The Pentagon UFO report is out — here's what it says (and doesn't say)

The much-anticipated report laid out what the government knows, and does not know, about UFOs.

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US Navy video of UAP
Screenshot via YouTube

The truth is finally here, or at least some of it.

On Friday, a highly anticipated and unclassified government report into U.S. military sightings of unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) was released to the public (UAP is the military term for what you and I call UFOs or unidentified flying objects).

This is the first detailed government report on UAPs to be released in nearly 50 years. In its pages, Pentagon officials essentially explain that the sightings of these things are real — but they don’t know what the “things” are.

"We were able to identify one reported UAP with high confidence,” the report says. “In that case, we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained."

What is in the UFO Pentagon report?

The document is part of the mandate of the Intelligence Authorization Act, made law by the Trump Administration in December 2020. It explicitly calls for the release of an unclassified and all-sources report on UAPs and the military’s investigations into these sightings.

The report focused on events that took place between the years 2004 and 2021. Sorry, no Roswell, Phoenix Lights, or Area 51. The objects identified in the report were confirmed to be physical objects, with only the balloon fully explained. Interestingly, the report says there were 11 documented “near misses” between a military vehicle and a UAP.

Meanwhile, the rest of the objects could potentially fall into one of five categories, according to the report:

  • Airborne clutter — birds, balloons, drones, and the like
  • Natural atmospheric phenomenon — ice crystals, weather, and areas of temperature variables
  • USG or U.S. industry developmental programs — the report was not able to confirm any of these to be the cause.
  • Foreign adversary systems — China and Russia were listed as potential sources, along with potentially other nations or “a non-governmental entity.”
  • And an obscure “other” category for unexplained phenomenon — “The UAPTF intends to focus additional analysis on the small number of cases where a UAP appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management,” the report says

One interesting part of the report states:

In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics.
Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.

When the Trump administration ordered a report into these phenomena, the mystery came out of the murk of the internet and into the pages of The New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, and more.

The report was expected to be presented to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday before being released online, a U.S. official told ABC News. A source familiar confirmed to Inverse that the report was delivered around noon on Friday, EST.

The official interviewed by ABC added that while many of the dozens of incidents could not be explained, some of them were attributed to weather balloons or atmospheric conditions.

A couple of weeks before its release, the New York Times reported that the video did not find evidence that the UAPs witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years were, in fact, alien spacecraft — but in a bit of a tease, didn’t definitively say that they aren't.

The government did not reach a definitive conclusion on what these UAPs are, the New York Times reported. The same goes for the ultimate DNI report, which states, “Although most of the UAP described in our dataset probably remain unidentified due to limited data or challenges to collection processing or analysis, we may require additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on, analyze and characterize some of them.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement, saying, “Through the Intelligence Authorization Act, the Congress and the Intelligence Committee required the preparation and release of today’s report, as it has become increasingly clear that unidentified aerial phenomena are not a rare occurrence and our government needs a unified way to gather, analyze, and contextualize these reports.”

Why did the U.S. government release a UFO report?

The report was mandated by law to be released within 180 days of the Intelligence Authorization Act becoming law late last year. But it is also the pinnacle of a cultural obsession with “UFO talk” — in large part spurred by various leaked U.S. Navy tapes of UAPs captured by pilots.

The Intelligence Authorization Act calling for the report was itself preceded by a series of surprising statements by the Department of Defense authenticating grainy footage of UAPs caught by Navy pilots.

Some of the most notable moments in the lead-up to today’s release include:

  • In 2017, footage captured by Navy pilots showed a cluster of odd-looking aircraft executing strange maneuvers. The video was leaked online and was published in the New York Times.
  • In April 2020, the Pentagon formally released the three videos, in turn admitting that the footage is real but that they could not confirm what the objects were.
  • On April 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense once again confirmed the authenticity of photos and videos of UAPs originally taken in July 2019. The images show mysterious lights encircling the USS Russell and the USS Omaha at the Naval Base San Diego.

In August 2020, the Department of Defense established the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to analyze and catalog UAP sightings that could potentially pose a threat to national security.

The report must include whether or not these incidents are indeed a threat and if they could be the work of “foreign adversaries.”

“The Department of Defense and the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously and examine each report,” the defense department said in a statement. “This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as UAP when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing.”

In the midst of the videos being released, former government officials have made comments to the press that further fueled the hype around UFOs to the public.

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a high-profile interview with Fox News earlier this year that the report would contain information on “difficult to explain” sightings.

“We are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for, or are traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in March.

Meanwhile, NASA’s newly appointed administrator Bill Nelson expressed interest in finding out what these flying objects were.

“I have talked to those Navy pilots and they are sure that they saw something real,” Nelson said during an interview with CNN. “We don’t know if it’s extraterrestrial, we don’t know if it’s an enemy.”

Others see UAPs as a threat that needs to be resolved.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged officials to take the issue seriously.

“For years, the men and women we trust to defend our country reported encounters with unidentified aircraft that had superior capabilities, and for years their concerns were often ignored and ridiculed,” Rubio said in a statement released Friday. “This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step.”

“The Defense Department and Intelligence Community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern,” he added.

What happens after the release of the UFO report?

Even with the release of a declassified report on UAPs, the mystery that surrounds them still persists.

The report was essentially the government’s efforts to offer the public everything they’ve got amidst accusations that government officials are trying to hide the truth. But whether or not the public is convinced with the conclusions reached in the report is another story.

Although conspiracy theories around UFOs will likely continue, perhaps the report will inspire a more grounded, scientific look at unidentified aerial phenomenon and the search for extraterrestrial life.

“We should approach these questions without preconceptions to encourage a thorough, systematized analysis of the potential national security and flight safety risks posed by unidentified aerial phenomena, whether they are the result of a foreign adversary, atmospheric or other aerial phenomena, space debris, or something else entirely,” Schiff said.

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