Topline

In the latest instance of the federal government showing it considers UFOs a very real threat, the Department of Defense late Tuesday announced plans for a new group to look into reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, as speculation grows over what is actually out there.

A report released in June found that Navy pilots have had at least 11 near-misses with UFOs.


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Key Facts

The new program, called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, will examine reports of UFOs in special use airspace (SUA), such as military operation areas, to “assess and mitigate any associated threats to safety of flight and national security,” the Pentagon said in a news release.

The announcement comes just over five months after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report on 144 UFO sightings by Navy pilots since 2004, with intelligence officials unable to explain 143 of the sightings, but concluding they are likely real objects that could pose a threat to national security.

Pressure has mounted for the government to ramp up its research to come up with some sort of explanation, with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) saying this summer: “When you have this much visual and radar evidence that there is something . . . we’ve got to get an answer.”

In January, the CIA released thousands of documents that it claimed amounted to all of its UFO research, but—much like the June report—it failed to provide an answer to the phenomena.

Public interest in UFOs also reached a fever pitch this year, with Google Trends data showing spikes in searches like “UFO” and “UFO sightings” through much of the year, though it has tapered off a bit in the fall.

A massive rise in sightings by the general public has coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic—sightings reportedly increased nationwide by 16% in 2020, with sightings in New York doubling.

Big Number

11. That’s how many times Navy pilots have reported near-misses with UFOs, according to the report released in June.

Crucial Quote

“Incursions by any airborne object into our SUA pose safety of flight and operations security concerns, and may pose national security challenges,” the Pentagon said.

What To Watch For

In its June report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence identified five categories that UFOs will likely fall into—airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, secret U.S. aircraft, foreign adversary systems or a catchall “other” category. The report didn’t make mention of the popular, yet unfounded, speculation that UFOs might be of extraterrestrial origin.

Key Background

U.S. government research on UFOs dates back decades, starting in the 1940s. The most comprehensive report thus far was called Project Blue Book, carried out from 1952–69. The investigation reviewed more than 12,000 UFO reports, but found most of the reports were explainable and determined at the time that UFOs weren’t a threat to national security. Government UFO research largely fizzled out after Project Blue Book, until 2007, when a little-known project called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program launched. The program ushered in the new era of increased government scrutiny on UFOs, but largely remained unnoticed until media reports on its existence appeared in 2017. It was replaced by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, which launched in 2020.

Further Reading

Intel Agencies Say Most UFO Sightings They Reviewed Were Likely Real Objects (No, That Doesn’t Mean They’re Alien Spacecraft) (Forbes)

UFO sightings spike dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic (CNET)

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program (The New York Times)

Original Source