National Security & Defense

So the UFOs Are Real. Now What?

The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
The government’s report contains important admissions: These things are still (mostly) unidentified, they’re flying, and they’re physical objects.

Now that we’ve all had some time to absorb the release of the long-awaited UAP Task Force report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), it’s probably a good idea to try to wrap our heads around what the report actually said. Perhaps even more to the point, we should make note of what it did not say, this being a subject that seems to elude some of the reporters who are relatively new to the entire UFO phenomenon. And yes, many of us are going to stubbornly continue to use “UFO” no matter how hard the U.S. government tries to get us to say “UAP” so everyone won’t sound quite so crazy.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the public version of the report was short. Painfully short when compared with some of the aspirational dreams of the faithful in ufology. The classified report given to appropriate congressional committees (Intelligence and Armed Services) is reportedly ten times longer and contains all manner of goodies, but we may never see those. Reliable testimony from former Defense Department officials suggests that even getting that slim report out of the Pentagon for the public was an exercise in pulling teeth. They really don’t like talking about this subject.

None of this should be taken to mean that the report was a dud. There were important admissions made by the ODNI on Friday. One of the first was that the vast majority of “UAP” incidents they studied “probably do represent physical objects.” They draw this conclusion from the fact that most were picked up using multiple avenues of sensory data, in addition to testimony from pilots and technicians who watch the skies for a living. So it’s not just swamp gas, “ball lightning,” or birds. And if you’ve seen one, you may not be crazy. (Or if you are, it’s not because of this.)

The next thing the ODNI conceded was that the vast majority of interesting cases they have been studying are truly “unidentified.” Out of 144 incident reports, they were able to conclusively attribute precisely one of them to a mundane event, specifically the downing of a deflating weather balloon. They don’t know what the rest of them are, and they’ve really been hunting for an explanation. Prior to the release of the report, the Pentagon had already stated that what people have been witnessing is not an example of secret United States government technology. (How much faith one places in their claims at this point is entirely up to the reader.) In the report, they went one step further, saying that they “currently lack data to indicate any UAP are part of a foreign collection program or indicative of a major technological advancement by a potential adversary.”

While some dedicated, skeptical journalists might latch onto the phrase “currently lack,” interpreting that to mean that the UFOs could still turn out to be Chinese or Russian, this reading seems dubious. As the report also notes, most of the reported sightings took place in controlled airspace, in the midst of our naval battle groups and even over military facilities in the middle of mainland North America. If there were the slightest indication that those things came from Russia or China and were showing up over our testing range in Nevada (it’s happened), there wouldn’t be a “concern over possible national security concerns.” We would already have the real-world, military equivalent of Will Smith up there in an F/A-18E Super Hornet shooting them down.

Or at least trying to shoot them down. Unfortunately, in one of the most famous encounters yet revealed between our Top Gun pilots and these objects, those pilots claim that they left our Super Hornets in the dust. Commander David Fravor of the now infamous “tic-tac” incident has stated repeatedly that he never would have stood a chance against it if the object had become hostile.

That brings us to another part of the report that should not be overlooked, and it involves the capabilities I just mentioned. The report states, “Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.” It goes on to say they have “a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management.” (The word “acceleration” is an understatement. Pilot reports describe them as simply disappearing.) Let that sink in for a moment since it’s coming from Uncle Sam now. What is an object doing if it is hovering, impervious to the wind, or accelerating without any flight-control surfaces, rotors, exhaust ports, wings, or any visible means of propulsion? You don’t have to say it aloud. I’ll do it for you. The possibility they are witnessing anti-gravity technology should at least be contemplated. Do you believe our military has anti-gravity technology and nobody else has figured it out? Or do you think our adversaries do? If so, pack yourself a bug-out kit and invest in a disused bomb silo.

But I’m getting ahead of myself yet again. There is plenty of substance to the publicly released report, all of which is now on the record for everyone to see. Our government has been studying these things — on and off — for more than 70 years. The scrutiny has intensified over the past decade, despite the military’s traditional “no loose lips” policy up until 2017. New policies have been put in place to encourage the reporting of anomalous encounters rather than punishing those who mention them. Following the release of the report, the deputy secretary of Defense issued a memorandum instructing both military and government personnel to report any sightings and ordering the creation of better methods of receiving, recording, and analyzing such data.

So where does that leave us now, and where do we go next? Unless you believe that the United States government has switched from a policy of denying the existence of UFOs to one of trying to gaslight us all into believing in them, the field of play is beginning to solidify. The UFOs — whatever they might be — are out there. They almost certainly are not the property of our government or of any of our allies or adversaries. And if you largely eliminate all those sources, we’re running out of candidates quickly.

I will simply say that I wasn’t disappointed in the report at all. Would I trade my eyeteeth for a look at the classified report? You bet I would. But if that never happens in my lifetime, I’ll be satisfied with half a loaf before starving.

Jazz Shaw, a U.S. Navy veteran and researcher of the strange and unusual, is the weekend editor for


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