While a column of troops in armored vehicles stay back, a mysterious triangular aircraft hovers in the distance. Suddenly, flashes appear from its lower fuselage and massive explosions just below engulf the craft in a plume of debris.
“That was f****g badass!” an enthusiastic servicemember shouts in the aftermath.
Another day in Afghanistan … another top secret American drone taking out a Taliban position.
Or maybe not. Although the YouTube video entitled “UFO ATTACKS TALIBAN CAMP!!! March 2014” has spread across the Internet in the last few days, a former bomber pilot and an expert on U.S. drone operations both told Stars and Stripes it’s a clear hoax.
“The video is pretty funny,” said Samuel J. Brannen, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who specializes in drones and other unmanned military systems.
For one thing, the purported aircraft is far too close to the target, putting it in danger both from ground fire and from the blast of its weapons.
“I can’t think of a pilot I know who would want to be that close to the target once they dropped ordnance,” he said. “Unless it is both unmanned and you really don’t care about what happens to it, why be that close?”
Jordan Thomas, a B-1 bomber pilot who retired from the Air Force as a colonel early this year, pointed out a mismatch between the apparent gunshots from the craft and the effect on the ground.
“The ‘flashes of light’ from the craft do not seem congruent with the magnitude and directions of the explosions,” Thomas, now a non-resident fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said in an email to Stars and Stripes. “The explosions appear more likely to be caused by a series of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) going from left to right rather than being the result of the flashes from the craft going from right to left.”
Thomas pointed to another video on YouTube, noting a seemingly identical column of vehicles and explosion, if reversed.
Brannen said in the video, the aircraft itself appears fuzzy and jumps around in the frame, while the rest of the video appears fairly sharp and in focus, he said.
“I just don’t think the physics of it work very well,” he said.
What the video likely shows, he said, is a real airstrike from America’s recent wars, with a crude computer-generated addition.
“It could have been a B-1 far overhead, it could have been a B-52, it could have been coming from an AC-130,” he said. “It could have been all kinds of things. Minus the strange flying UAV, the effect that [airstrike] created on the battlefield is real.”
The Pentagon Itself has declined to comment on the veracity of the video.
The final nail in the coffin of the video, however, is another Youtube video that Thomas said his wife unearthed.
It’s the same footage used in the purported UFO video, except it hasn’t been flipped horizontally. The same series of explosions occurs, but there’s no hovering UFO.
“There’s nothing I know of that can do anything like what’s shown in that video,” he said.