US government publishes landmark report into UFO sightings
The US government has released a comprehensive report on documented cases of what it calls ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ (UAP) – more commonly known as UFOs.
The 9-page report reviews 120 incidents recorded by US military and government and has sent shockwaves through the alien-hunting online community.
Congress has already received the classified version of the report, but the release of the unclassified, public report marks the first time the American government has fully admitted there are things in the sky it can’t explain.
Last year, lawmakers added a provision to the Intelligence Authorization Act, which forced the government to compile a report on what it knows about UFOs by, at the latest, 25 June.
Though the US government has said it can’t find evidence in any of the encounters that the flying objects are alien technology, ufologists will point out it also said it can’t be ruled out.
When it comes to classifying these objects, the report says they basically fall into five categories.
The report states: ‘Our analysis of the data supports the construct that if and when individual UAP incidents are resolved they will fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or U.S. industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall ‘other’ bin.’
It continues: ‘With the exception of the one instance where we determined with high confidence that the reported UAP was airborne clutter, specifically a deflating balloon, we currently lack sufficient information in our dataset to attribute incidents to specific explanations.’
‘Although most of the UAP described in our dataset probably remain unidentified due to limited data or challenges to collection processing or analysis, we may require additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on, analyze and characterize some of them.’
So while the American government has stated publicly there are things it can’t explain – it also doesn’t offer much by way of speculation on what they could be.
It says it’s leaving that up to ‘additional scientific knowledge’ to determine.
Of more immediate concern is the possibility that these unidentified aerial phenomena are from foreign adversaries, like Russia or China.
If they are, then it would mean those countries’ military capabilities would outstrip anything the USA publicly admits to having.
‘We take reports of incursions into our airspace – by any aircraft, identified or unidentified – very seriously, and investigate each one,’ Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said.
However, detractors of the ‘military adversary’ theory would argue that this would be an unlikely scenario, given the size of the US military budget.
The report also ruled out that the observed aerial phenomena were US military technology.
Several of the most prominent UAP incidents have already been revealed in the media – several US Navy pilots came forward about strange aircraft they saw on patrol, while footage obtained by journalists has been confirmed as authentic by the Pentagon.
The 120 incidents officials looked at come from the past two decades. They include three videos the Pentagon initially admitted to showing ‘unexplained aerial phenomena’.
Are the UFO sightings evidence of aliens visiting Earth?
In a nutshell: we still don’t know.
Analysts have yet to rule out an extraterrestrial origin, senior U.S. officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The report’s language avoided explicit mentions of such possibilities.
Asked about potential alien explanations, one of the officials 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 senior official added.
Earlier this year, Commander Chris Hadfield said that UFO sightings should not be taken as evidence of alien contact.
Speaking to Canadian broadcaster CBC, the retired astronaut and former pilot for both the US Navy and Royal Canadian Airforce said that he himself had seen many things that defied explanation.
‘Obviously, I’ve seen countless things in the sky that I don’t understand,’ Hadfield said.
‘But to see something in the sky that you don’t understand and then to immediately conclude that it’s intelligent life from another solar system is the height of foolishness and lack of logic.’
However, Hadfield did say that just because UFOs aren’t evidence of aliens, we shouldn’t completely discount the possibility that life is out there.
‘But definitively up to this point, we have found no evidence of life anywhere except Earth, and we’re looking,’ he told the CBC.
What do we know about the report?
The US government has long been quiet on unexplained aerial phenomena, after a Cold War-era drive to seem in control of its own airspace.
But over recent years, both lawmakers and military officials have begun to question this narrative, with footage taken from US Navy equipment appearing to show otherwise.
In fact, the US government has been collecting and investigating UAV sightings since at least 2007, when the Defence Department funded the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).
Former AATIP director Luis Elizondo has spoken to various media outlets about his time with the program, though little is known about what was found.
After the secret AATIP was wound down, in 2017, the Pentagon established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), in August of last year, to once again look into observations of unknown flying aircrafts.
The UAPTF will aim to ‘detect, analyse and catalogue’ UFO events, as well as to ‘gain insight’ into the ‘nature and origins’ of the unexplained phenomena, according to the Pentagon.
It is the findings of this task force that make up the report.
Why has the report been commissioned?
Government programs to examine evidence for UFOs have often come at the behest of just a few congressman.
Senator Harry Reid, who comes from Nevada, the state that encompasses Area 51, the secretive government compound where conspiracy theorists believe alien ship remnants are housed, has long campaigned for government transparency on UFOs.
It was Reid’s request that started the AATIP in 2007 – and it was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, chair of the Senate’s Committee on Intelligence, that drove the founding of the UAPTF.
Rubio told CBS News last year that it was in the government’s interests to find out who was responsible for reports of unidentified aircraft over American military bases.
The pressure from politicians has added to the chorus of demands from the public and ufologists for the government to release what they know about unidentified flying objects.
Some high profile names have also weighed in on whether they think aliens are real.
In two interviews this year, former US president Barack Obama said he ‘absolutely’ wants to know what unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are.
Obama also gave his thoughts on what would happen if aliens did make contact with humans, saying the US might have to ‘spend a lot more’ on defence and that ‘new religions would pop up.’
In an interview with the New York Times’ Ezra Klein, the former US president discussed everything from Trump to his view of humanity – but when Klein asked about videos released by the Pentagon showing UFOs, the conversation shifted to the alien race.
In response to a question asking what would happen if we knew there were aliens but couldn’t contact them, Obama said: ‘And so I would hope that the knowledge that there were aliens out there would solidify people’s sense that what we have in common is a little more important,’
‘But no doubt there would be immediate arguments about like, well, we need to spend a lot more money on weapons systems to defend ourselves,’ the 44th President continued.
‘New religions would pop up. And who knows what kind of arguments we get into. We’re good at manufacturing arguments for each other.’
Former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta also promised that she would release classified government reports on aliens if Clinton was elected.
Even President Donald Trump said he would not disclose what he had learned about aliens: ‘I won’t talk to you about what I know about it, but it’s very interesting,’ Trump said to a journalist at a press briefing last year.
What do we know about UFO sightings so far?
Some former Navy and US military pilots have broken with tradition in recent years and come forward with sightings of UAVs.
Two former Navy pilots spoke to CBS News’ 60 minutes in May, discussing an object they saw in 2004 while stationed on a warship in the Pacific Ocean.
The pilots described the object as a ‘little white Tic-Tac-looking object’, and that it appeared to mirror their movements.
‘And that’s exactly what it looked like, except it was traveling very fast and very erratically and we couldn’t anticipate which way it was going to turn or how it was manoeuvring the way that it was, or the propulsion system,’ said former Navy pilot Alex Dietrich.
‘It didn’t have any apparent smoke trail or propulsion. It didn’t have any apparent flight control surfaces to manoeuvre in the way that it was manoeuvring.’
While there isn’t footage of the ‘Tic Tac’ sighting, there is footage from filmmaker Jeremy Corbell taken in July 2019, of unidentified objects ‘swarming’ a US Navy warship.
The troops that have spoken so far have said that fear of ridicule was one factor that prevented them from speaking out sooner.
It’s hoped by some lawmakers that the release of today’s report on UAVs will encourage troops to report to superior officers if they see an unexplainable encounter.
Some US military and intelligence officials have also confirmed the sightings, with Trump’s former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe telling Fox News: ‘Frankly, there are a lot more sightings than have been made public.’
‘We are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.
‘Movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for or are travelling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.’
What are other countries – including the UK – doing about UFOs?
While the UK military hasn’t admitted to having a program like the US government’s, it has admitted to being aware of the report that came out today.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed it has heard of the study but is not ‘officially engaged’ in the high-level work across the Atlantic.
Former Ministry of Defence employee Nick Pope has also spoken about his time in the 1980s when he worked on investigating reports of UFOs in the British military.
Pope also told Metro.co.uk in May that he would be surprised if there weren’t high-level communication channels between the US and UK regarding UFO sightings – even if the MoD has officially denied it.
When former Senator Harry Reid defended the $22m (£16m) he obtained for the 2008 UFO programme at the Pentagon, he justified it by arguing that other countries were also investigating the same events.
‘We know that China is doing it,’ he told Nevada Newsmakers in 2019.
‘We know that Russia, which is led by someone within the KGB, is doing it, too, so we better take a look at it, too.’
He added that research at the US Defence Department ‘showed that not two people, four people or six people or 20 people but hundreds and hundreds of people have seen these things, sometimes all at the same time.’