The mystery of UFOs seen in American skies is likely to continue following the release of the US government’s highly anticipated UFO report.
The report released Friday afternoon made clear that while American intelligence officials do not believe aliens are behind the UFOs – or what scientists prefer to call unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – that were observed by Navy pilots, they cannot explain what the flying objects are.
The report confirms that the observed phenomena are not part of any US military operations.
The Pentagon studied over 140 incidents reported by Navy pilots of UFOs seen over the last two decades for the report, many of which were seen during the summer of 2014 into the spring of 2015.
The release of the report caps a six-month wait, since a group of elected officials succeeded in including the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2021 in a $2.3tn coronavirus relief bill signed by Donald Trump last December.
The act ordered government agencies to provide a declassified “detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence” and “a detailed description of an interagency process” for reporting UFOs.
The discussion of UFOs – at government level or outside it – has been stigmatized for decades. While some have used the UAP materials as fodder for theories on alien life, officials have pointed to the possible threat of the UAPs being from an adversary using technology unknown to the US.
“In this country we’ve had incidents where these UAPs have interfered and actually brought offline our nuclear capabilities,” Luis Elizondo, former director of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, the earlier iteration of the Pentagon’s UAE task force, told the Washington Post. Elizondo resigned in 2017, out of frustration that UAPs were not being taken seriously enough by defense leaders.
“We also have data suggesting that in other countries these things have interfered with their nuclear technology and actually turned them on, put them online.”
In recent years the release of government videos showing unexplained flying things have provided firmer evidence that something, alien or not, is out there.
While the US government was ordered to publish the unclassified report, experts warned that a classified annex, which the public will not see, contains some of the juiciest details.
The discussion of UFOs – at government level or outside it – has been stigmatized for decades. But in recent years the release of government videos showing unexplained flying things have provided firmer evidence that something, alien or not, is out there.
Footage from two sightings in 2015 and a third in 2004 taken during training flights went viral online after they were leaked. The Pentagon ultimately confirmed the authenticity of the footage and released them for the public in 2020.
One of the videos shows an object resembling a flying, spinning top soaring through the air. “Look at that thing!” one of the pilots can be heard saying in amazement.
This April, more photos and videos taken by US navy personnel were leaked online, showing triangular-shaped objects buzzing around in the sky. In May, leaked military footage showed an oval flying object near a US navy ship off San Diego, an apparent hotspot for UAPs.
Members of the US navy have seen UAPs frequently. Ryan Graves, a retired pilot, told 60 Minutes pilots saw UAPs in restricted airspace south-east of Virginia Beach “every day” in 2014.
“Every day for at least a couple years,” Graves said.
Momentum for investigating UFOs has been building over the last two years, with lawmakers like Republican senator Marco Rubio or Florida pushing for serious inquiry into objects seen by pilots.
In a statement released Friday after the report’s release, Rubio celebrated the report but emphasized that it is “just a first step”.
“For years, the men and women we trust to defend our country reported encounters with unidentified aircraft that has superior capabilities, and for years their concerns were often ignored and ridiculed,” Rubio said. “The Defense Department and intelligence community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern.”
In August, the defense department resurrected its UAP investigations arm with a task force meant to “detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to US national security”.