Stranger than fiction

Why the US is ‘getting serious’ about UFOs

Congress to be briefed next month on military sightings of unidentified flying objects

The US response to UFO sightings represents a “massive intelligence failure”, a former defence official has warned ahead of the release of a report on what the Pentagon calls “unidentified aerial phenomena”.

Christopher Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for intelligence under George W. Bush, told CNBC that “it’s extremely disturbing to think that, after spending hundreds of billions of dollars for so many years”, mysterious “vehicles” are still “operating in restricted military airspace with impunity on a recurring and sustained basis”.

Mellon spoke out as US intelligence agencies prepare to deliver a report on such incidents to Congress next month, sparking “renewed interest and speculation into how the government has handled sightings of mysterious flying objects - and if there’s any worldly explanation for them”, says NBC News.

Unidentified threat

The Pentagon last year declassified three videos filmed by US navy pilots that “show unidentified objects flying at high speeds in the Earth’s atmosphere”, CNBC reports. The grainy videos - one of which dates from 2004 and the other two from 2015 - were all filmed during training exercises and feature “audio of Navy pilots expressing shock and awe”, says the news broadcaster.

A statement from the Pentagon said that the videos were being made public to “clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos”.

The footage had been “circulating in the public domain after unauthorised releases in 2007 and 2017”, said the statement, adding that “the aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterised as ‘unidentified’”.

The posting of two of the videos on The New York Times website in 2017 had triggered a fresh wave of public interest in documented sightings of UFOs.

And more questions are being asked in the wake of an interview aired last weekend on CBS news show 60 Minutes in which two former navy pilots recounted a UFO sighting over the Pacific Ocean in 2004.

David Fravor - described as “a graduate of the Top Gun naval flight school and commander of the F/A-18F squadron on the USS Nimitz” - told how he saw a “little white Tic Tac-looking object” that he watched “for roughly about five minutes” until it “disappeared”.

Fravor said that “there was four of us in the airplanes literally watching this thing”, which had “no markings, no wings, no exhaust plumes”. When he tried to get closer, it began “mirroring” his movements, he said, adding: “It was aware we were there.”

With “some senators pushing other lawmakers and government officials to do more to investigate encounters with mysterious flying objects”, says NBC News, attention is now focused on the upcoming report to be shared with Congress next month. 

Compiled by the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defence, the report “aims to make public what the Pentagon knows about unidentified flying objects and data analysed from such encounters”, the broadcaster adds.

‘Take it seriously’

US security forces have been investigating UFOs for more than a decade, at least, with an Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme established in 2007. 

Funded from the Defence Department budget, the $22m (£15.5m) programme was kept secret from the public until The New York Times published an expose on military UFO sightings in 2017, by which time it had been shut down for five years. The cash to launch the “shadowy” project had been provided at the request of the then Senate leader, Democrat Harry Reid, “who has long had an interest in space phenomena”, the paper reported.

Despite wrapping up the programme, the Pentagon has also continued to show an interest in UFOs, with the US navy putting together formal guidelines in 2019 for pilots to report sightings. Navy officials told Politico at the time that there had been “a number of reports of unauthorised and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years”.

Appearing on last weekend’s 60 Minutes, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously.” 

And it would appear that his call is being heeded, with the US government “getting serious” about the “now-established fact that some UFOs are real and true unknowns”, The Independent reports.

“Many government officials” think that it is “exceptionally unlikely that these UFOs are operated by China, Russia, or a tech genius such as Elon Musk”, because “no nation is known to have aerial platforms anything similar” to what has been reported by military personnel, the paper continues. 

But on the other hand, “perhaps there are countries or individuals who live on our planet who have achieved technological feats that we previously couldn’t have even imagined”.

As speculation mounts ahead of the Pentagon’s report to Congress, former security official Mellon told NBC News said that he hopes Joe Biden’s administration will “provide our military people the support they deserve” to better understand and potentially defend against UFOs.

“That means determining ASAP what threat if any is posed by the unidentified vehicles that are brazenly and repeatedly violating restricted US airspace over hovering around our warships,” he said. 

“Our people are naturally and rightly concerned and almost nothing has been done to address their concerns.” 

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