That the report, whose conclusions were first described by the New York Times, does not rule out extraterrestrial activity is likely to further stoke what has become a highly unusual national discussion about the possibility that unknown life-forms are visiting Earth, as senators, former CIA directors and former president Barack Obama express new openness to UFOs.
The report, mandated as part of a gargantuan pandemic relief package signed last year by then-President Donald Trump, emerges as what was once seen as a fringe conspiracy theory becomes more mainstream. It comes as years of political divisions and misinformation shake Americans’ faith in their government and fuel doubt about established science.
Interest in the UFO report was stirred further last month when “60 Minutes” aired footage of infrared video of unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs in Pentagon parlance, taken by military aircraft. Ryan Graves, a retired Navy pilot, said that he and other pilots had similar sightings every day for several years.
Objects recorded in such videos have baffled pilots, military and intelligence officials for their apparent defiance of known laws of flight and gravity, Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence official, told reporters on an April roundtable call.
Navy pilots struggled to understand the velocity and movements of UAPs they captured on fighter jet sensors. In one 2015 video recorded by an F/A-18 Super Hornet, a tracked UAP powers through wind recorded at more than 130 miles per hour. The pilots are heard discussing its possible origins before it oscillates like a top.
“It’s rotating!” one pilot says in bewilderment.
Among the early proponents in Washington of investigating unexplained aerial objects was former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who urged the federal government to take the potential for UFOs seriously.
More than a decade later, others are calling for a thorough investigation, including Obama, former CIA director R. James Woolsey and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Rubio, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the stigma associated with talking about potential UFOs shouldn’t stand in the way of a serious probe into what is taking place.
John Ratcliffe, who served as director of national intelligence under Trump, said this spring that there were many more UAP sightings than were publicly known.
“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,” he told Fox News.
One senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report’s details have not been made public, said one possible explanation is that the aircraft belong to adversarial nations harnessing unknown technology.
The Pentagon is increasingly focused on competing with Russia and China, which are making strides in advanced technology, including hypersonic and directed energy.
According to UAP experts, some of the observed aircraft have no wings or visible elements of thrust or propulsion, or can change direction at high speeds with ease. Some of the UAPs lack telltale signs of terrestrial construction such as rivets and bolts and appear smooth and rounded.
Others have flown low over and appear to vanish below the surface, which was observed in a video leaked by UFO enthusiast Jeremy Corbell last month. Vehicles that can operate in the water and air have design trade-offs, but the UAP in the video did not appear to have any compromises, Elizondo has said.
Elizondo said the entire report, which is expected to include an unclassified section and a classified annex, should be released to the public.
“Wherever these technologies come from, they are clearly far more advanced than any earthly technology known to our intelligence services,” if reporting on the impending report is accurate, he said. “We urgently need our best scientific and intelligence collection tools applied to understand what our pilots are witnessing.”
Mike Rosenwald contributed to this report.