Description: In the evening hours of December 9, 2017 several witnesses across several states saw lines of red and white lights. The list of states in the approximate order in which the lights appeared are as follows: Florida; South Carolina; Illinois; Missouri; Kansas; Colorado; Utah; Wyoming; Montana; Idaho; Washington; and California. Both the National UFO Reporting Center and Mutual UFO Network received several reports. UFOs Northwest also received several reports. Click here to view UFOs Northwest sightings.
The media and U.S. Air Force explained the mass sightings as due to a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (JFEX) in which 37 C-17 Globemaster III and 21 C-130 Hercules airlifters took off for Nevada from a dozen bases around the U.S. The simulated mission was to get into enemy territory and drop U.S. paratroopers. The drops were made to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). Additional aircraft including F-15 and F-16 fighter jets flew support missions against the mock opposing forces.
An analysis was conducted of these sightings specifically for the state of Montana. Twelve reports were received in Montana from 6 PM to 8:45 PM MDT. The list and times of Montana sightings including the noted direction of movement of the lights are in table below.
|Three Forks||8:05 PM||30 Blinking Red & White Lights||East||Clear|
|Dillon||8 PM||Red & Silver Lights Big & Round||East Then Northeast||Clear|
|Dillon||8 PM||Large Object Blinking Red Lights||East||Clear|
|Laurel||8:25 PM||20 Red Lights Semi Straight Line||South-Southwest||Clear|
|Laurel||8:45 PM||Flashing Red Lights in Line||East Then South||Clear|
|Livingston||8:30 PM||12 Flashing Red Lights in Line||East||Clear|
|Anaconda||8:30 PM||15 Moving Red Blinking Lights||Northeast||Clear|
|Helena||8:23 PM||Line 30 Flashing Red Lights||Southeast||Mostly Cloudy Visibility 3 MI|
|Billings||6:30 PM||Flashing Lights No Noise||South||Clear|
|Billings||8:18 PM||Line of Lights Blinking||South||Clear|
|Bozeman||8 PM||Line 2 dozen Blinking Red Lights||East||Clear|
|Townsend||6 PM||10 Flashing Red Lights||East||Clear|
The direction of movements varied, but most had an easterly component. Two reported a northeasterly movement and four noted a southerly component.
An inquiry was made to the 120th Airlift Wing (Montana Air National Guard) in Great Falls to see if they participated in the above exercise. The public information officer stated that the Guard had no flights on December 9, 2017. The Air Force and media reports stated that aircraft were launched from 12 bases around the country. Given that Montana did not participate could any of the lights be due to over flights from other bases? This is quite unlikely. (See radar results below.)
When we first learned of the extensive sightings a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was written to the FAA to obtain radar data for western and central Montana. If C-17 and/or C-130 aircraft were airborne over Montana, the radar data would show it. Also unknown (UFO) returns could also support the sightings. Unfortunately the FAA did not provide the extent of data that we requested.
The map below shows aircraft tracks and tracks of unknown objects in Montana for December 9, 2017 from 8 PM to 9 PM MST. The red arrows denote known aircraft and the gray arrows denote unknown (UFO) returns.
According to the media reports and the Air Force, the air-lift craft delivered paratroopers to the (NTTR) in Nevada. The above radar map shows no aircraft flying towards Nevada. Only one witness report in Montana noted that the lights were moving to the south. The radar map clearly shows commercial aircraft. Most aircraft were flying to the west and northwest and one was flying to the east-southeast. A few of these craft were losing altitude and likely landed at Montana airports. Most were likely en-route to Seattle, Portland or Canada from Midwest and eastern U.S. airports.
Also none of the aircraft had beacon codes used by military aircraft. The aircraft beacon sends a signal to the radar so the operator knows what aircraft it is (e.g. Delta Airlines Flight 22). The code is assigned when the pilot files a flight plan.
Radar also showed a large group of unknown returns moving slowly south-southeast at around 35 MPH. These returns were nearest Townsend and Three Forks. These were two of the witness locations noted in the above table. The Townsend sighting was 6 PM so it couldn’t have been the radar returns, but the Three Forks sighting was at 8:05 PM which was fits the time-frame of the returns. However, the movement of the returns does not fit the sighting observation at Three Forks. The above map shows the unknown returns (coded in gray).
Below is a zoomed map of the unknown returns. The map shows each individual radar return. The returns represent an erratic slow moving object. The general movement vector was to the South-Southeast, but the object moved back and forth several times. Also the object would appear on successive radar antenna scans, but then would appear at times on every 2nd or 3rd scan. The movement does not fit any of the sighting reports in the above table, but is indicative that something unusual was happening. Also the radar request that we received only covers a small percentage of the sighting area that we originally requested. Perhaps more unknown returns would have been found had the radar coverage been more extensive? Helena, MT was 48 miles to the Northwest of where the returns started at 8:01 PM MST. Bozeman, MT was 21 miles to the South-Southwest of when the returns vanished from the radar screen at 8:23 PM MST.
On December 9, 2017 several witnesses in several states saw lines of red and white lights. Some witnesses reported blinking and others saw solid lights. Most reports in Montana involved blinking or flashing lights. This analysis was focused on Montana where 12 sightings were reported. Media outlets and the U.S. Air Force stated that the sightings were due to an airlift exercise involving transport of paratroopers to the NTTR using C-17 and C-130 aircraft. An inquiry to the 120th Airlift Wing in Great Falls revealed that no military craft were in the air on Dec 9, 2017. Therefore no bases in Montana were involved in the above exercise.
We believe that it is unlikely that any of the sightings in Montana (and most the sightings in the rest of the U.S.) were due to conventional aircraft. Witnesses reported lights in a line which are not characteristic of regular aircraft. The lights also were moving quite slow. Radar in Montana showed that the aircraft were quite likely commercial jetliners going back and forth from Canada and the Pacific Northwest from airports in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. Radar did not show any aircraft moving towards Nevada. One group of compelling returns shows an unknown object moving slowly to the south-southeast. Radar data coverage was not sufficient to do a more refined analysis because the FAA did not provide the spatial extent that was requested.
One wonders if the military exercise was a cover for something else going on? Also one week later (Dec 16, 2017) the New York Times revealed that the Pentagon had funded a study on UFO’s. Could this announcement be related to the above sightings?Note to Commenters: If you are reporting a sighting, be sure to include the location (city, state, country), date and time of your sighting. Be detailed in your description. You may also use our UFO report page to report your Montana UFO sighting. Comments will be published if they are in "good taste" and not inflammatory.