US Congress to hold first public UFO panel in more than 50 years

The hearing follows a government report that recorded 144 cases of ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ since 2004.

A woman looks at a UFO display outside of the Little A'Le'Inn, in Rachel, Nevada [File: John Locher/AP Photo]

Two top United States military officials are set to testify in the first public congressional hearing on “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs) in more than 50 years.

The hearing on Tuesday comes 11 months after a US government report detailed 144 UFO – or as they are officially called “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP) – sightings by the military since 2004.

Those testifying will be Ronald Moultrie, the US defence under-secretary for intelligence and security who oversees the department’s Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, and Scott Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence.

Sightings of aircraft that do not appear to match known technology or that appear to defy the laws of physics have long been cited by amateur observers and sleuths as evidence of extraterrestrial life, with many speculating the US government has more evidence of alien visitors than it has revealed.

The US government has commissioned several programmes and commissions in recent decades, sometimes secretively, to look into confounding events.

Tuesday’s hearing, to be conducted by a subcommittee of the US House intelligence, will largely focus on the findings of last year’s report, which focused less on the possibility of alien life and more on the implications for US national security and aviation safety.

“The American people deserve full transparency,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement last week announcing the hearings.

Of the 144 sightings documented in the report, which was led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the US Navy, analysts who prepared the assessment offered findings on the origins of just one unexplained phenomenon – which they attributed to a large deflating balloon.

The report included some UAP sightings that had been previously revealed in Pentagon-released video footage showing enigmatic airborne objects exhibiting speed and manoeuvrability exceeding known aviation technology and lacking any visible means of propulsion or other hardware needed to operate in the air.

The report said further data and analysis were needed to determine whether the sightings were of aerial systems developed by a classified US government project, a commercial entity, or by a foreign power such as China or Russia, according to the report.

At the time of its release, senior US officials told reporters that while the report avoided any explicit reference to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, defence and intelligence analysts have yet to rule out the possibility.

The public hearings will be the first on the subject since the US Air Force terminated an inconclusive UFO programme code-named Project Blue Book in 1969.

During its 17 years in existence, Blue Book compiled a list of 12,618 total UFO sightings, 701 of which involved objects that officially remained “unidentified”. The Air Force later said it found no indication of a national security threat or evidence of extraterrestrial vehicles.

In 1966, nearly a decade before he became president, then-US Representative Gerald Ford of Michigan, who was House Republican leader at the time, organised a hearing in response to dozens of witness accounts of strange glowing lights and large football shapes at low altitude around Dexter, Michigan. Air Force officials famously explained away the mysterious sightings as “swamp gas”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies