UFOs: What does the official report say from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence?
A congressional hearing on UFO sightings has brought renewed attention to a report released last year on the phenomenon by US National Intelligence.
It’s been 50 years since Congress last looked into UFOs. At recent hearings on the issue by lawmakers, top defense officials spoke on what has been discovered. A task force assembled to investigate observed aerial encounters that cannot be explained released a report in June 2021 on what the government calls Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Only one of the 144 sightings between 2004 and 2021 could be attributed to a specific explanation “with high confidence.”
The inability to “draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP” by the task force was due to a lack of “high-quality reporting” on the objects. In a limited number of reported encounters, the UAP were said to have exhibited “unusual flight characteristics” that will require “additional rigorous analysis.” The task force said that “there are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations.”
Why did the US government release a report on UFOs?
Congress ordered the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Defense Department, to look into the matter after US military videos were released that showed encounters between US Navy pilots and UAP. Using input from numerous government agencies, the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force focused on reports “largely witnessed firsthand by military aviators and that were collected from systems we considered to be reliable.”
Although some incidents come from as far back as 2004, the majority took place since 2019. In that year the US Navy set up a “new tailored process to better capture UAP events through formalized reporting.” The standardized reporting mechanism was adopted by the Air Force the following year.
Findings on UAP are “largely inconclusive” but some possible patterns emerge
Most of the 144 reports that came from government sources occurred when a UAP had interrupted military trainings or other activities. The report notes the fact that most of the sightings analyzed were clustered around US training and testing grounds is believed to have led to collection bias though.
But it has allowed for 80 events to be observed by multiple sensors, including “radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation,” leading to the belief that they were physical objects. However, US military sensors are designed to fulfill specific purposes which means they aren’t “generally suited for identifying UAP.” While 143 objects remain unexplained, the one UAP incident that can be identified “with high confidence” was a large, deflating balloon.
According to the report “the dataset is currently too limited to allow for detailed trend or pattern analysis.” But out of those, analysts were able to see some grouping of UAP observations in “shape, size, and, particularly, propulsion.” In the future, individual UAP are expected to fall into one of five potential categories if and when they can be explained.
Possible explanations for UAP observations
The report states that some of the sightings could be airborne clutter that “muddle a scene and affect an operator’s ability to identify true targets” or natural atmospheric phenomena like ice crystals that might register on some infrared and radar systems.
It’s possible that the objects observed are actually classified US programs or hardware being tested. However, the report cannot confirm that this is the case for any of the incidents collected. Some could be technologies deployed by a foreign adversary nation like China or Russia, but some other non-government entity is also possible.
Those objects that cannot be placed into one of these four categories will be put in a catchall “other” grouping. Eventual definitive classification of UAP in this list will depend on the development of scientific knowledge to better understand them to “successfully collect on, analyze and characterize” the objects. The task force intends to focus resources on the small number of those that “appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management.”
Some UAP display unusual movement patterns or flight characteristics
Observers in 18 incidents reported uncharacteristic flight and strange movements, even radio frequency energy. Without a means of propulsion that could be viewed, some UAP seemed to make sudden changes in direction or velocity reaching considerable speeds. In other instances, the objects appeared able to hover in spite of strong winds, even moving against the wind.
This small dataset is undergoing further analysis “to determine the nature and validity of these data.” Technical experts will determine if another nation has developed breakthrough technologies. Should this be the case, it could present a national security challenge to the US.
For the time though the report warns that “UAP pose a hazard to safety of flight.” In eleven of the incidents that the task force looked at pilots reported near misses with the object in question.