The blob, captured on fuzzy and distant video by Navy pilots, appears to glide just above ocean waves at improbable speed, with no discernible means of propulsion or lift. “Oh my gosh man,” one aviator says to another as they laugh at the weirdness. “What is it?”
It is a bird? A plane? Super drone? Something extraterrestrial?
The US government has been carefully analyzing unidentified flying objects like this one. A report summarizing what the US knows about “unidentified aerial phenomena”, better known as UFOs, is expected to be released this month.
There will be no alien unmasking. Two officials briefed on the report say they found no extraterrestrial link to the reported sightings captured on video. The report does not rule out a link to another country, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.
While the overall findings have now been reported, the full report may still present a broader picture of what the government knows. The anticipation surrounding the report shows how a topic normally confined to science fiction and a small group of researchers, often discarded, has made its way into the mainstream.
Concerned about threats to national security from adversaries, lawmakers ordered an investigation and public accountability of phenomena the government has resisted talking about for generations.
“There are things flying in our airspace,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the senators who lobbied for the investigation, recently told Fox News. “We don’t know what it is. We have to find out. ”
Late last year, Congress directed the director of national intelligence to provide “a detailed analysis of data on unidentified aerial phenomena” from multiple agencies and a report within 180 days. That time is about to end. The intelligence office did not say last week when the full document will come out.
The bill passed by Congress asks the intelligence director for “any incident or pattern that indicates that a potential adversary may have achieved revolutionary aerospace capabilities that could put America’s strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
The main concern is whether hostile countries are deploying air technology so advanced and strange that it confuses and threatens the world’s greatest military power. But when lawmakers talk about it, they tend to leave a little leeway in case it’s something else, whether it’s more prosaic than a military rival, or, you know, more cosmic.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions right now,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told NBC this week. “If other nations have capabilities that we don’t know about, we want to find out. If there is any other explanation besides that, we also want to learn it. ”
Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said he did not believe the sightings were from the technology of a foreign power in part because it would have been nearly impossible to keep that secret. Elizondo has accused the Defense Department of trying to discredit him and says there is much more information that the United States has kept secret.
“We live in an incredible universe,” 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 veteran analyst of UFO theories and other phenomena, said that he has seen too many blurry images of alleged alien encounters to be convinced by even blurrier images of aircraft blobs. This is a moment, he points out, when several billion people around the world have smartphones that take sharp images and satellites accurately depict details on the ground.
“Show me the body, show me the spaceship, or show me very high-quality videos and photos,” he said in an interview. “And I will believe.”
Mick West, a leading researcher of unexplained phenomena and debunker of conspiracy theories, said it was right for the government to investigate and report on the possible national security implications of the sightings captured on now-declassified videos.
“Every time there is some kind of unidentified object going through military airspace, that is a real problem that needs to be investigated,” he told the AP.
“But the videos, even though they show unidentified objects, they do not show amazing unidentified objects.”
Pilots and sky watchers have long reported sporadic UFO sightings in US airspace, seemingly at unusual speeds or trajectories. In most cases, those mysteries evaporate upon examination.
In 1960, the CIA said that 6,500 objects had been reported to the US Air Force during the previous 13 years. The Air Force concluded that there was no evidence that those sightings were “hostile or hostile” or related to “interplanetary spacecraft,” the CIA said.
The UFO reports, of course, have persisted ever since. Some people who study the subject argue that investigations have been limited by the stigma of being linked to conspiracy theories or talking about little green men storming the Earth. They point out that the government has a history of evasion and lies about the inexplicable.
It took the government 50 years to offer what it hoped would be a total discrediting of claims that extraterrestrial bodies were recovered from a 1947 New Mexico crash site. In 1997, the Air Force said the “bodies” of Roswell were dummies used in parachutes. evidence, recent ancestors of today’s car accident dummies.
Retired Air Force Colonel Richard Weaver, who wrote one of the official reports on the Roswell rumors, tried to assure the public that the government is not competent enough to cover up a genuine alien sighting. “We have a hard time keeping a secret,” he said, “much less putting together a decent conspiracy.”
A recent turning point came in December 2017, when The New York Times revealed a five-year Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. The Pentagon later released previously leaked videos of military pilots who came across dark objects they could not identify.
One was the video clip of airmen tracking the slick over the ocean off the US coast in 2015, dubbed Go Fast. In another from that year, labeled Gimbal, an inexplicable object is tracked as it rises high along with the clouds, traveling against the wind. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” one naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown. “It is rotating.”
In 2019, the Navy announced that it would create a formal process for its pilots to report unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP. Last August, the Department of Defense created a task force dedicated to the issue. The mission was to “detect, analyze, and catalog UAPs” that could endanger the US.
In an era of increasingly sophisticated drones, now seen as a risk to sensitive national military sites such as nuclear missile bases, the focus has been more on foreign rivals than on would-be visitors from another planet. . However, the formation of the task force was a rare recognition by the government that UFOs represented a potential national security problem.
More recently, a story on CBS’s “60 Minutes” featured the declassified videos and raised questions about what intelligence the US government has.
Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee and its former chairman, said it is important for investigators to follow up on their pilots’ reports and make the findings public. “I’m making a mistake with what our military and their radars and their eyesight are telling them,” Rubio said. “There are several highly trained and highly competent people.”
However, things in heaven are often not what they seem. Shermer recites examples of how otherworldly phenomena can be tedious on this Earth.
“Ninety to 95% of all UFO sightings,” he said, “can be explained as weather balloons, flares, sky lanterns, airplanes flying in formation, secret military airplanes, birds that reflect the sun, airplanes that reflect the sun, airships. , helicopters, the planets Venus or Mars, meteorites or space debris from meteorites, satellites, swamp gas … ball-shaped lightning, ice crystals that reflect light from clouds, lights on the ground or lights reflected off a cabin window, temperature inversions, perforated clouds. ”
“For any of these things to be real, we need more than just these grainy videos and blurry photos,” he said.
“We really need strong evidence, extraordinary evidence because this would be one of the most extraordinary claims in history if it were true.”