War Games Mistaken for UFOs
By John Hopkins
From The Cincinnati Enquirer
From Kenny Young <task@FUSE.NET>

They saw it over the skies of Wilmington, Loveland and Mount Healthy and as far south as Maysville, Ky.
Lights flashed in a synchronized pattern. A huge orange fireball disappeared, then reappeared. Smaller objects moved in a triangular formation. Below, neighborhood dogs barked.
In Maysville, Jamie Orme noticed the activity in the sky that night in March 1997. It lasted, he said, no more than two minutes. "I was astonished at what I saw," Mr. Orme said at the time. "They were little balls of white light that appeared and disappeared. Sometimes one, sometimes three or six little white balls of light in the distance."
Officials at the Ohio Air National Guard in Springfield have confirmed that Tristate residents have indeed seen colorful objects in the sky and may very well see them again.
But they weren't UFOs.
Military dog-fight maneuvers over the skies of Southern Ohio -- which usually go unnoticed -- happen on a regular basis. The Air National Guard conducts intercept training with F-16 "Falcon" jets and flares in the skies over the region.
In military jargon, airspace very near Cincinnati is called the Buckeye MOA. Though most people have never heard of this or any other MOA -- shorthand for Military Operating Area -- the Buckeye MOA is a hotbed of high-altitude pyrotechnics and all-too-real-looking aerial dogfights.
The training overhead includes air-to-air refueling of F-16s by aerial refueling tankers, dog fights and low-altitude exercises. There are also search-and-rescue exercises.
In fact, similar war games are scattered throughout the Tristate. To the west of Greater Cincinnati, pilots drop bombs on the Jefferson Proving Grounds in Indiana, where the grounds remain littered with 1.5 million rounds of unexploded ammunition.
To the south, Blackhawk helicopters run low-level exercises over Fort Campbell, Ky., near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. From Louisville to Fort Knox, Ky., the C-130 "Hercules" four-engine turboprops -- a transport aircraft -- conduct exercises along Military Training Routes.
On some nights, area residents may look skyward and catch a glimpse of some training missions -- if the skies are clear. What residents were actually seeing last spring were the F-16s' afterburners and flares being ejected from the $17.5 million jet fighters.
The pilots were simulating air-to-air dog fights. And in actual combat, pilots drop hot, glowing flares during enemy confrontations to confuse heat-seeking missiles, said Capt. Neal O'Brian of the Air National Guard in Springfield.
"They eject the flares and typically that's what people see," he said, "a streak of flares that at night burn very bright. It's not uncommon for people all across the country to mistake the flares for some unidentified flying object.
"They might see the aircraft or hear it. More than likely, they will hear it. But the flares take a certain amount of time to burn and that is what they're seeing in the sky."
Mystery in sky
On clear nights, the high-altitude training missions inside the Buckeye MOA -- a large block of air space over an area near Cincinnati, Springfield, Columbus and Portsmouth -- startle many Greater Cincinnati residents.
That was the case in March 1997.
In Loveland, Ohio, Jake Ashcraft reported seeing a "main object" and smaller objects in a triangular formation in the sky. He said the main object was "absolutely huge" and that many people "had to have seen it."
Mr. Orme of Maysville, Ky., said what he saw did not appear to be military maneuvers. "At first, it looked like an asteroid and fireball, then it slowed down and came to a halt."
Air National Guard officials said there is no mystery to the sightings -- the military exercises have been conducted for decades. The afterburners of a climbing F-16 give an appearance of something hovering.
Pilots at the 178th Fighter Wing in Springfield spend an average of six hours a day flying in the Buckeye MOA, said Capt. Ann-Maria Coghlin, public affairs officer for the 178th Fighter Wing. They spend an average of 30 minutes a day training in a low-altitude training area called the Brush Creek MOA, which is within the larger Buckeye MOA, she said.
Maj. Brian MacLeod of the 178th Fighter Wing, recalled the night that area residents got a rare glimpse of the air-to-air combat and maneuvers.
"It was kind of a funny night," he said. "Most of the calls we got came out of Columbus."
The jet flares actually burn bright white when they are ejected from the jets, he said. But when viewed from ground level and at a distance, the flares appear to flicker and burn orange because of pollution in the air, Maj. MacLeod said.
Restricted air space
Exercises in the Buckeye MOA are conducted at altitudes above 5,000 feet. Supersonic flight is done at 35,000 feet, about seven miles above ground, said Maj. MacLeod.
"We try to be very, very noise-conscious because people live down there," he said.
Some civilian pilots -- unaware of these areas -- have flown their small planes into the training spaces. It is a dangerous way to get an up-close view. Aeronautical charts warn pilots of the many restricted training areas throughout the country.
"MOAs are places typically where aircrafts practice maneuvers," said Maj. Ken MacNevin of the National Guard Bureau in Alexandria, Va. "We have special use areas, so that other aircrafts know to be aware."
In the United States, there are 388 MOAs, said William Shumann, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C. There are also much smaller Restricted Areas (RAs) scattered throughout the region, as well as Military Training Routes (MTRs). The MTRs "tend to be more like corridors, certain distances above the ground. They also loop around communities, wildlife refuges and other sensitive areas," said Maj. MacNevin.
The restricted areas, such as the nearby Jefferson Proving Grounds, are used by the military for air-to-ground target training. Almost all the units in the region routinely deploy to wherever the Air Force is conducting operations, making it vital that pilots receive ongoing training, said Maj. MacNevin.
End of article
Interesting to note the skew that Hopkins delivers to the piece, conveniently disregarding viable information conflicting with the flare theory. Hopkins contacted me three times in March and April of 1997 regarding this piece, so he was aware of the discrepancies against the flare theory, yet selectively chose to delete that data.
Yesterday, I spoke with Hopkins about the article, which took over one year before appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer (recenly troubled by the Chiquita calamity involving reporter Michael Gallagher), and reporter John Hopkins said that the editors of The Cincinnati Enquirer simply wanted some "Fourth of July Fluff" to run in their newspaper, which is why this story was a banner headline and appeared at all. I also expressed that it was within my rights to complain that Hopkins had utilized my research for his piece, to which I was given no reference or attribution.
I left Hopkins and his editors a letter to mull over afterward.
Kenny Young Cincinnati, OH
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