Washington — A House panel held the first public congressional hearing on unidentified flying objects in more than half a century on Tuesday, with top Pentagon officials saying the number of "unidentified aerial phenomena" (UAP) reported by pilots and service members had grown to about 400.
Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray testified before a House subcommittee about how the Defense Department is organizing reports of UAPs after a congressionally mandatedfound most of the incidents analyzed remain unidentified.
Rep. André Carson, a Democrat of Indiana and the chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, and Counterproliferation, opened the hearing by saying UAPs "are a potential national security threat, and they need to be treated that way."
"For too long, the stigma associated with UAPs has gotten in the way of good intelligence analysis. Pilots avoided reporting or were laughed at when they did. DOD officials relegated the issue to the backroom or swept it under the rug entirely, fearful of a skeptical national security community," Carson said. "Today, we know better. UAPs are unexplained, it's true. But they are real. They need to be investigated. And any threats they pose need to be mitigated."
Last year's report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Pentagon's UAP Task Force found no evidence to suggest the objects are extraterrestrial or from a foreign adversary — but the report also could not explain most of the objects.
Investigators were able to identify one of the 144 reports analyzed in their study of unidentified objects "as a large, deflating balloon." But the other 143 reports of UAP from 2004 to 2021 remain a mystery.
There is little doubt that the unidentified objects are real objects, whatever they may be, because at least 80 of the 144 incidents were detected by multiple sensors, the report found. "UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security," the report said.
At the public portion of the hearing, which was followed by a classified session, Bray said the number of reported incidents had grown to approximately 400 since last year's report. He said the sightings are "frequent and continuing" and often occur in military training areas or other designated airspace.
He showed lawmakers a video of one UAP observed by a Navy pilot in 2021, a "spherical object" that "quickly passes by the cockpit of the aircraft."
"I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is," Bray said.
Here's the video Bray showed during the hearing, depicting the naval aviator's fleeting pass by the object. The pilot in the cockpit of a Navy fighter jet captured the footage, and Bray showed it to demonstrate "the typical speed at which military aircraft may approach an unknown object."
Another video showed a triangular object floating off the West Coast as seen through night-vision goggles. An image of a similar object, also seen through night-vision goggles, was captured off another coast years later. Bray said the UAP Task Force concluded that these triangular objects were "unmanned aerial systems," and that their triangular appearance was the result of light passing through the night-vision goggles before being recorded by an SLR camera.
Bray said the UAP Task Force does not have any wreckage or indication suggesting the objects have extraterrestrial origins. He said there had been no collisions between the strange objects and U.S. aircraft, but noted there had been at least 11 "near-misses." He added that other countries have had their own reports of UAPs, and some of those countries communicate with the U.S. about their findings and vice versa.
The Pentagon in recent years has confirmed the authenticity of several videos and images showing objects under investigation by the UAP Task Force. Last year,three images posted by MysteryWire and a video posted by a UFO filmmaker had been taken by Navy personnel.
In 2020, the Pentagon released three videos — FLIR, GOFAST, and GIMBAL — showing encounters military aviators had with unidentified objects. The fighter pilots who witnessed the object in the FLIR video from 2004 spoke to "60 Minutes" last year about their experience.
In November 2021, the Pentagon established the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) to succeed the Navy's UAP Task Force, with the intention of better coordinating the reporting and investigating incidents.
The last public congressional hearing on UFOs was held in the 1960s before the disbandment of "Project Blue Book," a U.S. Air Force program that investigated and analyzed reports of UFOs. The project lasted from 1947 to 1969 and was disbanded in part because the objects were found to pose no threat to national security, according to an Air Force fact sheet.