U.S. military officials said Wednesday that fighter jets were training in a rural area the night of Jan. 8 when dozens of people reported seeing a UFO.
Although officials at the Naval Air Station Reserve Base in Fort Worth initially said none of their planes were in the area of the UFO reports, they changed their story Wednesday, saying that 10 F-16 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp. were training near Stephenville, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) southwest of Fort Worth, about the time of the sightings.
But, some residents say the military's revelation actually bolsters their claims because several reported seeing at least two fighter jets chasing an object.
"This supports our story that there was UFO activity in that area," said Kenneth Cherry, the Texas director of the Mutual UFO Network, which took more than 50 reports from locals at a meeting last weekend. "I find it curious that it took them two weeks to 'fess up. I think they're feeling the heat from the publicity."
Several dozen people swear that what they saw was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground than an airplane. They also said the object's lights changed configuration, unlike those of a plane.
"I guarantee that what we saw was not a civilian aircraft," Steve Allen, a pilot and freight company owner, said Wednesday.
Allen said that the fighter jets' training area in the Brownwood Military Operating Area, which includes Stephenville's Erath County, is not in the airspace where he saw the object. Also, Jan. 8 was not the only day sightings were reported.
Anne Frazor, who owns a fabric store in Stephenville said many in town have seen military aircraft zoom overhead from time to time as part of training operations. But she said that is different than what she saw Jan. 8.
"I couldn't begin to say what it was, but to me it wasn't planes," Frazor said.
Since the reported sightings two weeks ago, the 17,000-resident town has had some fun with the international publicity. Some high-schoolers made T-shirts that read "Stephenville: the new Roswell" on the front and "They're here for the milk!" on the back. A picture features flying saucer beaming up a cow.
The U.S. Air Force says it has not investigated UFO sightings since 1969 when it ended Project Blue Book, which examined more than 12,600 reported UFO sightings — including 700 that were never explained. That program started a few months after a 1947 crash near Roswell, N.M., which the government said involved a top-secret weather balloon but others involved later said was an alien spacecraft.
"What we want is the government to admit there are UFOs and what they know about them," Cherry said.