WASHINGTON (AP) – The drop, captured in distant, blurry video by Navy pilots, appears to be floating just above ocean waves at improbable speed, with no discernible means of propulsion or lift. “Oh my God, man,” one aviator said to another, laughing at the oddity. “What is that?”
Is it a bird? A plane? Super drone? An alien something?
The US government has taken a close look at unidentified flying objects like this one. A report summarizing what the United States knows about “unidentified aerial phenomena” – better known as UFOs – is expected to be released this month.
There will be no unmasked aliens. Two officials briefed on the report say it found no extraterrestrial connection to the sightings reported and captured on video. The report does not rule out a link to another country, according to officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.
Although the general findings have now been reported, the full report can still present a broader picture of what the government knows. The anticipation surrounding the report shows how a subject normally confined to science fiction and a small group of often dismissed researchers reached the general public.
Worried about threats to national security from adversaries, lawmakers have ordered an investigation and public reporting of phenomena the government has shied away from for generations.
“There is stuff flying in our airspace,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the senators who called for the inquiry, recently told Fox News. âWe don’t know what it is. We have to find out.
Late last year, Congress asked the director of national intelligence to provide “a detailed analysis of data on unidentified aerial phenomena” from several agencies and report back in 180 days. That time is almost up. The intelligence office did not say last week when the full document will be released.
The bill passed by Congress calls on the intelligence director to “any incident or pattern indicating that a potential adversary may have achieved revolutionary aerospace capabilities that could endanger US strategic or conventional forces.”
The main concern is whether hostile countries deploy air technology so advanced and so strange that it baffles and threatens the world’s greatest military power. But when lawmakers talk about it, they tend to leave a little wiggle room in case it’s something else – whether it’s more prosaic than a military rival or, you know, more cosmic.
“Right now there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California told NBC this week. âIf other countries have capabilities that we don’t know, we want to know. If there is any other explanation than that, we want to learn that too.
Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said he didn’t believe the sightings came from a foreign power’s technology in part because it would have been nearly impossible to keep it off. secret. Elizondo accused the Defense Department of trying to discredit him and says there is a lot more information the United States has kept secret.
âWe live in an amazing universe,â Elizondo said. “There are all kinds of hypotheses that suggest that the three-dimensional universe we live in is not that easy to explain.”
But Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, is skeptical.
The science historian, a longtime analyst of UFO theories and other phenomena, said he had seen too many blurry images of alleged alien encounters to be convinced by even more blurry images of aircraft spots . It’s a time, he notes, when several billion people around the world have smartphones that take sharp images and satellites accurately render details on the ground.
âShow me the body, show me the spaceship or show me some really high quality videos and photographs,â he said in an interview. “And I will believe.”
Mick West, a leading unexplained phenomena researcher and conspiracy theory debunker, said it was right for the government to investigate and report on the potential national security implications of the sightings captured in now declassified videos.
“Anytime there is some sort of unidentified object that crosses military airspace, it is a real problem that needs to be looked into,” he told AP.
“But the videos, even though they show unidentified objects, they don’t show amazing unidentified objects.”
Pilots and sky watchers have long reported sporadic UFO sightings in US airspace, apparently at unusual speeds or paths. In most cases, these mysteries evaporate on examination.
In 1960, the CIA said 6,500 items had been reported to the US Air Force over the previous 13 years. The Air Force concluded that there was no evidence that these sightings were “hostile or hostile” or related to “interplanetary spacecraft,” the CIA said.
UFO reports have, of course, persisted since then. Some people who study the subject argue that investigations have been limited by the stigma of being tied to conspiracy theories or talking about little green men storming Earth. They note that the government has a history of blocking and lying about the unexplained.
It took 50 years for the government to come up with what it hoped was a complete debunking of allegations that alien bodies were recovered from a crash site in New Mexico in 1947. In 1997, the Air Force said that Roswell’s “bodies” were dummies used in parachute testing. , recent ancestors of today’s models.
Retired Air Force Col. Richard Weaver, who wrote one of the official reports on the Roswell rumors, has tried to assure the public that the government is not competent enough to cover up a true alien sighting . “We have a hard time keeping a secret,” he said, “let alone putting together a decent plot.”
A recent turning point came in December 2017, when The New York Times revealed a five-year Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. The Pentagon then released videos, leaked earlier, of military pilots encountering dark objects they couldn’t identify.
One was the video clip of aviators tracking down the drip over the ocean off the US coast in 2015, dubbed Gofast. In another from this year, labeled Gimbal, an unexplained object is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” said one naval aviator to another, though only one indistinct object was shown. ” He turns. “
In 2019, the Navy announced it would create a formal process for its pilots to report Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs. Last August, the Ministry of Defense created a working group dedicated to the issue. The mission was to “detect, analyze and catalog the UAPs” which could put the United States in danger
In the age of increasingly sophisticated drones, now seen as a risk to sensitive domestic military sites such as nuclear missile bases, the focus has been more on foreign rivals than on supposed visitors to an area. other planet. Yet the formation of the task force was a rare recognition by the government that UFOs posed a potential national security problem.
More recently, a CBS “60 Minutes” article featured the declassified videos and raised questions about intelligence available to the US government.
Rubio, a senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and its former chairman, said it was important for investigators to follow up on his pilots’ reports and make the findings public. “I don’t care what our military, their radars and their sight tell them,” Rubio said. âThere are a number of highly qualified and highly skilled people. “
Yet very often things in the sky are not what they appear to be. Shermer gives examples of how tedious seemingly otherworldly phenomena can be on this Earth.
â90-95% of all UFO sightings,â he said, âcan be explained by weather balloons, flares, sky lanterns, planes flying in formation, secret military planes, birds reflecting the sun, planes reflecting the sun, airships, helicopters, the planets Venus or Mars, meteors or space debris from meteorites, satellites, swamp gas … ball lightning, ice crystals reflecting light from clouds, lights on the ground or lights reflected off a cockpit window, temperature inversions, punch clouds.
âFor any of these things to be real, we need something more than these grainy videos and blurry photographs,â he said.
“We really need hard evidence, extraordinary evidence, because it would be one of the most extraordinary claims of all time if it were true.”
Associated Press video reporters Dan Huff and Nathan Ellgren and AP national security writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.
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