US report on documented UFOs leaves sightings unexplained

A turning point for the US government after decades deflecting, debunking and discrediting UFO observations.

This video image obtained April 2020 courtesy of the US Department of Defense shows part of an unclassified video taken by Navy pilots showing interactions with 'unidentified aerial phenomena' [US DoD Handout/via AFP]

A US government report on UFOs found defence and intelligence analysts lack sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by military pilots including whether they are advanced earthly technologies, atmospherics or extraterrestrial.

The report, prepared by US spy agencies and the military, was submitted to Congress and released to the public on Friday. It said the government cannot explain 143 of 144 observations of what it officially refers to as “unidentified aerial phenomenon,” or UAP, dating back to 2004.

“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to US national security,” the report stated, adding that the phenomena “probably lack a single explanation”.

“In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis,” the report said.

The report includes some UAP cases that previously came to light in the Pentagon’s release of video from US naval aviators showing enigmatic aircraft off the US East and West Coasts exhibiting speed and manoeuvrability exceeding known aviation technologies and lacking any visible means of propulsion or flight-control surfaces.

A senior US official, asked about the possibility of extraterrestrial explanations for the observations, said, “That’s not the purpose of the task force, to evaluate any sort of search for extraterrestrial life … That’s not what we were charged with doing.”

“Of the 144 reports we are dealing with here, we have no clear indications that there is any non-terrestrial explanation for them – but we will go wherever the data takes us,” the official added.

The report was produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in conjunction with a US Navy-led UAP task force.

It established five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, US government or American industry developmental programmes, foreign adversary systems and a catch-all “other” category.

All but one of the incidents, an instance attributed to “airborne clutter”, remain unexplained, subject to further analysis, US officials told reporters during an advance briefing to describe the report’s findings.

For the remaining 143 cases, the government has yet to rule in or out whether the sightings might be of extraterrestrial origin, the officials said.

“Of data we have, we don’t have any clear indications that any of these unidentified aerial phenomena are part of a foreign [intelligence] collection programme, and we don’t have any clear data that is indicative of a major technological advancement by a potential adversary,” the senior official said.

The government in recent years has adopted UAP as its preferred term for what are otherwise known as “unidentified flying objects“, or UFOs, long associated with the notion of alien spacecraft.

A second senior official said that 21 of the reports show UAPs “that appear to have some sort of advanced propulsion or advanced technology”, and appear to lack any means of propulsion or acceleration and exhibit speeds beyond what the United States believes foreign adversaries possess.

Ordered by Congress

The report was ordered by Congress as part of broader intelligence legislation signed by former President Donald Trump in December.

“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,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

“This report is an important first step in cataloguing these incidents, but it is just a first step.”

The report marks a turning point for the US government after the military spent decades deflecting, debunking and discrediting observations of unidentified flying objects and “flying saucers” back to the 1940s.

Two men dance on a road to an entrance to Area 51, a secretive US military base in Nevada believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold evidence of extraterrestrials [File: Jim Urquhart/Reuters]

“Anytime there is a safety-of-flight or counterintelligence concern, we take those things very seriously and we will continue to take those things seriously,” the first senior official said.

Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, urged a systematic analysis of the potential national security and flight safety risks posed by UAP “without preconceptions” to determine whether they are the result of a foreign adversary, atmospheric or other aerial phenomena, space debris “or something else entirely”.

It is not the first official government report on the subject. The US Air Force carried out a previous UFO investigation called Project Blue Book that ended in 1969 and compiled a list of 12,618 sightings, 701 of which involved objects that officially remained “unidentified”.

In 1994, the Air Force announced that it had completed a study to locate records relating to the 1947 “Roswell incident” in New Mexico. It said materials recovered near Roswell were consistent with a crashed balloon, the military’s longstanding explanation, and that no records indicated that there had been the recovery of alien bodies or extraterrestrial materials.

Source: Reuters