Last Friday, the U.S. Government released an official, unclassified report offering a “Preliminary Assessment” of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” (UAP) – more commonly known as UFOs.
“The dataset described in this report,” the document reads, “is currently limited primarily to U.S. Government reporting of incidents occurring from November 2004 to March 2021. Data continues to be collected and analyzed.” These were primarily “witnessed firsthand by military aviators” and were “collected from systems we considered to be reliable.” Most were the result of a new reporting mechanism established by the US Navy in March of 2019, meaning that the majority of the incidents took place within the past two years.
Nevertheless, 144 reported incidents from government sources are on file. 80 of those reports included sensor-based observation, not merely eye-witness testimony. All but one of the reported incidents “remain unexplained.”
“The surprise isn’t what’s in the UAP report,” writes journalist and filmmaker Bryce Zabel, “It’s that it was written at all and turned in on time. Even with expectations tempered mightily, it was still a rush felt by many to see a UAP report pop up on a website run by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, then download the PDF, and read the damn thing. Not quite the same feeling as where you were for JFK, the Moon landing, or 9/11, but important in its own way.”
Zabel, who has acting, writing, and directing credits on multiple television series and films, is also a primary writer and editor at Trail of the Saucers, a UFO/UAP blog at the content platform Medium. As regards the official UFO/UAP Intelligence Assessment published by the DNI last Friday, Zabel offers three brief takeaways of primary importance:
“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.”
“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 UAPTF has 11 reports of documented instances in which pilots reported near misses with a UAP.”
According to the DNI report, there are “five potential explanatory categories” that all UAP encounters fall into:
Natural atmospheric phenomena
USG or U.S. industry developmental programs
Foreign adversary systems
A catchall “other” bin
Writes Zabel, pertaining to this classification scheme:
Let’s be clear. No one interested in the truth about UFO/UAP reality thinks that all sightings are exotic technology from someplace that isn’t here being flown by someone who isn’t us. We know about these five categories. We know that most things seen in the sky are not exotic and fall into the first four categories.
We do, however, appreciate that we now have validation that there is a catchall “other” bin (a phrase that is going to endure in the historical literature). The government is right to lay it out and to focus some investigative firepower on finding out what kind of cases are rumbling around in there.
Zabel notes his disappointment that the report itself is only 9 pages, when “there are excellent cases that belong in that ‘other’ bin going back at least 74 years.”
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But the report is still a huge step for six major reasons.
First, because it admits that UAPs are real. Says Zabel:
This is key because it’s been the policy of the government for many years to say “nothing to see here” and toss it all off to weather balloons, birds, atmospheric light shows, and, of course, even swamp gas. The report now clarifies:
“Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.”
Second, because the report implicitly admits that these objects are interfering with US military activities:
Most reports described UAP as objects that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.
Third, because it identifies the technology involved in some of the incidents as “advanced.” Further:
In 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics.
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. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.
The UAPTF holds a small amount of data that appear to show UAP demonstrating acceleration or a degree of signature management. Additional rigorous analysis are necessary by multiple teams or groups of technical experts to determine the nature and validity of these data. We are conducting further analysis to determine if breakthrough technologies were demonstrated.
Fourth, because the report admits that the tech isn’t ours, and it probably doesn’t belong to any other country, either:
USG or Industry Developmental Programs: Some UAP observations could be attributable to developments and classified programs by U.S. entities. We were unable to confirm, however, that these systems accounted for any of the UAP reports we collected.
Foreign Adversary Systems: Some UAP may be technologies deployed by China, Russia, another nation, or a non-governmental entity.
We 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. We continue to monitor for evidence of such programs given the counter intelligence challenge they would pose, particularly as some UAP have been detected near military facilities or by aircraft carrying the USG’s most advanced sensor systems.
Fifth, because of the tacit admission that these phenomena are true unknowns:
We currently lack sufficient information in our dataset to attribute incidents to specific explanations.
Although most of the UAP described in our dataset probably remain unidentified due to limited data or challenges to collection processing or analysis, we may require additional scientific knowledge to successfully collect on, analyze and characterize some of them. We would group such objects in this category pending scientific advances that allowed us to better understand them. The UAPTF intends to focus additional analysis on the small number of cases where a UAP appeared to display unusual flight characteristics or signature management
And finally, because the report indicates that these UAPs represent a potential threat:
UAP pose a hazard to safety of flight and could pose a broader danger if some instances represent sophisticated collection against U.S. military activities by a foreign government or demonstrate a breakthrough aerospace technology by a potential adversary.
The DNI report is scarce on details, but it does appear to take the phenomenon seriously and demonstrates government focus on creating better metrics for enhanced study of the UAP phenomenon going forward.
It recommends standardized reporting, consolidation of data across agencies, better filtering of reports, and deeper analysis. To that end, it recommends the use of “artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms to cluster and recognize similarities and patterns in features of the data points” in existing and future datasets regarding UAP incidents. It also indicates that the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UATPF) wants additional funding for research and development that “could further the future study of the topics laid out in this report.”
Zabel, who has been pressing for more disclosure on the topic of UFOs/UAPs for years, says that while the report is somewhat frustrating for its limitations, it demonstrates real progress. “We’re creating the structure to study” UAPs, he writes, “and removing the stigma a little more every day.”
He also notes that the version of the report released to the public had a lot of the good stuff taken out:
This was just the public version. The Senate and House Intelligence and Armed Services committees got a much longer, expanded report that is classified. Some or all of it may leak. If it does, it’s a safe bet that some of those secret briefings held in a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) included hard-to-deny photos and videos. Had they been included in today’s report, just imagine how the world would be going wild right now. Those pictures and video clips are coming, sooner or later.
Some are, perhaps, already coming out. Documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell, who has become a major player on this topic, has released a couple of new military videos in just the past month. The first is RADAR footage taken from the CIC of the USS Omaha on July 15th, 2019, in a warning area near San Diego. The footage purports to show multiple UAP RADAR contacts:
The second video, released just yesterday, purports to show hand-held video footage of the same UAPs that were swarming the Omaha that night, taken from her deck by visual intelligence personnel:
The third, which I’ve already shared with you in a previous post, shows additional video footage from the CIC of the Omaha from July 15th, 2019, where one of the craft in question first hovers over, then submerges below the surface of the ocean:
Although I suspect we’ll see more videos like this trickle out, the question remains whether we’ll get more official confirmation of anything soon. And if so, what we can hope to learn from it.
Admitting the reality of the UAPs/UFOs phenomenon and the potential danger it represents is an impressive first step for a military known for intimidating its own servicemembers into keeping quiet about this in the past. The report itself indicates an awareness of these policies, and how counterproductive they can be:
Narratives from aviators in the operational community and analysts from the military and IC describe disparagement associated with observing UAP, reporting it, or attempting to discuss it with colleagues. Although the effects of these stigmas have lessened as senior members of the scientific, policy, military, and intelligence communities engage on the topic seriously in public, reputational risk may keep many observers silent, complicating scientific pursuit of the topic.
With this many reports from just the past two years, however, it seems likely that we’ll find out even more in an environment where reporting is encouraged.
Time will tell.