The US military aims to more systematically classify and characterize reports of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), officials said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday (May 17).
Two top-tier military witnesses shared progress in identifying phenomena better known as “unidentified flying objects” or UFOs, using modern technologies, a variety of experts and other tools.
Tuesday’s hearing by the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation of Intelligence followed in the footsteps of a preliminary report submitted last year to Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that outlined progress to date in the Task Force. of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.
Additionally, the National Defense Authorization Act required the military to create a permanent office to house UAP investigative efforts, along with an annual report and briefings for Congress twice a year. The office is known as the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG)
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“Today, we will bring that organization out of the shadows,” subcommittee chairman André Carson (D-Indiana) said at the opening of the hearing. Calling UAPs a “potential national security threat,” he said pilots who report them have been stigmatized “for far too long.”
“Pilots either avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did report,” Carson said. “DOD [Department of Defense] officials pushed the issue to the back burner, or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community.”
Witnesses at the hearing included Ronald Moultrie, the Pentagon’s top intelligence official, and Scott Bray, deputy director of Naval Intelligence. Moultrie’s office oversees the UAP office, while Bray was invited since Navy pilots are among those who have made high-profile UAP sightings in the last 20 years.
Bray and Moultrie said there is nothing in the reports so far to suggest anything is outside of terrestrial origins, noting that astrobiologists are among their consultants in ruling out extraterrestrial life. Additionally, relationships with other US military organizations confirm that these are not reports of classified US aircraft.
That said, some information on UAP (such as wreckage or underwater search) remains classified. The witnesses agreed to address the classified information during a private portion of the hearing, following the public discourse.
Moultrie emphasized that in recent years, pilots have been encouraged to conduct UAP reports and said the new office will go even further in that effort. The work to come, he said, “will include comprehensive examination of antagonistic platforms and potentially innovative technologies, US government or commercial platforms, allied or associated systems, and other natural phenomena.”
Historical stigma will be addressed, he noted. “Our goal is to remove the stigma by fully engaging our operators and mission personnel in a standardized data collection process,” she said. “We believe that making UAP notification a mission imperative will be critical to mission success.”
Bray added that new efforts to investigate UAPs include subject matter experts from across DOD, as well as members of the intelligence community spanning various US government agencies and departments, along with academic research labs with specialties. covering physics, optics, meteorology and metallurgy.
“In summary, we have striven to provide a practical approach to better understand this phenomenon,” Bray said, but noted that even with all this experience, it is still difficult to quantify all the observations. “Any given observation may be fleeting or longer. It may or may not be recorded. It may be observable by one or multiple assets. In short, there is seldom an easy answer.”
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Bray showed a short cockpit video to illustrate the problem, in which a striped object appears for a couple of seconds in the field of vision of a Navy pilot at an undisclosed training ground. “In many other cases, we have much less than this,” he said.
But in some limited cases, there is progress. Bray then showed two videos recorded on opposite coasts of the United States, several years apart, by Navy personnel. Each of the recordings showed triangle-shaped objects flying across the sky in the view of the night vision goggles.
The second encounter, he said, was observed by independent “actives” (which he did not specify) who confirmed unmanned aerial systems, or drones, flying in the region. The Navy is now “reasonably certain” that the objects were drones, and the triangle shape arose “as a result of light passing through night vision goggles and then recorded by an SLR camera.”
When Carson noted that the Navy might be trying to distract from hundreds of recently reported UAPs by focusing on the few that could be explained, Bray said the effort is difficult, ongoing, and much of the work is necessarily classified.
Sightings by Navy pilots in coastal regions imply a likely location for advanced reconnaissance craft from other nations, since flights to the US mainland would be easier to detect, Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in Mountain View, California, he previously told Space.com.
“We don’t want potential adversaries to know exactly what we can see or understand, or how we come to the conclusions that we do,” Bray said, without specifying which countries are of concern. “Therefore, public disclosures must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis.”
Committee members only briefly alluded to which countries might be under suspicion. “The intelligence community owes a serious duty to our taxpayers to prevent potential adversaries, like China and Russia, from surprising us with unforeseen new technology as intelligence community watchdogs,” said Ranking Member Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas) .
He said the community has a responsibility to be aware of any potential development of hypersonic weapons by these two countries and, where relevant, share “actionable information” with countries such as Ukraine. (Ukraine has been under invasion by Russian forces for nearly three months.)
Independent of this committee process, the US is working to develop technologies that can counter hypersonic threats. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced Phase 2 of a “hysonic defense intercept” system called Glide Breaker.
For the agency’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), another program aimed at threats traveling faster than Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound), the agency also announced that a prototype Lockheed Martin hypersonic missile flew at Mach 5 “for a prolonged period.” Another HAWC test was conducted by Raytheon Technologies in September 2021.
The UFO investigations themselves have spanned some seven decades. A small sample of Air Force projects, for example, includes Project Sign (ending 1947), Project Grudge (1948), and the much better known Project Blue Book (1952-1969). That latest project investigated more than 12,600 UFO reports.