UFO sightings skyrocket: Some have ‘unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities’

The Pentagon has collected 247 reports of unidentified flying objects in less than 18 months – almost as many as in the last 17 years. Many resemble balloons, drones or bird, but some are shrouded in mystery

An unidentified flying object, captured in an image provided by the US Department of Defense.Photo: US DEPARTAMENT OF DEFENCE (US DEPARTAMENT OF DEFENCE) | Video: EPV
Miguel Jiménez

UFOs remain shrouded in mystery. Most turn out to be balloons, planes, drones or birds, but the latest Pentagon report sent to the US Congress admits that many are unattributed. Meanwhile, as the official number of sightings has skyrocketed, another report remains classified.

The public report from the United States Department of Defense concludes that there are more and more UFOs – officially known as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – being spotted than ever. The acronym UAP has recently displaced UFO (unidentified flying object) in official documents, although the term “UFO” is still popular in media outlets and the collective imagination.

Officially, the Pentagon has grown its list of unidentified phenomena to 510. In its first preliminary report – with a cut-off date of March 5, 2021 – it had cataloged 144 reports over the course of 17 years. From then until August 2022 – in just 17 months – there have been 247 subsequent event reports. In addition, another 119 previous sightings have been added to the total, as they were not included in past reports.

According to the Pentagon, the increase “is due, in part, to a better understanding of the potential threats that UAP may pose, either as flight safety hazards or potential adversary information-gathering platforms, and in part due to the reduction of the stigma that surrounds [notifying authorities].” In the past, many pilots preferred not to report sightings, for fear they would be considered crazy or unbalanced.

Of those new 366 UFOs and other phenomena, “more than half had unremarkable characteristics,” according to the report. There are 195 cases that have been characterized as balloons (163), drones (26) and other disturbances, such as birds, meteorological phenomena or airborne debris, such as plastic bags (6).

However, 171 sightings remain, whose origin is still unattributed.

“Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities. They require further analysis,” the Pentagon acknowledged.

Most of the new sighting reports come from United States Navy and Air Force pilots and operators, who witnessed the phenomena while conducting operational duties. Everything has been reported via official channels. That being said, according to the Pentagon, many reports lack enough detailed data to be strongly considered a UAP.

With the end of the 2022 fiscal year, the National Defense Authorization Act requires the office of the Director of National Intelligence – in consultation with the Secretary of Defense – to submit an annual report to Congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomena.

There is no reference in the Pentagon report (at least no public one) to an extraterrestrial or alien origin of the phenomena, but there are suspicions about the involvement of foreign governments.

According to the report, “incidents continue to occur in restricted or sensitive airspace, highlighting possible concerns about flight safety or data collection activity by adversaries.” The document states that this may be the result of collection bias, due to the number of active aircraft and sensors in restrictive airspace. Authorities “will continue to investigate any evidence of possible involvement of foreign governments in unidentified aerial phenomenon events,” said the document.

In another section, the report indicates that these phenomena pose a danger to flight safety and a risk of collision for aircrafts, but that, for the moment, there have been no collisions between US aircraft and UFOs. Regarding health problems, no contact has been confirmed that has directly resulted in adverse effects related to the health of the observer or observers.

Defense Department intelligence officers appeared before Congress in May 2022 to explain some of these phenomena. Scott Bray – deputy director of intelligence for the Navy – showed members of the House Intelligence Committee a video, captured from the cockpit of a jet. In the footage – above the sky, next to the plane – an object that resembles a shiny metallic sphere passes by at great speed, in an encounter that lasts for only an instant.

Parallel to the military efforts and concerns, the US aerospace agency, NASA, has created an independent multidisciplinary task force of 16 people to study these phenomena in depth. A full report with its findings will be published in mid-2023. One drawback is that the analysis will only focus on information that is not marked as classified or confidential.

The report, now made public by the Pentagon, leaves a suggestive phrase in this regard: “Additional information is offered in the classified version of this report.”

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