that cover the spectrum from the explainable to the full-on bizarre. Some of the more intriguing UFO incidents are those that involve reliable witnesses and radar and military confirmation, and these are the cases that really make the imagination go wild. One such case played out in 2017 over Northern California and Oregon, involving an airborne intruder that baffled pilots and radar crews, and which would actually be engaged by F-15 fighter jets.

On October 25, 2017, a very strange, almost surreal series of events would play out in the skies near the California-Oregon border, in the United States. At approximately 4:30 p.m. an object was picked up by radar operators flying at an altitude of 37,000 feet and travelling “very fast.” At the time it was broad daylight and whatever the aircraft was, it was dangerously zipping through an area with heavy air traffic, yet it was not emitting any transponder signals, did not respond to attempts to establish radio contact, was completely silent, and according to all records was not supposed to be there. It would later turn out that the Air Force had also been tracking the object as it sped southward, and eyewitnesses who saw it said it was a “large white object.” The object flew directly into heavy air traffic going the opposite direction, being sighted by numerous airline pilots who made panicked calls to ground control, before abruptly changing course to head northbound and disappear from radar altogether.

Although the thing had vanished from radar, for the next 30 minutes there were panicked calls from various airliners reporting the mysterious, fast-moving object, over a range of hundreds of miles, while both the FAA and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) were trying to figure out what to do. No one seems to have been able to get a good look at the thing, merely describing it as large, white, and very fast, but details such as what sort of aircraft it might be were elusive, and it moved too fast and never stayed in one place long enough for anyone to get a clear visual. However, it was obvious from the harried recordings that would later be released that these pilots did not think it was any normal aircraft, with one exclaiming “That looks crazy!” It would also be described as making maneuvers that were beyond what a normal airliner would have been capable of, making turns of which one witness would say were “Way harder/faster than what a commercial aircraft could handle at that speed/altitude without ripping the wings off." One Southwest Airlines pilot remark that would be gleaned from audio recordings of the pilot accounts procured through Freedom of Information Act requests made by the site The War Zone, who first broke the story, would say of his own sighting:

If it was like a Lear (private jet) type airframe I probably would not have seen it this clear. This was a white airplane and it was big. And it was moving at a clip too, because we were keeping pace with it, it was probably moving faster than we were... It was a larger aircraft yeah.

Throughout all of this, although visual sightings were pouring in, radar operators could not get a lock on it. The object was also maintaining complete radio silence, ignoring all attempts to hail it, and also did not show up on crews' digital traffic collision avoidance systems (TCAS). It was all very odd and unsettling, to the point that F-15s from the 142nd Fighter Wing based at Portland International Airport were scrambled to go investigate. From here it gets even stranger, because the fighters would first head south, despite the fact that the mystery object was reported as heading north, for reasons unknown. Also strange is that the F-15s would report not being able to find the object at all. The War Zone would say of the F-15 incident:

The F-15s first appear on radar as they climb out of Portland to the south at time index 33:33 as "Rock" flight—a common callsign used for the alert F-15s stationed at PDX. Alaska 439 asks for an update on the unidentified aircraft and the controller notes they still have nothing on him, saying colloquially that it must be in a kind of "stealth mode or something." It's also interesting that the F-15s first went south when it seems as if the object would have been north of PDX by the time they finally launched.


NORAD also said that the incident did result in F-15s from Portland being scrambled to investigate, but by the time they got up and "looked around" the mystery aircraft couldn't be found. A quick note on the fighter jet aspect of this story—the 142nd Fighter Wing operates F-15Cs upgraded with the most capable air-to-air radar set in the world (AN/APG-63V3) and Sniper advanced targeting pods for long-rang visual identification. Their pilots are some of the best in the world and are highly trained in the homeland air defense mission. Once in the air the F-15s are capable of traversing the entire state of Oregon in just a matter of minutes if need be, so if they were launched promptly it seems unlikely they wouldn't have been able to intercept the aircraft being pointed out by commercial pilots over Southern Oregon. The fact that they "didn't find anything" is surprising to say the least. Maybe this was due to the nature of the aircraft being searched for, or the possibility that they launched long after it was first sighted, or that we simply aren't being told the whole story.

The War Zone confirmed that all of this did indeed happen, with much recorded evidence of the conversations between the airliners, ground control, the FAA, and NORAD, as well as radio exchanges and pilot interviews, although there are parts of the audio that have been redacted, going mute in several places regarding responses to requests for information about the military’s activities, showing that indeed we may not be being told the whole story. Indeed, the FAA and NORAD have stated that they have nothing left to add, merely confirming that the incident happened and refusing to say much else on the matter, while the 142nd Fighter Wing has said nothing on the matter at all, neither confirming or denying anything. Clearly there had to have ben some follow up investigation, as this was an unidentified aircraft that does not show up on radar, acting very strangely in U.S. airspace in an area with heavy commercial air traffic for an extended period of time and able to evade F-15 fighter planes. It is a breach on national security at the very least, so it must have stirred the hornet’s nest among the military, but as to what this follow-up investigation turned up, it is currently unknown. It is all very intriguing, with tons of very reliable witnesses, with The War Zone saying:

Collectively these materials give us incredible insight not only into this incident, but also into how such an event is actually handled in real-time by those who are responsible for the safety of those in the air and those on ground below. What they don't offer is any sort of an explanation for what happened on that fall evening. But really, the fact that all those involved, from air traffic controllers, to Air Force radar operators, to airline pilots, and even special FAA officials tasked with responding to all types of out of the ordinary incidents that occur in the sky on a daily basis seem just as puzzled with this event as we are makes the story all that much more intriguing.

Considering that there is not much more information to go on, we are forced to speculate on what could have been going on here, with all sorts of theories flying since the report broke. One idea is that the military was testing some sort of top-secret experimental aircraft, perhaps a next generation stealth bomber, but if that is true, then it seems like a strange choice to do it among heavy civilian airline traffic in broad daylight. If this was some sort of classified test, then why do that? Also, why allow it to show up on radar at all? Another idea is that this might have been illegal drug runners trying to move contraband across the Canadian border. This would explain the radio silence, but does not explain how they could perform the maneuvers they did, or how they could just disappear from radar. Drug runners would also be more likely to fly at lower altitudes, and it has been pointed out that it would probably be easier to conduct a drug run over land across the border rather than using an aircraft. Of course there is also the idea that this was aliens, and the case has been popular among UFO nuts. In the end, we just don't know. All we know is that the incident did happen, something went speeding across the sky to baffle pilots, radar operators, and military officials, but what that might have been is anyone's guess.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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