On January 12, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAP. The term “UAP”, which is largely synonymous with the original use of Unidentified Flying Object or UFO, is designed to be a broad category for reporting observed but unexplained sights in the sky, a sort of “see something, say something” for pilots
The report, required by the National Defense Authorization Act by 2022, includes the work of the All Domains Anomaly Resolution Office, or AARO, which was originally created within the Department of Defense in 2020 as the Task Force on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. “All domains” means that the phenomena need not be flying in the sky, but could also occur at sea, in space, or on land.
This is the second report on UAP since the task force’s creation, following a preliminary report published in 2021. In the preliminary report two years ago, the task force identified 144 sightings over the previous 17 years. In the new report, there are a total of 510 sightings, including the 144 already documented, 247 new ones made since the first report, and 119 reports of events prior to 2021 but not included in the initial assessment, for a total of 366 new reports. identified.
Most of the new reports come from US Navy and US Air Force “airmen and operators”, who saw the phenomena during regular operations and then reported those sightings to the channels. recently created appropriate organizations, such as the AARO.
The official takeout? “AARO’s initial analysis and characterization of the 366 newly identified reports, reported by a multi-agency process, found that more than half exhibited unremarkable characteristics,” the document states. Of those nondescript reports: 26 were drones or drone-like, 163 were balloons or balloon-like, and six were clutter seen in the sky.
That leaves 171 “uncharacterized and unattributed” remaining from the batch of newly identified reports, a group perhaps considered more unresolved than unexplained. Of these, some “appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” though anyone looking for that analysis in the report will be sorely disappointed.
Tracking, cataloging, and identifying inexplicable, or at least not immediately explainable, phenomena is tricky work. It has created persistent problems for the military since the first “flying saucer” panic in the summer of 1947 (more on Roswell in a bit), and it persists to this day. Part of the impetus for a task force to study UFOs, or UFOs going by the name UAP, came from a series of leaked videos, later declassified by the military, showing what appear to be unusual objects in flight.
lost in observation
One of the most famous UAP sightings of this century is the “Tic Tac,” seen by Navy pilots flying southwest of San Diego on November 14, 2004. The pilots captured video of the object, which appeared small and cylindrical, and changed direction in flight. in an unusual way. This video was officially released by the Navy in 2020, but made its way onto the internet in 2007 and was the centerpiece of a New York Times story on UFO sightings in 2017. New documents released by the Navy on January 13 show that Formal reports of the so-called Tic Tac never made it further up the 3rd Fleet chain of command, effectively stranding the report within part of the Navy.
As PopSci’s sister publication The War Zone points out, “The US Navy and other military officials have publicly acknowledged that there have been serious problems in the past with the available mechanisms, or lack thereof, through which pilots could make such reports and do so without fear of being stigmatized.” The released documents show that the pilots did in fact face stigma for the subsequent report.
None of it explains what the object in the “Tic Tac” video is, or what other as-yet-unidentified phenomena might actually be. But it does suggest that the existence of an office responsible for compiling such reports has made it easier to collect and analyze such phenomena, rather than pilots keeping them quiet for fear of ridicule or questioning of their judgment.
Everything unidentified is new again
Part of the challenge in thinking about UFOs, and now UAPs, is that by asking people to report unusual sightings, people may interpret what they see as directly related to what they are being asked to find. Tell someone to take a walk in the woods and keep an eye out for rodent sightings, and every running shadow or creature becomes a possible ID.
The Army observation balloon that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 was discovered almost a month before it was reported to local authorities. The summer of 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and the USSR, a major “flying saucer” panic ensued, as a highly publicized sighting led people across the country to report unusual craft or objects. .
These reports eventually became the subject of study in Project Blue Book, an Air Force effort to categorize, demystify, and understand exactly what people were reporting. When the Air Force concluded Project Blue Book in 1969, it did so, noting that 90 percent of UFOs could probably be explained as ordinary objects, like planets at twilight or planes at odd angles.
As declassified documents later revealed in the 1990s, the military knew the sightings were even more explainable, as backyard observers documenting American spy plane flights and reporting them to the government. The Roswell crash, which a military official first identified as a flying saucer before the Army clarified a day later that it was a weather balloon, was not exactly a weather balloon. In fact, the object was a balloon, but it carried acoustic sensors designed to detect Soviet nuclear tests. In other words, letting the public think that an object is mysterious or inexplicable is a good way to disguise something that is explainable but should be secret.
In the decades after the conclusion of Project Blue Book, the military attempted to discredit the sightings, rather than catalog them. Today, the job of the All Domains Anomaly Resolution Office is to take sightings seriously and encourage reporting, should there be sightings of significant aircraft that would otherwise go unnoticed. The advent of drones, stealth technologies, unmanned maritime vehicles, and advanced ways for someone to interfere with sensors make it possible, if not always plausible, that a given UAP sighting could be a deliberate act by a group or nation. hostile.
Still, as the report already attests, most sightings can be ruled out and known phenomena. Balloons, decades after Roswell, still light up in unusual ways and can look surreal on the ground.
A conclusion from the report suggests that some of the phenomena could be caused by people or sensors getting confused or not working properly. “ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] and ARO [All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office] They operate under the assumption that UAP reports are derived from accurate collection of the event by the observer and/or sensors that are generally working properly and capture enough actual data to allow initial assessments,” the report states. “However, ODNI and AARO recognize that a select number of UAP incidents can be attributed to sensor irregularities or variations, such as operator or equipment error.”