Update: Responding to a request for comments submitted by investigator and founder of The Black Vault John Greenewald Jr. the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that the National Intelligence Manager for Aviation (NIM-A) “erroneously posted an unofficial and incorrect logo.” The seal in question has now been removed from the agency’s webpage.
Over the weekend, images began to surface online of what appears to be a new official seal for the aviation-focused element of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. This new seal includes a variety of unusual elements — like a UFO and a Russian fighter jet.
The new seal can be found on the website airdomainintelligence.mil, which carries the same “.mil” domain as any official U.S. military website — but a number of questions have been raised about the veracity of this website and the seal it depicts. Sandboxx News reached out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to get to the bottom of this mystery, but thus far, they have not responded.
Thus far, there has been no official announcement or releases to substantiate the seal, but its presence on a .mil domain is strong evidence that it’s real… at least really from the DoD, anyway.
So, while we wait with bated breath to hear what the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has to say about this seal and the website it’s hosted on, let’s dive into what makes this seal seem so unusual and what the evidence suggests thus far.
What’s weird about this seal?
This unusual new seal began making the rounds on social media on Saturday. One of the earlier accounts to draw attention to it belongs to UFO researcher Jeremy Corbell, though it was first brought to our attention by Twitter user Richard Bejtlich.
The first element of this seal that’s sure to catch your attention is the inclusion of a flying saucer or UFO on the bottom-left. While certainly unusual, this inclusion doesn’t necessarily suggest that this image and the website it’s hosted on are fake.
After all, in recent years, the U.S. government has repeatedly acknowledged the existence of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and has been open about efforts to investigate any potential threat these unusual sightings might represent. As such, the inclusion of a traditional flying saucer could be an intentionally attention-grabbing nod to this increasingly accepted element of the national intelligence enterprise.
But the UFO isn’t the only inclusion in this seal that has raised eyebrows.
The UFO isn’t the only mystery on this seal
From left to right, the seal also seems to include what looks like it could be an RQ-7 Shadow tactical reconnaissance drone operated by both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, among other national militaries (shown on top). Though, there’s also a reasonable argument to be made the the graphic represents the Baykar Bayraktar TB2 from Turkey, which has gained some fame in recent months thanks to Ukraine’s effective use of the platform against the ongoing Russian invasion.
Up next is a blue line following what some have posited may be a hypersonic platform, based on it looking to be well ahead of the rest of the aircraft and maneuvering (considered an essential part of modern hypersonic weapon development). The strange-looking platform could represent hypersonic boost-glide weapon systems like those in service already for Russia and China or under development for the United States.
However, when depicted with a variety of other aircraft (and spacecraft), the possibility that this is meant to depict a weapon seems less likely. The visible twin-vertical tails shown don’t coincide with Lockheed Martin renders of their now-quiet SR-72 efforts, but it does coincide with Lockheed Martin’s own depiction of the Mach 10 Darkstar featured in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” — as well as common depictions of the mythical “Aurora” aircraft — as shown in the artwork of Rodrigo Avella.
Next is a silhouette that clearly depicts the Russian Sukhoi Su-57 Felon, departing dramatically from platforms that we could contend may be American in origin. The silhouette appears to have been sourced from Adobe stock images that can be found here.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for government agencies (from all over the world) to accidentally include depictions of foreign aircraft in official graphics, but it seems extremely unlikely that an intelligence organization specializing in aviation would make such a mistake. One could feasibly argue, however, that the agency investigates threats like foreign stealth fighters. That would suggest the grey platform is indeed a TB2 and the blue one represents foreign boost-glide weapons — though the TB2 is made by NATO ally Turkey, relations between Turkey and the rest of the alliance are sometimes strained.
The final aircraft, shown in grey, has been posited online to be a Russian Tu-95 Bear bomber thanks to its swept wings and four prop positions, though that doesn’t seem right. The Tu-95’s wing profile doesn’t match the wings shown in the graphic, nor does China’s heavy-payload Xian H-6.
Based on the wing structure and what appears to be a boom extending from the tail, it seems more likely that the silhouette depicts a KC-135 Stratotanker based on the Boeing 707. Of course, a number of platforms could potentially fit the bill, especially if the designer took some artistic license with the details.
What evidence is there that this seal is real?
The seal is hosted on what looks like an official website for the National Intelligence Manager for Aviation (NIM-A), just above a message from the executive director of NIM-A, Major General Daniel L. Simpson. We can confirm General Simpson is an Air Force official within the intelligence apparatus via his official biography hosted here.
However, the website appears to be unfinished, which isn’t unheard of for military sites, but the things that remain unfinished are admittedly a bit unusual.
For instance, on the leadership tab, you can find General Simpson listed with an abbreviated bio and a link to his full Air Force page (linked to above). It also lists Brian Fishpaugh as the A2/6N Director, a recently merged Air Force headquarters staff group responsible for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber operations.
Fishpaugh was not listed on Air Force releases about the merger, but he is indeed a senior air analyst for the Air Force who sometimes goes by the nickname “Fish.”
Emily Stratton is tougher to nail down. This is the only page in the .mil domain that lists Stratton’s name and there are few details to go off of from there. One possibility is a flight surgeon and medical scientist by the same name who has been employed by NASA since July of this year. We reached out to her in the process of compiling this story but have not heard back yet.
Like Emily Stratton, Seth Doherty is not listed on any other .mil or .gov websites. There is a Linkedin profile associated with that name that’s quite sparse with ties to the military, but it appears to belong to an Aviation Electrician’s Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class, which is an E-5 pay grade. While not impossible, that seems unlikely for a senior leadership position within an intelligence organization.
It is, of course, possible that this Linkedin profile simply hasn’t been updated in years. There is no visible activity on the profile.
The site links to Wikipedia for “more information”
Another unusual element for an official military website comes from the site’s “About Us” page, which is rather sparse. It lists a brief timeline of the establishment of the National Intelligence Manager for Aviation spanning from 2009 to 2016, with two links suggesting that you, “click here for more information.”
When you do, it redirects you to the National Aviation Intelligence Integration Office Wikipedia page.
But it is unusual.
The website is clearly under construction
As a number of Reddit users have pointed out since Saturday, several small changes have appeared on the site over the past 48 hours. This is not necessarily an indication that the page is somehow an elaborate hoax, but may be indicative of a site that is not complete enough to be rolled out publicly, potentially even using place-holder images for new graphics making their way through the approval process.
The easiest changes to identify have been to where this unusual new seal is shown. On Saturday, the new seal could be seen on the footer of every page in the NIM-A directory. By Sunday evening, however, it had been replaced by a blurry low-res image of the National Aviation Intelligence Office’s seal.
Likewise, a similar change was made to the seals depicted below the “Message from the Executive Director” section.
Using a low-resolution seal in place of the new saucer-laden one could suggest that the site is undergoing changes that may not be permanent. This could mean it’s a well-crafted hoax shifting to appear more professional… or a legitimate website that simply wasn’t meant for public consumption quite yet.
So is this new seal real? It’s totally possible.
Despite our uncertainty, it’s worth noting that we haven’t been able to identify a previous situation in which a website with the .mil domain has been faked.
There have been several hoax military websites to pop up over the years. In 2019, for instance, a fake website posing as the homepage for the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program aimed to collect personally identifiable information from service members. The year prior, at least 14 fake military recruiting websites collected contact information and sold it to marketing firms.
However, in all of these instances, the websites used .com or other commercially available domains — never a .mil.
In other words, it seems unlikely that anyone managed to create a fake DoD website.
The National Intelligence Manager for the Air Domain has a page on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence website, though it’s fairly sparse. An effort to field a new site dedicated to the effort, to coincide with its new seal and apparent leadership, is possible.
And it’s important to note that this new site is indeed new. The Wayback Machine has 21 archives of the webpage that date back to June 14 of 2022. On that date, the site looked much like it does today, though with no inclusion of the new seal or its UFO anywhere.
It doesn’t appear that the website was updated with the new seal until September 25, when this story first hit social media. The image was also uploaded to Wikipedia on that same date, though the metadata attached to the image suggests that it was created in Adobe Photoshop 2017 for Windows on September 9.
We spoke to a graphic designer who has done work for the Air Force in the past about this, and she was inclined to believe the site was real, but that the work wasn’t particularly polished — which, in itself, isn’t all that unusual.
“It’s housed at a .mil that is hosted by the Defense Media Activity,” explained Maureen Stewart, an Air Force veteran who has worked with and led multimedia teams for a number of governmental agencies.
“It’s likely a seal that was created in house (so not contracted out). While this is common request – everyone wants logos and seals – it doesn’t mean it should be done or that those created seals are routed through a vigorous QA process. It’s also pretty likely that there is one person that was available to make this seal and approve it. If it IS official, it SHOULD be housed on DVIDS, and it may be, but I can’t find it there. But again, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t created by DoD personnel and just used.”
It’s important to note that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence does not have any press releases regarding the launch of a new site, nor have any announcements been posted on any of its official social media accounts. Again, however, if the site is a work in progress, there would be no announcements until it’s complete.
So, while this site does appear to be real, it seems likely that it wasn’t meant for public distribution quite yet, and as such, the seals may not have gone through much of an approval process (especially if it was created so recently). The page itself may see significant changes before it is officially rolled out. Or it may emerge exactly as it currently appears.
Or… it’s one incredibly impressive hoax. Only time will tell.