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In 2017, The New York Times publicly revealed that the US Defence Intelligence Agency had, ten years earlier, established the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme – a secret $22m government project to examine military encounters with unidentified flying objects, or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), as they are officially known today.

By that time, details and footage of some particularly striking incidents had already been leaked and widely reported. There was growing interest among members of Congress, who called for greater transparency on the issue. The Senate’s intelligence committee demanded that the Pentagon – the Department of Defence – release a public report describing its findings.

In 2014 and 2015, US navy pilots from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt described close encounters in the Atlantic off Virginia with what looked like flying spheres.

Pilots reported that the objects had no visible engine or exhaust plumes, but that they could reach altitudes of 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds. Some incidents were videotaped, including one in early 2015 that shows an object zooming over the waves as a pilot exclaims: “Wow, what is that, man? Look at it fly!”

In November 2004, two jets from the USS Nimitz were 100 miles southwest of San Diego when they encountered a white oval-shaped craft hovering above the sea. As one of the F-18 jets descended to look, the object ascended towards it, then zipped away. “It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said David Fravor,

The Pentagon examined 144 reports of UAPs made by US military pilots between 2004 and 2021. Although only nine pages long, it presents some interesting findings. One is that UAPs “probably do represent physical objects”, as opposed to technical anomalies or figments of pilots’ imaginations. Some 80 of the UAPs were observed with “multiple sensors”, for instance by radar, infrared and optical cameras as well as pilots’ visual observations.

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