WASHINGTON: A US government report on UFOs issued on Friday said defence and intelligence analysts lack sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by American military pilots, including whether they are advanced earthly technologies, atmospherics or of an extraterrestrial origin.

The unclassified nine-page report https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Prelimary-Assessment-UAP-20210625.pdf, released to Congress and the public, encompasses 144 observations — mostly from US Navy personnel — of what the government officially calls “unidentified aerial phenomenon”, or UAP, dating back to 2004.

Labelled a preliminary assessment, it was compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in conjunction with a Navy-led task force created by the Pentagon last year.

“UAP clearly poses a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to US national security,” the report stated, adding that the phenomena “probably lack a single explanation”.

The report marked a turning point for the US government after the military spent decades deflecting, debunking and discrediting observations of unidentified flying objects and “flying saucers” dating back to the 1940s.

The US military spent decades discrediting and debunking sightings of unidentified flying objects

The report includes some UAP cases that previously came to light in the Pentagon’s release of video from naval aviators showing enigmatic aircraft off the US East and West Coasts exhibiting speed and manoeuvrability exceeding known aviation technologies and lacking any visible means of propulsion or flight-control surfaces.

All but one of the listed sightings — an instance attributed to a large, deflating balloon — remain unexplained, subject to further analysis, the report said. For the other 143 cases, the report found that too little data exists to conclude whether they represent some exotic aerial system developed either by a US government or commercial entity, or by a foreign power such as China or Russia.

In some observations, UAP appeared to exhibit “unusual patterns or flight characteristics”, but those may stem from sensor glitches or witness misperceptions and “require additional rigorous analysis”, the report said.

Analysts have yet to rule out an extraterrestrial origin, senior US officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The report’s language avoided explicit mentions of such possibilities.

Asked about potential alien explanations, one of the officials said: “That’s not the purpose of the task force, to evaluate any sort of search for extraterrestrial life. ... That’s not what we were charged with doing.”

“Of the 144 reports we are dealing with here, we have no clear indications that there is any non-terrestrial explanation for them — but we will go wherever the data takes us,” the senior official added.

The study documented 11 UAP near-misses reported by pilots and a small number of cases in which military aircraft “processed radio frequency energy associated with UAP sightings”.

Most reports also described objects that interrupted training or other US military exercises, it stated.

The task force focused on phenomena witnessed first-hand by military aviators, with 80 reports involving detection by multiple sensors, the report said. Most were from the past few years.

The report established five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, US government or American industry developmental programmes, foreign adversary systems and a catch-all “other” category.

The senior official said the findings did not provide any “clear indications” that the UAP are part of a foreign intelligence-collection programme or a major technological advancement by a potential adversary.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2021

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