On July 23, The New York Times ran a story, citing a defence contractor, who said that the US Department of Defence may be in possession of “off-world vehicles not made on this earth”.

The quote is the capstone of three years of investigative reporting by the Times, which began with articles in 2017, including a front-page story revealing that the Pentagon was still operating a UFO research programme assumed to have been shut down years earlier. The 2017 articles also included leaked videos captured by the US Navy between 2004 and 2015, showing its pilots tracking strange, unidentified aircraft that seemed to defy our current understanding of aeronautics in our atmosphere.

Chad Underwood, the fighter pilot who captured one of the videos, has said that the object he was tracking “wasn’t behaving within the normal laws of physics”. His commanding officer at the time, David Fravor, has also made similar statements about a different object he encountered on the same day.

For three years, a whole host of scientists and casual sceptics have rounded on the videos, Mr Underwood, Mr Fravor and the New York Times reporters in an effort to pick it all apart. And there are valid reasons for scepticism. It is possible that there are explanations other than out-of-this-world technology for what US Navy pilots have seen. And yet, the story remains extraordinary because, after three years of it being out in the world, the Pentagon seemingly remains unconvinced by the explanations sceptics have proffered.

This April, the Department of Defence formally acknowledged the videos to be real, and stated that the “aerial phenomena observed [within them] remain characterised as ‘unidentified’”.

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