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Highly Classified NRO System Detects Possible “Tic Tac” Object in 2021 – The Black Vault

A September 2016 “Key Talking Points” document describing the “Sentient” system

In 2021, a highly classified system within the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) detected what it described as a small (<10m) “tic tac” shaped object which “did not match the visual signature of typical aircraft detections.”. The system observing this object is called “Sentient,” and this program within the NRO, wherein details remain highly classified, sounds like something you’d hear about described in a science fiction movie, rather than in full operation by the American intelligence community.

“Sentient is (or at least aims to be) an omnivorous analysis tool, capable of devouring data of all sorts, making sense of the past and present, anticipating the future, and pointing satellites toward what it determines will be the most interesting parts of that future,” wrote journalist Sarah Scoles in a 2019 article published in The Verge, describing Sentient.

Details about the system, and its true functionality, remain scant.

But at least one of Sentient’s capabilities was revealed by a 2022 release of multiple documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): It can see and detect UFOs.

One record proving that was brought to the attention of The Black Vault last week by researcher Kyle Warfel, who received one the documents via his own FOIA request filed in May of 2022, originally sent to the DoD’s Office of the Inspector General, then forwarded to the NRO for review.

While researching this article, The Black Vault discovered there were actually numerous records already released by the NRO on this UAP sighting in 2022, but they to appear to have evaded any media attention. The original requester of that case remains unknown as of the writing of this piece.

The UAP detection occurred on 6 May 2021, and multiple records released by the NRO can be pieced together to deduce some minor details.

2004 USS Nimitz Encounter, described as a "tic tac"
2004 USS Nimitz Encounter, described as a “tic tac”

It was said the unknown object, “…vaguely [resembled]  similar detections of airborne objects by US Navy aircraft and surface vessels in the *redacted* and *redacted* Operating Areas.”

The location where this object was detected remains unknown, but one redacted PowerPoint presentation released by the NRO links past US Navy sightings and describes that this newly detected object had a “rough similarity to the previously-reported ‘tic-tac’ shape” likely referring to the 2004 Nimitz encounter.

The presentation also indicated that the object was, “…likely not a sensor artifact or focal plane anomaly (although more in-depth imagery analysis is warranted.” To reinforce that a sensor artifact anomaly was not likely, a second sighting of the UAP was detected by at least one other sensor.

At least 24 pages were denied in full within the release of the two PowerPoint presentations by the NRO.

“The object was also detected / visible in a second overwater image shot in the same area ~ 15 seconds later,” the presentation stated.

If true, this means that multiple sensors captured the same object within the same area, and could be used in tandem for further analysis. Though, all of that, will likely remain heavily classified given the redactions already utilized in the released records. The Black Vault has filed a request for this image (and more), though it may be already reviewed and denied, as potentially represented by one of the fully redacted pages within the release. At least 24 pages were denied in full with the release of the two PowerPoint presentations by the NRO, and it is unclear if one or more of those pages included the image of the same sighting detected in the “overwater image shot in the same area,” as referenced above.

One other batch of records released included a string of emails between what is likely the UAP Task Force, the NRO, and what appears to potentially be a government contractor. Though, with heavy redactions on the “to” and “from” lines, it is impossible to deduce exact who is who.

What can be deduced is the fact that the NRO Sentient program can be used to detect UAP, and it may even have a model built in for such a task. It just needs to be “turned on.”

“NRO’s Sentient R&D as a UAP model to look for UAP *redacted* in imagery, but we need an external customer to ask for it to be turned on,” said one June 29, 2021, email with the subject line “Sentient R&D support to UAPTF.” Most of the responses to that email were heavily redacted, and it can not be deduced if the “UAP model” was “turned on” or what that exactly entailed.

The Sentient system also detected the presence of another “vessel” in the area about 15 1/2 miles (25km) away from the UAP, though the identity of that vessel remains unknown as it was redacted within the PowerPoint presentation, as well. A reference is made on the same slide to command-and-control (C2) activities, and the possibility of a tie-in with that. However, with the redactions, it is difficult to determine exactly what the linkage being proposed is. It’s possible that the vessel seen was part of a surveillance operation, training exercise, or a ream of other possibilities, but it remains pure speculation given the redactions.

As this vessel connects to the UAP incident, it was noted the detection of the vessel could be entirely unrelated, and merely just a “coincidence.”

The Black Vault has filed additional FOIA requests with the hopes to reveal more details and imagery of the above sighting. Additional requests also filed by The Black Vault aim to seek out more UAP detections by Sentient. Those cases, should they reveal anything further, will be reported.


Document Archive

Recent Sentient Highlights – 6 May 2021 [10 Pages, 1MB]

Sentient Operations Highlight – Detection of Possible UAP Near [Redacted] 6 May 2021 [20 Pages, 1MB]

Sentient R&D Support to UAPTF Email Chain [15 Pages, 1MB]

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