The US intelligence community on Friday released its long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects (UFOs) that have been sighted in restricted military airspace over the past decades.
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In short, the answer, according to Friday’s report, is very little, but the release of the unclassified document from the intelligence community marks one of the first times the United States Government has publicly acknowledged that these bizarre aerial sightings of the Navy pilots and others are worthy of legitimate scrutiny.
The document examined 144 reports of what the government calls “unidentified aerial phenomenon” (UAP), of which only one could be explained by the researchers at the end of the study. The researchers found no evidence that the sightings represented alien life or a technological breakthrough from a foreign adversary such as Russia or China, but they acknowledge that it is a possible explanation.
“We were able to identify a reported UAP with great confidence. In that case, we identify the object as a large balloon that deflates. The others remain unexplained, ”the report says, using Pentagon terminology for UFOs. Video of possible UFOs over a US ship 3:32
“Of the 144 reports that we are dealing with here, we have no clear indication that there is a non-terrestrial explanation for them, but we will go where the data takes us,” said a senior US official.
But investigators were also convinced that most of the sightings were “physical objects,” the official told reporters on Friday.
“We absolutely believe that what we are recording are not simple sensor artifacts. They are things that exist physically, ”the official said, noting that 80 of the reported incidents included data from multiple sensors. In 11 cases, the pilots reported having been about to collide with these strange objects.
Investigation hampered by “unusual flight characteristics”
However, the nine-page report makes it clear that more work needs to be done to identify these objects, as “the limited number of high-quality reports on unidentified aerial phenomena hinders our ability to draw firm conclusions about their nature or intent.”
The researchers were especially hampered by a limited number of incidents in which UFOs appeared to display “unusual flight characteristics,” according to the report, which notes that these observations “could be the result of sensor errors, deception or misperceptions. observers and require further rigorous analysis. ”This astrophysicist has doubts about the 1:47 UFO reports
“Some UAPs appeared to remain stationary in the winds at altitude, move against the wind, maneuver sharply, or move at considerable speed, with no discernible means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings, ”the report says.
But despite that challenge, the report concludes that these objects “clearly pose a flight safety problem and may pose a challenge to the national security of the United States.”
“Safety concerns are primarily focused on airmen facing an increasingly crowded airspace. UAPs would also pose a national security challenge if they are harvesting platforms for foreign adversaries or provide evidence that a potential adversary has developed an innovative or disruptive technology, ”the report says.
It is concerning to national security professionals that the sightings are “clustered” around US training and testing grounds. But the researchers downplayed those concerns, assessing that “this may be the result of collection bias as a result of focused care, a greater number of state-of-the-art sensors operating in those areas, unit expectations, and guidance for report anomalies ».
Still, the Pentagon said in a statement following the report’s release that it plans to formalize the study of UFOs.
A memo from Undersecretary Kathleen Hicks instructed the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security to create a formal mission for the work currently being carried out by the UFO Task Force. Video of possible UFOs over a US vessel. 3:32
Hicks framed it as a matter of national security, saying, “It is critical that the United States preserve the security of operations at the Defense Department’s firing ranges,” noting that many of the observations have occurred near military areas.
Hicks requested that reports on observations be ready within two weeks of the occurrence or observation.
The report comes after years of infighting
After years of infighting in Washington, including bureaucratic battles within the Pentagon and pressure from certain members of Congress, the US government finally appears to be taking seriously what has long been considered a fringe issue.
For lawmakers and intelligence and military personnel working on unexplained aerial phenomena, the biggest concern with the episodes is not that extraterrestrial life is visiting Earth, but that a foreign adversary such as Russia or China may be deploying some kind of technology from last generation in American airspace that the United States is unaware of.
This is one of the reasons why this unclassified report will likely disappoint UFO specialists who hoped it would offer definitive proof that the United States Government has made contact with extraterrestrial life.
“For years, the men and women we trust to defend our country reported encounters with unidentified aircraft that had superior capabilities, and for years their concerns were often ignored and ridiculed,” the senator said in a statement on Friday. Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Barack Obama weighs in on the existence of UFOs 1:26
“This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is only a first step. The Department of Defense and the intelligence community have a lot of work to do before we can truly understand whether these air threats pose a serious national security concern. “
If the sightings were the result of Chinese or Russian technology, be it some kind of unknown aircraft or a technological system capable of circumventing American radar and other surveillance and reconnaissance systems, the intelligence community would not want to reveal what it knows and what you don’t know.
“They’re very sensitive, if it’s an adversary they want to be very careful about saying ‘we know this and we don’t know that,” said Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who received a briefing on the matter by Navy and FBI officials last week.
“The report is going to be a bit unsatisfactory for that reason and for that reason alone,” he said.
However, the fact that the intelligence community is compiling reports on what the Pentagon has called unidentified aerial phenomena is in itself extraordinary, as CNN has previously reported.
Even though there were hundreds of unexplained object sightings, Pentagon officials struggled with how much time and resources to devote to investigating them.
Most of the 144 sightings included in the report were recorded by US Navy pilots, although there were some reports from other US government sources, a clear “information bias” in the data set the researchers examined. said the US official.
The researchers tried to classify the 144 sightings into five categories: aerial objects, such as birds or weather balloons, natural atmospheric phenomena, US government or industry development programs, foreign adversary systems, and an attractive subparagraph: « Others”.
“There is a wide range of phenomena that we observe and that we finally include in the UAP category,” said the official. “There is no single explanation for UAPs.”
But in the 143 unexplained cases the researchers simply lacked the data necessary to classify the sighting. Some reports did not include any technical data for engineers to examine, but were merely verbal recollections from the pilots.
The report does not include any other video or UFO sightings.
The report raises more questions than answers
Congressional sources who have seen the classified version of the report have already expressed disappointment that there are no further explanations for the episodes, saying the report raises more questions than answers.
Previous interviews with half a dozen officials, as well as documents reviewed by CNN, describe an American military and intelligence community that has struggled to move the issue out of the realm of science fiction and consider its real implications for national security.
Even now, multiple sources told CNN, the administration almost certainly would not have moved to produce the report without public pressure from key lawmakers, as both Republicans and Democrats have taken an interest in the matter. about UFOs in America 1:02
While high-ranking former defense officials with knowledge of the latest version of the department’s investigations say the Pentagon took it seriously, some pilots and former officials tasked with investigating the matter say Pentagon leaders either downplayed or ignored the threat. .
Erasing the stigma surrounding a serious discussion about UFOs was also the goal of lawmakers in 2020 when they passed legislation requiring the Pentagon and the intelligence community to provide more information about these UFO encounters – details that, until recently, they have largely remained hidden.
Demanding the production of an upcoming report on UFOs was also one way that lawmakers have signaled that they intend to use their supervisory authority to ensure coordination between the agencies involved, sources told CNN last month.
“One of the functions of a procedure like this is that it forces real coordination within agencies and makes it clear that Congress really takes its oversight role seriously and that there is going to be increased scrutiny along the way,” he said. then an adviser to Congress. “Part of this is a product of getting agencies to take the issue more seriously and trying to help shed the stigma that surrounds it.”