It is a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? None of the three, apparently. The U.S. government is analyzing over 650 possible cases of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs, in Pentagon jargon), more commonly known to the public as UFOs. The Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), created last year and headed by Sean Kirkpatrick, has however dampened any hopes of any of the UAPs studied being physics-defying or of extraterrestrial origin. Appearing before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Wednesday, Kirkpatrick did acknowledge that instances of UAP’s have increased: “As of this week, we are tracking over a total of 650 cases,” the AARO director confirmed. “Of those over 650, we’ve prioritized about half of them to be of anomalous interesting value.”
A declassified intelligence report issued by the U.S. earlier this year stated that it had cataloged 144 reports over the course of 17 years, to March 2021. From then until August 2022 — just 17 months — 247 subsequent event reports were recorded, in addition to 119 previous sightings that were not included in previous reports. However, these increases can be attributed to increased interest among U.S. government agencies in securing the country’s airspace and a desire to debunk the myths that surround sightings.
During the hearing, Kirkpatrick revealed that 52% of the UAPs studied by AARO were round or spherical in shape and those being tracked by his department were typically one to four meters in size, white, silver, metallic or translucent in hue and generally flying at altitudes of “10,000 to 30,000 feet with apparent velocities from stationary to Mach 2.”
Kirkpatrick’s office is primarily tasked with helping the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence services identify technologies that other countries may be employing. An example would be the suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over U.S. airspace earlier this year. In a small number of cases, some of the detected objects could be explained by the technical advances of other rival powers, the AARO director said. In those cases, the incident is referred to intelligence services for analysis.
Part of the subcommittee hearing was held in public, with the rest behind closed doors due to its classified content. During the public part of the presentation, Kirkpatrick showed two declassified videos. In one, a UAP appears to emit a jet of propulsion. But closer examination by AARO investigators determined that it was simply the heat signature emitted by the engines of an airliner passing through the area at the time.
The other video, recorded last year in the Middle East, remains more of a mystery. AARO experts have been unable to determine what the object is based on the information provided by the recording, which shows a spherical object passing through the camera screen of an MQ-9 drone. However, it is unclear how the UAP could possibly have been moving. “It is going to be virtually impossible to fully identify that, just based off of that video,” Kirkpatrick said.
Addressing the possibility of alien technology being behind any of the analyzed UAPs, Kirkpatrick stated: “In our research, AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology or objects that defy the known laws of physics,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that the majority of sightings reported to his department can be identified as balloons, drones, debris, atmospheric phenomena or other “perfectly explainable things.”
The January report issued by the United States Department of Defense indicated that, of the 366 new incidents reviewed to that date, “more than half had unremarkable characteristics.” Among those episodes, the Pentagon listed 163 incidents attributed to balloons or “balloon-like entities.” A month later, F-22 fighters shot a Chinese balloon down over U.S. waters a Chinese balloon after it had crossed the U.S. mainland, which Washington stated was being used for purposes of espionage.
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