What The Pentagon Has Already Revealed About UFOs

As Congress prepares to hold its first public hearing on UFOs in 50 years, a previous military report cites 11 "near misses," doesn't mention aliens.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
4 min read
Unidentified dark object in the sky as viewed by a Navy pilot

This still shows the unidentified object tracked by a Navy pilot in 2015 in the "Gimbal" video.

Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

On Tuesday, for the first time in over half a century, the US Congress will hold a public hearing on UFOs, now officially referred to as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP.

The notion of UFOs and their potential connection to alien intelligence has captivated the public and pop culture since at least the 1947 Roswell incident, but this week's hearing has its genesis in a series of events from recent years. It begins with a number of documented UAP sightings by military personnel over the past couple of decades that were first leaked, then confirmed and declassified by the US government.

In 2020, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio added a passage to a funding bill requiring the director of national intelligence to produce a report "on unidentified aerial phenomena (also known as "anomalous aerial vehicles"), including observed airborne objects that have not been identified."

That decidedly thin, nine-page document was released on June 25, 2021, inspiring far more memes than panic. 

Then in December, President Biden signed a new National Defense Authorization Act into law. It includes a requirement that the military create a new office to investigate UAP as well as provide an annual report and semiannual briefings to Congress.

This brings us to the present. The new Pentagon UAP office is called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, and one of the top US intelligence officials working to get it started up will be a witness at the hearing Tuesday. 

"We're still working to sufficiently staff that organization and get them into a battle rhythm," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on May 10.

What we already know about what we don't know

It's not expected that any new UAP sightings or data will be presented at the hearing this week, but we can surely expect some discussion of that nine-page report released last June.

The Pentagon UFO report reveals that all those sightings of bizarre flying things over the years fall into several categories, require more study and remain largely unexplained and unidentified.

"The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP," reads the summary of a report posted online by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on June 25.

Watch this: Pentagon UFO report recap

"There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviors described in the available reporting. ... UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to US national security," the summary says. 

According to the document, each report of an UAP would "probably ... fall into one of five potential explanatory categories: airborne clutter, natural atmospheric phenomena, USG or US industry developmental programs, foreign adversary systems, and a catchall 'other' bin."

A few of those categories lead the report authors to highlight potential concerns:

"Safety concerns primarily center on aviators contending with an increasingly cluttered air domain. UAP would also represent a national security challenge if they are foreign adversary collection platforms or provide evidence a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology."

Notably, the Department of Defense UAP Task Force reported 11 "documented instances in which pilots reported near misses with a UAP."

The report goes on to say there isn't enough data to determine whether any UAP belong to a potential adversary.

Watch this: Pentagon's UFO report is here, all the answers are not

The truth remains out there

Some hoped the report would include reality-altering revelations, or at least a watershed moment for the UFO truth movement on par with the Roswell crash incident of 1947 (which was a secret military reconnaissance mission rather than an alien craft). This remains to be seen, however.

"I [am] pleasantly surprised with the report," said blogger Mick West, who has been a prominent debunker of alien spacecraft explanations for UAP, on Twitter at the time. "It seems like a generally accurate assessment of the situation."

For years, pilots and other military personnel have encountered strange things in the sky that have come to be called "unidentified aerial phenomena." The change from "UFO" to "UAP" is, in part, a nod to the likelihood that some of the incidents may be explained by technical glitches or environmental phenomena rather than actual tangible objects.

The report begins by acknowledging some UAP may simply be bugs in the system. 

"Various forms of sensors that register UAP generally operate correctly and capture enough real data to allow initial assessments, but some UAP may be attributable to sensor anomalies."

But it goes on to conclude that "most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects."

As for the Navy videos (known by equipment acronyms like Flir, Gofast and Gimbal) that have been seen millions of times in the media and appear to show some sort of craft moving at high speeds and even seeming to perform physics-defying maneuvers, there's this nod:

"In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analysis."

The report is required to be public and also includes a classified annex. Officials previously told The New York Times this addendum doesn't contain any evidence of alien visitation.

The report doesn't resolve humanity's long-standing question about whether we've been visited by aliens, but it doesn't mention E.T. at all, either.

We'll see if any extraterrestrials get name-checked on Tuesday. You can watch the hearings live via the embedded feed above starting at 6 a.m. PT.