(CN) — A Defense Department program designed to investigate military reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, released its anticipated report Friday finding that the flying objects aren't aliens, but that it isn't quite sure what they are.
The Pentagon’s long-awaited assessment does not paint a clear picture of what service members have experienced, nor does it give definitive answers to what the objects may be.
Of the 144 sightings examined by officials as part of the report, only one was identifiable, the report notes.
A handful of those incidents -- 18 of those encounters -- observers describe the UAPs moving in ways uncharacteristic to present technology.
“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,” the report states. “In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.
The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program began in 2007 with its only purpose being to investigate reports of UAPs. While the Department of Defense said the program had wrapped in 2012, some $22 million was found in the agency’s 2017 budget request and uncovered through a New York Times investigation.
But even before 2007, U.S. service members reported seeing UAPs. In 2004, the Nimitz carrier strike group and a group of battleships performing routine training exercises outside California's San Clemente Island had a close encounter with white, cylindrical objects that moved unexplainably.
While tasked with performing training exercises, a radar ship named Princeton -- equipped with advanced Aegis radar tracking technology -- observed several unusual plots, inconsistent with simulated points used in training.
Former Operations Specialist Kevin Day, who monitored the system during that training exercise, said in an interview with Dave Beaty -- a videographer who produced “The Nimitz Encounters” on YouTube -- one object dropped “from 28,000 feet, down to 50 feet above the water in 0.78 seconds.”
In an email to Courthouse News, Day wrote that he and some of his fellow shipmates had formed an organization that uses various technologies, "to find, track, and record UAP techno signatures in multi-module forms.” UAP Expeditions, a non-profit organization based in Oregon, uses infrared, magnetics, gravitonic technology and radiology to analyze these patterns and record data.
“UAP is real. UAP is findable. UAP is knowable,” Day wrote.
Beaty told Courthouse News that Day had served about 17 years in the U.S. Navy, with one of his deployments aboard the USS Vincennes in 1988. Although Day was not part of a decision to fire a missile that destroyed an Iranian passenger airline and killed 290 -- the event being the deadliest air disaster of 1988 -- Day was in the room where it happened.
“It could be that that affects him to this day and say, how he reacts to this event,” Beaty said.
Beaty said other sailors had different beliefs on their encounters with the UAPs. While Day believes his experience in 2004 somehow metaphysically changed him, others were more hesitant to jump to conclusions, Beaty explained.
“They do go back and forth, a lot of us do because, we’ll all the sudden be convinced that yeah, this is a cover-up and there’s definitely something here that’s being hidden and the military must know,” Beaty said. “And then on the other hand, then we’ll flip and go, you know, maybe they don’t really know and what they’re saying is the absolute truth that they don’t know what that was.”
Regardless of the sailors’ understanding of the UAPs, Beaty noted the crafts’ threat to national security -- along with several lawmakers who have been briefed in advance of the June report. Congressman Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican who did not respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News, has said the machines have to be “out of our galaxy, … if it is in fact real.”
Beaty agreed the phenomenon did have some threat to national security.
“That’s what this is, it’s some unknown aircraft that are entering into controlled airspace around military operations without permission, they’re causing flight safety hazards, they’re sort of operating with impunity, the military seems not to have any method of dealing with it, nor even know who’s operating these things,” Beaty said. “So, those implications are pretty good from a political standpoint and I think that’s what’s driving the UAP task force formation.”
Other U.S. officials agree with Beaty’s assessment that the UAPs could pose national security threats.
Days after the New York Times published what the national intelligence director was expected to announce in his report, Defense Department Spokesman John Kirby said the sightings could involve national security concerns. Kirby also noted the defense secretary was briefed on the eventual findings.
“He has received a briefing on the work that the task force has thus far conducted,” Kirby told reporters. “The report as you know is being crafted and will be delivered by the director of national intelligence, but he has received a briefing on the work thus far. And as we’ve said before, we take all incursions into our operating space seriously. So, I mean, like everybody else here at the Defense Department, certainly we’re taking the entire matter seriously -- regarding the potential for safety concerns.”
Friday's report generally concludes the jury is still out on what UAPs are, noting the “sociocultural stigmas” involved with gathering data on the incidents and the objects.
The phenomena likely lack a single explanation, the report notes, characterizing the sightings as possible airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, industry development programs, foreign systems or a “catchall other bin.” That section defines “other” as sightings where “additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on” is needed to classify what witnesses are explaining.
In a statement Friday before the report’s release, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio -- who pushed for the disclosure's inclusion in this year's Intelligence Authorization Act -- noted that service members have been reporting “encounters with unidentified aircraft that had superior capabilities” for years without investigation.
“This report is an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step,” Rubio said. “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.”
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