By Enigma Labs

Commander Chad Underwood is a former U.S. naval flight officer and Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) known for having captured footage depicting a purported UAP incident involving U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group 11 (CSG-11) in 2004. Underwood, who held the rank of Lieutenant at the time of the encounter, has since stated in interviews that he was the originator of the “Tic Tac” nickname popularly associated with the UAP in the video¹. The short piece of footage, often referred to as “Flir1” or simply “Flir”, is one of three videos authorized for release by the Department of Defense in April 2020 depicting objects it characterized as “unidentified”².


In 2004, Underwood (call sign “Nuts”) was a lieutenant on the USS Nimitz with Strike Fighter Squadron 41 (VFA-41), the “Black Aces”³. A United States Navy Strike Fighter Squadron out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, VFA-41 is part of Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) with the call sign “Fast Eagle”, tail code “NG” and flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

The Nimitz Incident

Over the course of several weeks in 2004, the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 11 was involved in radar-visual detection of unidentified aerial vehicles off the Southern California coast during training operations. The detections culminated in an attempted intercept led by pilot Dave Fravor, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, who along with fellow pilot Alex Dietrich and their respective WSOs managed to locate and observe a “whitish” object that was “around 40 feet long and oval in shape” moving erratically over an area of ocean surface that appeared to be churning. The object quickly accelerated and left the vicinity, although it was detected again on radar just minutes later⁴.

As the pilots returned, Underwood said Fravor told him that they “saw something out there, and I want you to go and investigate it. Put your tapes on.”⁵ Underwood’s aircraft had been equipped with the Raytheon Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod, a system equipped with advanced Electro-Optical (EO) and Infra-Red (IR) sensors that “can locate and designate targets day or night at ranges exceeding 40 nautical miles and altitudes surpassing 50,000 feet, outperforming comparable targeting systems.”⁶ According to Underwood, Fravor “did not have a FLIR pod on his aircraft, and he knew that I did.”⁷

When Underwood and his crew reached the area where training exercises were to be conducted, he received a vector from radar operators aboard the USS Princeton with orders to investigate an unidentified target nearby. Underwood said he was able to locate the object on radar, and thereafter obtained a lock on the target with the ATFLIR, at which time it became apparent that it was not a conventional aircraft.⁸

The Tic Tac

Underwood has stated that when he initially located the object and attempted to track and film it, he was confused by its appearance and behavior. “Aircraft have very, very specific infrared signatures that show up on your FLIR pod,” Underwood told interviewer Jeremy Corbell in August 2020. “You cannot mistake it. Whether it’s a 737, another F/A-18, or an enemy aircraft, there are key features… on that infrared pod that identify it as an aircraft.”⁹

Despite having obtained a lock on the object, Underwood was unable to identify it. Underwood said that he was “close enough to the object that I should even be able to tell whether it’s a military aircraft versus a civilian aircraft,” although no such discernible features were apparent while he filmed it. No rotors, tail, or evidence of an exhaust plume or other means of propulsion was detected while Underwood filmed the UAP.¹⁰

While Underwood was locked onto the UAP, he also observed erratic instrumental readings related to the object’s movement. “The heading was erratic. It should be able to tell me your air speed, and also your Mach numbers… it was jumping all over the place.” Although no offensive actions appeared to have been taken by the UAP while he observed it, Underwood says that he observed indications that the UAP was attempting to jam his radar, and that the “Tic Tac jamming us would be considered an act of war.”

“It was offensively jamming us just outside international waters in peacetime operations,” Underwood told Corbell in 2020. “It’s an act of war, and we’re gonna go out there and make ya pay for that. It does have consequences, however that plays itself out.” Underwood also said that recordings from his aircraft’s radar system were obtained at the same time the footage was made. However, this data would likely not be released “for a long time”, according to Underwood, because it comprises an active sensor system that “can be exploited by our enemies if they can see the data that’s on that screen.”¹¹

The “FLIR1” Video

Footage of the UAP obtained during the 2004 incident depicts the object at the center of the screen as Underwood appears to cycle through various settings and configurations on the ATFLIR pod. “That’s why I’m going through all those different modes,” Underwood told Corbell in 2020, “to just try to bring back as much video evidence to our intelligence folks. I wanted to bring every single mode and zoom that the FLIR is capable of back to the carrier so we could analyze this thing.”¹² Underwood had previously stated that at the time he was filming the UAP, “I didn’t see anything with my eyeballs. I was more concerned with tracking it, making sure that the videotape was on” so the object could be recorded. ¹³ The footage concludes with the object moving to the left and continuing out of frame. 

Sometime after the incident, a copy of a portion of Underwood’s 2004 UAP footage was leaked online. “Somehow the tape made its way to YouTube,” noted aviation blogger Paco Chierici in 2015, who learned about the video’s appearance online from Commander Dave Fravor.¹⁴ The footage was subsequently taken down and resurfaced again in late 2017 after it was circulated by To The Stars, a company co-founded by musician and entrepreneur Tom DeLonge, along with two additional U.S. Navy videos from early 2015 purportedly depicting UAP. The videos were thereafter published online by The New York Times.¹⁵

Underwood’s video and the two other UAP videos obtained in 2015 were acknowledged by the U.S. Navy as authentic in 2019.¹⁶  The following year, the Department of Defense authorized the videos for official release, characterizing the UAP they depicted as “unidentified.”¹⁷


Skeptical commentator Mick West suggested to the San Diego Union Tribune in May 2021 that the object’s apparent leftward movement off screen in Underwood’s video resulted not from sudden acceleration by the UAP, but by the camera losing its lock and moving to the right of the object. West identifies the object in Underwood’s film as “a big glare, I think, of an engine – maybe a pair of engines with an F/A-18 – something like that.”¹⁸ However, Underwood had previously stated that he “was not aggressively maneuvering the aircraft in the manner that would make the FLIR pod would do that,” although noting that he “can’t confirm that the object aggressively accelerated that way.”¹⁹

Journalist Matthew Phelan wrote in December 2019 that “Underwood’s footage remains unique for its lack of cross talk between the pilots — a fact that has led to some speculation about its authenticity.” According to Phelan, Underwood’s former commanding officer Dave Fravor confirmed to New York Magazine that the audio on Underwood’s footage “just didn’t make the copy that was taken from the storage drive,” and that footage was indeed authentic.²⁰ 

Origins of the “Tic Tac” Name

Underwood told New York Magazine in 2019 that he had been the one that coined the popular name for the UAP that he, Commander Dave Fravor, and others encountered in 2004. “The term ‘Tic Tac,’ I actually coined that,” Underwood said. “So, any time you heard the term, ‘It looked like a ‘Tic Tac’ out there in the sky,’ I was the one that kind of coined that.”²¹

When asked about the UAP’s nickname in 2021, Underwood told Jeremy Corbell that he “never thought in a million years that the name Tic Tac would be still in the zeitgeist,” and that the nickname stemmed from his sense of humor “rooted in the 80s and 90s”. When asked by his colleagues in 2004 how he would describe the UAP, Underwood recalled a scene from the film Airplane in which actor Stephen Stucker gave a whimsical description of an aircraft which he said “looks like a big Tylenol,” and similarly likened the object he saw to the shape of a Tic Tac candy mint.²²


Underwood avoided discussing his role in obtaining the 2004 UAP footage for many years. In December 2019, Underwood finally came forward for the first time, granting an interview to New York Magazine where he stated that he had hoped to avoid stigmas “attached to the ‘little green men’ crazies that are out there.” ²³

In August 2020, filmmaker Jeremy Corbell released a podcast featuring a short phone interview with Underwood.²⁴ The following July, Corbell released a slightly longer video interview with Underwood, representing his first on-camera appearance where he openly discussed his role in obtaining the 2004 UAP footage.²⁵

Underwood says that reflecting on his role in obtaining footage of the purported Tic Tac UAP feels “weird and interesting,” adding that he “would have never expected almost seventeen years ago that this would be a thing in the media.” Underwood also says he is frequently approached by family, friends, and coworkers who ask him about his role in the incident.

Present Day

Following the events of 2004, Underwood was thereafter promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander. Between late 2020 and early 2021, he was promoted to Commander, his current rank. Underwood has remained in the United States Navy Reserve for approximately a decade since leaving active service and is employed currently in the civilian sector as a systems engineer.²⁶

1.Phelan, Matthew. “Navy Pilot Who Filmed the ‘Tic Tac’ UFO Speaks: ‘It Wasn’t Behaving by the Normal Laws of Physics’.” New York Magazine. 19 Dec 2019 (citations hereafter will simply reference “New York Magazine, 19 Dec 2019”).
2.“Statement by the Department of Defense on the Release of Historical Navy Videos.” Department of Defense, 27 April, 2020 (citations hereafter will simply reference “Department of Defense, 27 Apr 2020”).
3.Corbell, Jeremy. “The man who FILMED the TIC TAC UFO speaks on camera for the first time.” YouTube. 28 Jul 2021  (citations hereafter will simply reference “Corbell, 27 Jul 2021”).
4.Cooper, Helene; Blumenthal, Ralph; Kean, Leslie. “2 Navy Airmen and an Object That ‘Accelerated Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen’.” The New York Times. 16 Dec 2017. 
5.Corbell, Jeremy. “The man who filmed the Tic Tac UFO.” YouTube. 17 Aug 2020 (citations hereafter will simply reference “Corbell, 17 Aug 2020”).
6. “Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared.”
7.Corbell, 17 Aug 2020.
13. New York Magazine, 19 Dec 2019.
14. Chierici, Paco. “There I Was: The X Files Edition.” SOFREP. 14 Mar 2015. 
15.Martinez, Gina. “Navy Confirms Existence of 'Unidentified' Flying Objects Seen in Leaked Footage.” Time. 18 September, 2019 (citations hereafter will simply reference “Time. 18 September, 2019”).
16.Time. 18 September, 2019.
17.“Statement by the Department of Defense on the Release of Historical Navy Videos.” Department of Defense, 27 April, 2020  (citations hereafter will simply reference “Department of Defense, 27 April 2020”).
18.Dyer, Andrew. “Those amazing Navy UFO videos may have down-to-earth explanations, skeptics contend.” San Diego Tribune. 29 May 2021. 
19. New York Magazine, 19 Dec 2019
21.New York Magazine, 19 Dec 2019.
22.Corbell, 28 Jul 2021.
23.New York Magazine, 19 Dec 2019.
24.Corbell, 17 Aug 2020.
25.Corbell, 28 Jul 2021.
26. Ibid. 
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