On April 27, the Department of Defense issued a statement confirming the release of three videos showing US Navy jets chasing “unidentified aerial phenomena” — that’s the approved military term for what the public calls UFOs. The videos had been in the public domain for some time, but there was always a degree of doubt …
On April 27, the Department of Defense issued a statement confirming the release of three videos showing US Navy jets chasing “unidentified aerial phenomena” — that’s the approved military term for what the public calls UFOs. The videos had been in the public domain for some time, but there was always a degree of doubt about them. The Pentagon statement made it official: Yes, the videos are genuine, and no, the DOD still doesn’t know what these things are — the official categorization is “unidentified”.
The timing of the Pentagon’s announcement drew a lot of comment. Why release these videos now, people asked, with the world’s attention focused on the coronavirus? Was this a classic example of “a good day to bury bad news”? If that was the Pentagon’s plan, it backfired badly. Perhaps because we’ve been so saturated with COVID-19 coverage, everyone was looking for something else. Far from being buried, the story made headlines all around the world.
UFOs generate controversy. The videos were debated furiously and in the resulting skeptic versus believer dogfight, competing theories were bandied about: Some people tried to explain everything in terms of pilot misperception and glitches or misreadings of the forward-looking infrared cameras on which the films were taken.
Others argued that it was “black project” technology being blind-tested against the Fleet, to see how they’d react. One hears a lot about hypersonic missiles and drone swarms these days. Given that such programs are highly classified and deeply compartmentalized, it’s possible that one part of the government wasn’t aware of what another part was doing. Other commentators thought Russia or China might be the culprit.
Inevitably though, the theory that attracted the most attention was the possibility that the mystery objects were extraterrestrial spacecraft. I’m undecided on all this, but I hope it’s extraterrestrials — martians would be much more fun than Russians. Season 2 of The Post’s docu-series “The Basement Office” will probe all of the theories, and put some other classic UFO cases under the microscope.
If the Pentagon’s posting of UFO videos seems odd, their flip-flopping over the true nature of their mysterious AATIP program is truly bizarre. The existence of AATIP — Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program — was first revealed in December 2017 and since then, the DOD has changed its line on the project’s role multiple times. One moment they admit that AATIP investigated Unidentified Aerial Phenomena and the next, they walk it back.
The current Pentagon line is that AATIP wasn’t UAP-related. Many of the official statements about the program have portrayed it as being about next-generation aerospace threats to the United States. The problem is that a Defense Intelligence Agency letter to Congress listed 38 technical reports produced under the program. None of them related to Russian or Chinese aircraft. One related to the Drake Equation, used to estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy. When I pointed out the disconnect, I was told the Pentagon was revising its line on AATIP yet again. A new statement is expected imminently.
Congress may have been briefed — or perhaps mis-briefed — about AATIP, but it’s those videos that most capture people’s imagination, drawing enthusiastic comments such as this one:
“I just wonder if it’s real. That’s a hell of a video.”
This wasn’t some anonymous UFO enthusiast on a conspiracy forum. The comment was made to Reuters by President Trump.
In a year when our lives have already changed in ways that would have been unimaginable a few months ago, could the conspiracy theorists be right, and might there be even bigger revelations ahead? Whatever happens, UFOs are now center stage in a way we’ve never seen before, being discussed seriously, at the highest levels.
Nick Pope worked for the UK Ministry of Defence for 21 years. From 1991 to 1994, he was posted to a division where his duties included researching and investigating unidentified aerial phenomena. Catch up on season 1 of “The Basement Office” on YouTube.