UFOs have made their way to the U.S. Senate.
Decades after flying saucers first captured Americans’ imaginations, Navy videos that defy explanation have sparked legitimate inquiries — some of them from senators.
Pentagon’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) files annual reports on UAP to Congress
RELEASED January 12, 2023
OFFICE of the DIRECTOR of NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE releases 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (click doc to download)
— 171 reported UAP remain “uncharacterized and unattributed”
RELEASED June 25, 2021
OFFICE of the DIRECTOR of NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE releases Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (click doc to download)
— ‘143 of 144 UAP remain unidentified’
SPACE.COM: ‘Pentagon releases its long-awaited 2022 UFO report’
By Brett Tingley Jan 12, 2023
The report suggests that the U.S. government appears to be taking UFOs seriously.
The Pentagon’s long-awaited 2022 report on unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP, is finally here.
The unclassified “2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” was published by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Thursday (Jan. 12) after a months-long delay. The report was mandated by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and was created by ODNI’s National Intelligence Manager for Aviation and the newly-established All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). Input was gathered from various intelligence community agencies and military intelligence offices, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy (DoE), and NASA.
In all, the report (opens in new tab) covers some 510 cataloged UAP reports gathered from agencies involved in the report and the branches of the United States military. The document notes that the majority of these were gathered from U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force personnel who reported them through official channels. Ultimately, the unclassified report concludes that, while UAP “continue to represent a hazard to flight safety and pose a possible adversary collection threat,” many of the reports “lack enough detailed data to enable attribution of UAP with high certainty.”
Out of these 510 total UAP reports, ODNI assessed 366 that had been newly identified since AARO’s creation. Of these, 26 were characterized as uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, 163 were attributed to balloons or “balloon-like entities,” and six were found to be airborne “clutter” such as birds or airborne plastic shopping bags.
That leaves 171 reported UAP sightings that remain “uncharacterized and unattributed,” according to ODNI’s report. “Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” the report adds.
While there are no definite Earth-shattering conclusions about the origins of the UAP (as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, have recently been rebranded) seen in the incidents analyzed in ODNI’s unclassified report, the document highlights a growing emphasis on airspace safety, prompted in part by the recent proliferation of drones — some of which might represent intelligence-gathering efforts by the United States’ adversaries.
“UAP events continue to occur in restricted or sensitive airspace, highlighting possible concerns for safety of flight or adversary collection activity,” ODNI states in the report, adding that the agency continues “to assess that this may result from a collection bias due to the number of active aircraft and sensors, combined with focused attention and guidance to report anomalies.”
In other words, military aviators in controlled airspace may be reporting more UAP/UFOs in these areas because there are naturally more sensors scanning the skies around military facilities and training ranges.
Additionally, the report notes that factors such as weather conditions, lighting and atmospheric effects can affect the observation of presumed UAP. The office therefore operates “under the assumption that UAP reports are derived from the observer’s accurate recollection of the event and/or sensors that generally operate correctly and capture enough real data to allow initial assessments.”
However, the report notes that some of the cataloged UAP incidents covered in the report may have been caused by operator or equipment error or faults with the sensors used that detected UAP in these events.
“It is clear that there is an urgent and critical need to improve aerospace safety by dedicating scientific research into UAP,” said Ryan Graves, former Navy F/A-18 pilot and chair of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena Integration & Outreach Committee (UAPIOC), in a statement following the release of the ODNI’s report. “We must stop unscrupulous speculation, break stigma, and invest in science to address this national safety threat,” Graves added.
While improving flight safety in both domestic and military airspace is the principal motivation underlying the creation of the report, the document notes that “there have been no reported collisions between U.S. aircraft and UAP” to date. Furthermore, there have also been no UAP encounters “confirmed to contribute directly to adverse health-related effects to the observer(s),” contrary to many claims made in recent years (opens in new tab).
While far from a smoking gun of any kind, the ODNI’s report shows that the U.S. government appears to be taking UAP and airspace safety issues seriously following years of media sensationalism surrounding a handful of highly publicized encounters reported by U.S. Navy aviators in training ranges off the coast of Southern California.
To date, the Pentagon asserts that these cases remain unexplained.
U.S. intelligence agencies are expected to deliver a report on “unidentified aerial phenomena” to Congress next month, sparking renewed interest and speculation into how the government has handled sightings of mysterious flying objects — and if there’s any worldly explanation for them.
The unclassified report, compiled by the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense, aims to make public what the Pentagon knows about unidentified flying objects and data analyzed from such encounters.
While UFOs have been part of American mythology for decades, this report is different. Legitimate debates over UFO sightings have gained traction in recent years after several leaked photos and videos from the U.S. Navy appeared to show mysterious flying objects in American airspace.
Last year, the Pentagon declassified three such videos captured by Navy pilots, intensifying speculation over the incidents, which have been confirmed by pilots who have observed them and even presidents who have been briefed on them.
Here’s how UFO sightings jumped from the realm of science fiction to the halls of Congress.
What do we know so far?
In August, the Department of Defense established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to investigate and “gain insight” into the “nature and origins” of unidentified flying objects. Earlier that year, the Department of Defense declassified three videos taken by Navy pilots — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — that showed mysterious objects flying at high speeds across the sky.
“The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified,’” Pentagon officials said in a statement at the time.
The three videos had leaked years earlier, but Pentagon officials said they declassified the footage to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos.”
A separate leaked Navy video, captured in July 2019, showed a sphere-shaped unidentified object flying over water near San Diego. The footage, obtained by a documentary filmmaker and shared with NBC News, appeared to show the mysterious object flying for a few minutes before disappearing into the water.
And on Sunday, two former Navy pilots were interviewed by “60 Minutes” on CBS News about a UFO sighting over the Pacific Ocean in 2004. Cmdr. Dave Fravor and Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich spotted the unidentified object during a training exercise but were unable to classify it. Fravor described it as a “little white Tic-Tac-looking object,” adding that it lacked conventional exhaust plumes and had no wings or visible markings.
It also moved erratically, the pilots said.
In an interview with NBC News that aired in February, Fravor described the 2004 encounter, calling the object “the strangest, most obscure thing I’ve ever seen flying.”
“As soon as we looked down, we see the whitewater, and then we see this little white Tic Tac,” Fravor told NBC’s “The Overview.” “It’s pointing north-south and it’s just going forward, back, left, right,” he said, adding that it was bouncing around “like a ping-pong ball.”
Fravor said he approached the mysterious object to take a closer look, and it began mirroring his movements. When the pilot got to within a half-mile of the UFO, it suddenly vanished, he said.
When did this all start?
Interest in UFO sightings, particularly by the military, is not new.
In 2007, the U.S. Defense Department quietly established the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which was designed to investigate UFO sightings. The secret $22 million initiative was shut down in 2012, and its existence was acknowledged for the first time in December 2017, following a report about the program published by The New York Times. The Times reported that the program’s initial funding came largely at the request of former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
In 2019, the Navy put together new guidelines for pilots to report “unidentified aircraft,” in a bid to formalize a process to investigate these types of mysterious sightings. The updated guidance came as a response to “a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years,” Navy officials told Politico in a statement at the time.
What is a UFO?
While UFOs are often synonymous with “aliens” in pop culture, the designation is not necessarily about extraterrestrials. An unidentified flying object is simply any object that can’t be classified as a known aircraft.
Several of the UFO sightings reported by Navy pilots were of unusually shaped objects that flew at high velocities, often maneuvering around in ways that baffled aeronautics experts and with no visible propulsion.
But aliens aside, the Pentagon has been interested in UFOs because they could pose threats to national security. Lt. Ryan Graves, a former Navy pilot, told “60 Minutes” that pilots on training flights have seen unexplained phenomena “every day for at least a couple years.”
“I am worried, frankly,” Graves said in the “60 Minutes” interview. “You know, if these were tactical jets from another country that were hanging out up there, it would be a massive issue. But because it looks slightly different, we’re not willing to actually look at the problem in the face. We’re happy to just ignore the fact that these are out there, watching us every day.”
Whether the UFO sightings are the result of advanced technology from foreign adversaries or if they have more bizarre, otherworldly origins, government officials need to have the facts, said Luis Elizondo, a former senior intelligence officer and the former director of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
“They have the responsibility to always act in a manner that is in the best interest of the United States and the American people,” Elizondo told NBC News. “This topic is no different than any other national security issue, and we must remain diligent, deliberate and discerning.”
Why is this happening now?
The report that will be delivered to Congress in June is the result of a provision in the $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and appropriations bill that President Donald Trump signed last year. The stipulation called for a “detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence” from the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force and the FBI.
Some senators are pushing other lawmakers and government officials to do more to investigate encounters with mysterious flying objects.
“I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told “60 Minutes.”
Rubio’s comments add support to other calls to treat possible UFO sightings with legitimacy rather than as fringe beliefs, a recent shift that was the subject of a feature story in The New Yorker titled “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously.”
Christopher Mellon, a top defense official who served in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said more needs to be done, adding that the process for reporting UFO sightings should be destigmatized.
“My hope is that this administration will provide our military people the support they deserve,” Mellon told NBC News. “On this issue, that means determining ASAP what threat if any is posed by the unidentified vehicles that are brazenly and repeatedly violating restricted U.S. airspace over hovering around our warships. Our people are naturally and rightly concerned and almost nothing has been done to address their concerns.”