Graves told show correspondent Bill Whitaker that his F/A-18F Super Hornet squadron began detecting UFOs southeast of Virginia Beach in 2014. The squadron had just upgraded their jets' radar, making it possible to zero in with infrared cameras.
One encounter that his squadron recorded on video involved an aircraft hovering over Jacksonville, Florida in 2015. Pilots speaking in the video could be heard saying, "Look at that thing, it's rotating! My gosh! They're all going against the wind, the wind's 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing, dude."
Graves, who served for the Navy for over a decade, admitted that his squadron regularly spotted such objects "every day for at least a couple of years." (Related: Navy pilots recall encounters with "fleet of UFOs" from 2014 to 2015.)
The retired lieutenant thinks that UFOs are a threat to national security but acknowledges that they might be something else. He noted that other pilots speculated UFOs were one of three things – a secret American technology, an enemy's spy plane or something out of this world.
"I would say the highest probability is it's a threat observation program," he said, adding that UFOs could be Chinese or Russian technology.
He turned critical when asked whether the presence of UFOs in restricted U.S. airspace worries him: "If these were tactical jets from another country that were hanging out up there, it would be a massive issue. But because it looks slightly different, we're not willing to actually look at the problem in the face. We're happy to just ignore the fact that these are out there, watching us every day."
The Department of Defense (DOD) has a special unit dedicated to UFO research. Called the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, the unit was established last August to gain insights into the nature and origins of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – the Pentagon's preferred term for UFOs.
The task force was the successor of the shadowy Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which operated from 2007 to 2012 in secret. The existence of the AATIP was never known to the public until The New York Times reported about it in 2017.
Luis Elizondo, who headed the AATIP during its last two years, also sat with Whitaker on the same episode. When asked to confirm whether UFOs are real, he replied that the government itself stated for the record that UFOs exist. What remains unanswered is what these objects and what their intentions and capabilities are, he said, noting that some sightings are unexplained.
Some of the aircraft that Elizondo encountered in his investigations were able to perform exceptional feats: "Imagine a technology that can do 6-to-700 g-forces, that can fly at 13,000 miles an hour, that can evade radar and that can fly through air and water and possibly space." He added that these aircraft also had no obvious signs of propulsion yet were able to defy the natural effects of gravity.
Those that were classified as unidentified were examined closely before being given that designation, he said: "We're not just simply jumping to a conclusion that's saying, 'Oh, that's a UAP out there.'"
Elizondo said that the Pentagon did not take his findings seriously. And while he continued to investigate UAPs for the DOD years after the AATIP folded, he decided to quit in 2017 out of frustration. One of his last accomplishments was declassifying the three UAP videos that the Pentagon made public last year.
Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, leaked those videos to the New York Times in the same year. He told Whitaker during the episode that he was concerned nothing was being done about UAPs.
"It's bizarre and unfortunate that someone like myself has to do something like that to get a national security issue like this on the agenda," he said. (Related: Pentagon UFO videos just "tip of the iceberg," says former U.S. government agent.)
At the Capitol, anything related to UFOs were met with skepticism and even ridicule. "There's a stigma on Capitol Hill," Sen. Marco Rubio told Whitaker. "Some of my colleagues are very interested in this topic and some kind of giggle when you bring it up."
Last December, while he was still the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio ordered intel agencies to present Congress an unclassified report on UAPs. The report is due next month and would detail sightings that are "difficult to explain," former Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said last March.
Read more shocking disclosures about UFOs at UFOs.news.