A photo of the Frecce Tricolori accompanied by two C-27J aircraft during an aerial photo shooting at dusk over northern Italy sent local media into a frenzy, fuelling crazy UFO theories.
A low quality, blurred image said to depict UFO or “weird object escorted by two military aircraft” over northeastern Italy, made the news lately. The photograph was published by some local media outlets which reported that around 7.20PM on Mar. 23, 2021, several witnesses noticed two aircraft, coming from the southeast and heading northwest, escorting, from distance, what was described as a large square- or diamond-shaped objected which “incorporated from 10 to 12 fixed yellow lights”.
According to the reports, “the object traveled very fast and left behind an intense trail and the only noise that was perceived was that of the two planes flying at a lower altitude than the square object, at a much lower speed.”
One and a half minutes was the average duration of the sightings; enough to spark discussions and fuel the most crazy hypotheses on social networks (and media). So much so, the photograph was also brought to the attention of the Centro Ufologico Nazionale (Italian for “National UFO Center”) which started its own investigation.
However, the sighting had nothing to do with UFOs: on Mar. 23, a 9-ship formation of the Frecce Tricolori, the display team of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), was involved in an aerial photo shooting at sunset with two C-27J Spartan. Pretty normal: tactical transport aircraft like the Spartan or the larger C-130J with an open cargo bay are often used as photo platforms for the Troupe Azzurra, the Italian Air Force photo and video team, and other photographers and journalists (including the author, that has taken part in some of these air-to-air photo shootings).
Grazie ai fotografi altamente specializzati della Troupe Azzurra possiamo mostrarvi scatti come questo #latuasquadrachevola pic.twitter.com/6o9zAc7jnl
— Aeronautica Militare (@ItalianAirForce) November 27, 2016
Watching the unusual formation in the darkness and at high altitude, some people simply didn’t recognize the popular jet team (although its peculiar smoke trail could be a hint…).
The event (a big thank you to my friend Mauro Roder for sending me this) is worth of remark because it proves how, even today, in an era when fact checking should be easy and the majority of people have the ability to take high-rez photographs using a commercial smartphone, a crappy photograph can still generate weird UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) theories. We already know that many of the UFOs spotted by people in the middle of the last century were actually high-flying U-2 spy planes, officials from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency say. Who knows how many more sightings of the past were actually aircraft seen from distance (or photographed with less advanced camera systems)?