Most reported UFO sightings are ‘unremarkable,’ Pentagon review finds



A Pentagon office studying unidentified aerial phenomena, better known as UFOs, has determined that nearly 200 recently reported sightings were “unremarkable” and possibly can be attributed to routine objects found in the air, including drones, balloons and clutter, such as plastic bags.

The All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, established last summer, analyzed 366 reports gathered as part of a new push by the government to encourage reporting of unidentified flying objects, which have frequently occurred near military installations and naval vessels. The review left more than 170 reports uncharacterized, some of which “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” according to a report submitted to Congress this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which has worked with the Pentagon to try to determine the nature of the objects.

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Multiple government reviews have found no evidence that the flying objects, as well as others that have been spotted in the ocean or moving back and forth between the air and the sea, can be attributed to alien life or extraterrestrial visitors. Defense officials told reporters last month, though, that while the U.S. government has discovered no such signs, its search is set to expand. Congress included a provision in this year’s defense policy bill requiring deeper historical inquiry.

In June 2021, the intelligence director’s office issued a preliminary report based on a review of 144 sightings, many of which came from U.S. naval aviators. The results were largely inconclusive and fueled public fascination around the objects, some of which “appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion,” the report found.

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Since that document was published, the Pentagon office has received a total of 247 new reports of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), as well as 119 reports on events that were not included in the preliminary intelligence assessment. Since last year, investigators have catalogued 510 reports involving UAPs.

“UAP events continue to occur in restricted or sensitive airspace, highlighting possible concerns for safety of flight or adversary collection activity,” the new report said. Investigators will continue to look at evidence of “possible foreign government involvement,” underscoring concerns that some of the sightings are likely drones that may be monitoring U.S. military equipment and personnel.

On May 17, Congress held a hearing on UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena), better known as UFOs. Here’s why. (Video: Monica Rodman, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)

Some officials had previously expressed concerns that some of the objects that appeared to exhibit extraordinary flying capabilities could be evidence of highly-advanced technology built by U.S. adversaries such as Russia or China. No information has emerged to attribute those sightings to a foreign government, but some sighting of objects that appeared to loiter in the sky have been characterized as drones by U.S. defense officials.

The increase in UAP sightings is explained in part by a reduction in the stigma long associated with reporting strange objects or lights in the sky, particularly in the military and among pilots, investigators found. The majority of the new reporting came from U.S. Navy and Air Force aviators and operators who witnessed the UAPs while performing their official duties and described them through official channels. Many of those reports, “lack enough detailed data” to say definitively what the personnel saw, investigators found.

They also acknowledged in their report that “a select number of UAP incidents” may be the explained by “sensor irregularities or variances, such as operator or equipment error.”

Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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