Government officials say they believe almost all UFO sightings or ‘unidentified aerial phenomenon’ as they are referred to officially can be explained as either surveillance operations by foreign powers, weather balloons or other airborne clutter.
The U.S. government has spent decades deflecting, debunking and discrediting observations of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, dating back to the 1940s.
The term UFOs, long associated with notions of flying saucers and alien spacecraft, has been replaced in official government parlance by ‘UAP.’
The sightings have puzzled the Pentagon and intelligence agencies for years leading to theories about visiting space aliens and spying by hostile nations using advanced technology.
The Pentagon released three videos of UFOs taken by Navy pilots to ‘clear up misconceptions’
Sensors have caused ordinary objects such as drones or balloons, to appear to be something unusual
In a video known as ‘gimbal’ – an object that appears to be turning or spinning but officials believe it is the optics of the classified image sensor that is distorting the image
But officials say many of the incidents actually far more ordinary explanations.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon explained the previously released video of green triangles that looked like alien spacecraft were simply drones photographed through night-vision lenses.
Military officials did not provide details as to when or where the images were taken but say they are examples of an attempt to conduct surveillance on military maneuvers.
In another video, known as GoFast, an object appears to be moving at incredible speed.
The military say it is in fact an optical illusion created by the angle from which the object was observed against the water.
A hearing in May revealed videos showing 144 ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ seen by military personnel since 2004. One clip was taken from a Navy cockpit in a training area and shows a spherical object floating by the aircraft
Another shot of the unidentified spherical object can be seen whizzing past a military aircraft
The Pentagon say that in reality, the object was only moving at about 30mph.
In a video named Gimbal, an object looks to be turning or spinning.
Again, the military say that the optics of the classified image sensor which is supposed to help target weapons makes the object look as though it is moving in a strange way.
Some videos continue to remain puzzling such as one where an object can be seen hovering over the water before jumping erratically and peeling away.
If not able to provide a concrete determination, officials are still confident the technology is not alien.
The Pentagon explained the previously released video of green triangles that looked like alien spacecraft were simply drones photographed through night-vision lenses
The green pyramids have been explained as drones, despite moving in ways different from other previously seen aircraft
Military officials have said there is no evidence the images show visitors from other planets. The comments are often either ignored by lawmakers or played down in the news media or ignored by lawmakers.
In May, Pentagon officials testified under oath that the government had not collected materials from any alien landing on Earth.
Senior defense and intelligence officials testified before Congress five months ago with a list of cataloged UAP sightings that had grown to 400 with many seemingly remaining beyond explanation.
Among them are video released by the Pentagon of enigmatic airborne objects exhibiting speed and maneuverability exceeding known aviation technology and lacking any visible means of propulsion or flight-control surfaces.
A classified document is set to be delivered by intelligence agencies to Congress by Monday.
The report is expected to update one which was made public in 2021 that declared nearly all of the 144 incidents between 2004 and 2021 that were reported by U.S. government sources to be unexplained.
The Navy released the now infamous videos shot by its pilots that depicted some type of unidentified high-tech aircraft moving in ways that seemed impossible
But now some of the incidents have been formally attributed to Chinese surveillance using drone technology.
Other sightings are also being connected to China with one suggestion being how Beijing stole plans for advanced fighter planes.
Nevertheless, the majority of the information regarding the unidentified phenomena will remain classified with Pentagon officials keeping most of the work secret.
They say secrecy is required in order to prevent China from finding out that the American military was able to detect spying by the Chinese – but such secrecy only allow conspiracy theories to flourish.
‘The Pentagon must balance openness with its obligation to protect sensitive information, sources and methods,’ said Sue Gough, a Defense Department spokeswoman to the New York Times.
‘We are collecting as much data as we can, following the data where it leads and will share our findings whenever possible,’ she said.
Gough said that there was no single explanation that would solve the majority of unidentified aerial phenomenon reports.
In man of the recent cases that have been resolved, some were simply junk in the sky of weather balloons.
Optical illusions can also cause everyday objects such as drones or balloons, to appear to be something out of the ordinary making them appear to move faster than normal.
A number of older incidents still remain unexplained with too little data or evidence from devices such as cameras or radar for any final conclusion to be reached.
‘In many cases, observed phenomena are classified as ‘unidentified’ simply because sensors were not able to collect enough information to make a positive attribution,’ Gough said.
‘We are working to mitigate these shortfalls for the future and to ensure we have sufficient data for our analysis.’
Last year’s testimony before congress suggested the sightings could be human generated ‘airborne clutter’, like escaped balloons or plastic bags, or the result of natural phenomena caused by ice crystals, moisture or heat.
The report admitted they had no evidence to either suggest or rule out alien origin.
It stated: ‘UAP would also represent a national security challenge if they are foreign adversary collection platforms or provide evidence a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology.’
However, it also stated the observations ‘could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis.’
Ronald Moultrie, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official, and Scott Bray, the deputy director of naval intelligence, testified before the panel.
This image shows the brightness of the UFO compared to the three circled stars, which are much dimmer
Two UFOs (also called UAPS – unidentified aerial phenomena) are seen in this photo, grabbed from a video of the encounter
Moultrie said the Pentagon has not ruled out the possibility that these incidents could be connected to extraterrestrial life.
‘There are elements of our government engaged in … looking for extraterrestrial life,’ Moultrie said. ‘Our goal is not to potentially cover up something, it’s to understand what’s maybe out there.’
However, Bray said that officials have encountered no evidence to suggest the UAEs are of extra-terrestrial origin. ‘We’ll go wherever the data takes us,’ he said.
‘We have eliminated the stigma,’ added Bray.
‘We are all curious and we seek to understand the unknown. And as a lifelong intelligence professional, I’m impatient. I want immediate explanations for this as much as anyone else. However, understanding can take significant time and effort. It’s why we’ve endeavored to concentrate on this data driven process to derive fact based results,’ Bray said.
‘We want to know what’s out there as much as you do,’ Moultrie said, adding that he was a fan of science fiction.
‘Yes, I have followed science fiction. I have gone to conventions, I’ll say it on the record. … There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t necessarily dress up.’
A brief history of the Pentagon’s study of UFOs: 1947 to now
A report of a ‘flying saucer’ over U.S. airspace in 1947 launched a mass hysteria over unidentified foreign objects that sparked federal investigation into the matter.
That year search-and-rescue pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported nine ‘saucer-like things…flying like geese in a diagonal chainlike line’ at speeds exceeding 1,000 m.p.h. near Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Within weeks, ‘flying saucer’ sightings were reported in 40 other states.
On July 19, 1952, air traffic controller Edward Nugent at Washington National Airport detected seven slow-moving objects on his radar screen, and he joked to his boss: ‘Here’s a fleet of flying saucers for you.’
Before the end of the night, a pilot reported seeing similar unexplained objects, and radar picked up the objects at two local Air Force bases — Andrews and Bolling. As radar blips showed the objects in restricted air space over the Capitol and the White House, two Air Force F-94 jets scoured Washington, searching for flying saucers. As soon as the F-94s cruised into the area, the blips disappeared from the radar, and they found nothing and returned to base. As soon as they left, the blips reappeared on the radar, according to the Washington Post.
The late 1940s and early 1950s prompted a mass hysteria of ‘flying saucer’ UFO sightings. This Nov. 23, 1951 photo from Riverside, Calif. was taken by Guy Marquand, who claimed that he and two friends saw the object fly past at a very high rate of speed, and when it came back, he had his camera ready to make the pictur
Newspaper cartoon drawing of ‘flying saucer’ objects, after blips appeared on the radar over the Capitol
In 1966, a string of unidentified aerial phenomena in Massachusetts and New Hampshire prompted the House Committee on Armed Services to hold a congressional hearing on the matter.
Following hearings, Congress established the Condon Committee, a group at the University of Colorado funded by the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1968 to research unidentified aerial phenomena.
The Committee eventually became mired in controversy, and some members charged director Edward Condon with bias. In the end the Condon Committee determined there was nothing extraordinary about UFOs, and that further research was unlikely to yield results.
At the same time, the Air Force was running Project Blue Book, a UFO study done by the U.S. Air Force that ran from 1952 to 1969.
By the time Project Bluebook ended, it had collected 12,618 UFO reports but concluded that most of them were misidentified natural phenomena, such as stars, clouds or planes and found that most UFO incidents were a) not a threat to national security b) there was no evidence that such ‘unidentified’ sightings represented technological developments beyond modern science from across the globe.
Still, 701 of the reports remain ‘unidentified,’ despite detailed analysis.
With the findings of the Condon Committee, Sec. of the Air Force Robert Seamans brought Project Bluebook to a close because further funding ‘cannot be justified either on the grounds of national security or in the interest of science.’
The Air Force has long said it is unlikely to take up any formal study of UFOs again, blaming budget constraints.
However in 2017 it was revealed that the Air Force underwent a new secret UFO study Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), funded at $22 million from 2007 to 2012.