“Strange” Lights over SWFL Update

Hats off to NBC 2 in Ft Myers.  After taking a light-hearted approach to their initial story of people reporting “strange” lights off the southwest Florida coast, the station actually followed up on the story today with more solid investigation.

Homestead Air Reserve Base, which is located near Miami, is taking credit for the light show.  A spokesman for the base says they were conducting flare training exercises, which are required on a quarterly basis.  Homestead Air Reserve Base operates F-16 fighter aircraft, which employ flare counter measures.  Additional witness photos and video give a fuller picture and do seem to show flares.

In order to maintain operational currency, Air Force pilots are required to complete a certain number of training events within certain timeframes which are airframe-specific.  For example, they must log a certain number of instruments approaches in order to maintain instrument currency.  Fighter pilots must additionally complete a certain amount of fighter-specific training events, including training in use of countermeasures.

There are designated Warning Areas off the Florida coast in the area where people reported these lights.  The Air Force prefers to practice with flares over water, particularly after setting a brush fire a few years ago touched off by a flare.

While they’re called “flares,” most people don’t understand the type of flares we’re talking about bear almost no resemblance to the roadside flares with which most people are familiar.  Instead, aircraft use specially-designed, very sophisticated flares as countermeasures against missiles.  Very simply, most missiles are looking for the heat signature given off by an aircraft’s engine(s).  The missile can be “fooled” if another “hotter” heat signature appears.  That’s what flares are designed to do – “trick” the missiles.  As I learned doing some additional research today, in recent years flares have become even more technologically advanced in order to keep up with advances in missile seeker head technology.  In order to defeat newer missiles which employ sensors that can “see” color, today’s flares are “multispectral” flares which change color as they burn.

Finally, the timeframe during which these lights were observed turns out to be much shorter than originally implied.  It’s now reported the people saw the lights around 2120 for only “several minutes.”  This time frame is consistent with fighters ejecting flares in order to “check the box” and complete a quarterly training requirement.

Given all this, I’m very comfortable with the explanation that these lights were in fact flares from F-16s operating in designated military training areas.  Considering the (now obvious) likelihood of people seeing these flares and misidentifying them, Homestead should have notified the media in advance.  I chalk this up to someone not thinking as opposed to some sort of secret squirrel conspiracy.

Case closed.

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One Response to ““Strange” Lights over SWFL Update”

  1. fmbeachbum1 Says:

    Great update, I’ve been hoping for more info on this story for a month now…, I watched the entire show (approx. 40 minutes) from near the FMB pier. About a half hour after the first “show”, we saw the lights higher up in the sky and further off to the north, off Sanibel, but only for a few moments and couldn’t really see them too well. A couple of observations to support the notion that the official story is BS. First of all, the lights were very close to shore, we (about a dozen of us who work on the beach everyday) all agreed they were within 10 miles easily, evidenced by comparison to a lighted channel marker directly between us and the lights. Much closer than as seen in the Marco vids. (how far out is the “training area”?) The formations were near perfect in their organization and remained fixed in the sky, as well as fixed in relation to each other. They were not falling, slowly falling, drifting, or otherwise moving in any way as far as any of us could tell. The fixed lighted channel marker was a great reference point for us. There were no planes or helis or boats seen or heard by anyone. The sky was somewhat lit by a half moon and lightning in the distance also illuminated the background sky occasionally. The CG cutter Marlin, out of the FMB CG station, sat anchored within a half mile of the FMB pier all day and night that day which I can’t ever remember seeing before in my nine years of working on the beach. Maybe the CG was controlling some sort of unmanned hovering flares ?????? I wish I could’ve shot video, as our perspective showed the light formations to be very controlled, organized, and near shore. Aliens? Doubtful, but as usual the official explanation regarding F16s and falling flares….is total BS.

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