The head of the Pentagon office that is reviewing reported unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP – commonly known as UFOs, unidentified flying objects) told the US Congress this week that his office is now reviewing more than 650 incidents, but so far, none exhibited anything that was evidence of extraterrestrial activity or defied the known laws of physics.
Dr Sean M. Kirkpatrick, the director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), gave testimony to the US Senate's Committee on Armed Services on 19 April 2023, providing an update on their investigations into UAP that have been reported by military personnel.
Two new videos released at the open congressional hearing were shown to highlight how the recently established AARO can explain some incidents but not others.
"I want to underscore today that only a very small percentage of UAP reports display signatures that could reasonably be described as 'anomalous,'" Kirkpatrick told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.
"The majority of unidentified objects reported to AARO demonstrate mundane characteristics of balloons, unmanned aerial systems, clutter, natural phenomena, or other readily explainable sources."
One video, available on the Pentagon's website, shows an incident that occurred in the Middle East on 12 July 2022, where a ball-shaped object flew over what appears to be a military base and was captured on aerial footage by a MQ-9 drone. This object is still under investigation and remains unidentified.
The other video showed a view of an incident the Pentagon said occurred over South Asia on 15 January 2023. In this instance a MQ-9 drone captured infrared video showing another MQ-9, while another object flew through the field of view. In this case, after analysis and review of additional footage and information, the object was determined to be a commercial aircraft.
"If you squint, it looks like an aircraft because it actually turns out to be an aircraft," he said.
Kirkpatrick said the 650 UAP incidents reported by military personnel is an increase from the 510 the US intelligence community reported in its previous UAP report released in January of this year.
Kirkpatrick noted that most of the UAP reports from the military follow similar trendlines, with most occurring between 15,000 to 25,000 feet (4,572 to 7,620 meters) in altitude which is the controlled airspace for military aircraft. For the unresolved sightings, the AARO experts feel the likely explanation is that the sightings are of technology created by US adversaries, not aliens.
What is needed, Kirkpatrick said, is due to a lack of available data that could help investigators conduct more thorough reviews.
"Without sufficient data, we are unable to reach defendable conclusions that meet the high scientific standards we set for resolution, and I will not close a case that we cannot defend the conclusions of," he said.
Fifty-two percent of the reports involve objects described as "round or spheres." Most of the round objects range in size from 1 to 4 meters (3.3 to 13.1 feet) and are described as being "white, silver, or translucent metallic" with apparent velocities ranging from stationary to twice the speed of sound.
Kirkpatrick emphasized that his team has still not found any off-Earth explanations for the sightings.
"I should also state clearly for the record that in our research AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics," he said.
"In the event sufficient scientific data were ever obtained that a UAP encountered can only be explained by extraterrestrial origin, we are committed to working with our interagency partners at NASA to appropriately inform the US Government's leadership of its findings."
While UFO enthusiasts expressed skepticism of Kirkpatrick's testimony, saying that he and AARO are downplaying truly anomalous phenomena, a group of scientist who study UAP said they applaud this first public release of some factual data on reported UAP, such as their shapes, and altitudes.
"The hearing described a rigorous approach toward collecting and resolving military UAP reports," said the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), in a press release.
"It also contained the first public release by the US government of a set of factual data on shapes, altitudes, and hotspots, as well as radar, radio, and thermal IR characteristics, of UAP reported between 1996-2023. Encouragingly, the listed attributes from these classified military reports are consistent with typical characteristics gleaned from large, non-classified databases of UAP witness reports."
The SCU describes themselves as a "data-driven organization of scientists, engineers, academics, and research professionals dedicated to conducting and supporting open scientific research into UAP."
"SCU's subject matter experts see Dr Kirkpatrick and his team taking the proper steps in three essential areas of the endeavor," the press release continues: "careful UAP case triage methods, the skillful use of both intelligence and scientific teams, and technically detailed case study, as presented in the video analysis during the open hearing.
"This approach is critical to resolving UAP reports into the categories of insufficient data, prosaic phenomena, potential adversary craft, and the truly unknown."
But Kirkpatrick did not downplay the importance of the public also submitting unexplained sightings, as that allows the AARO and scientists to also analyze the UAP incidents.
"That is how science works, not by blog or social media," he said.