A Primer on UFOs
I noticed the topic hasn't been covered here much but people are somewhat interested in it. I don't profess to be an expert. I was more of a skeptic until late 2019 when I saw Commander David Fravor's appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast and heard what he had to say. It sent me down the rabbit hole. I'll try to distil the key information so people can understand how we got to the current state of affairs with the upcoming UFO report (probably released within the next week or two)
Firstly I'll say that these things have been seen throughout human history, but for now I'll focus on the 'modern era'. Some people argue it started in WW2 with the 'foo fighters'. These were either metal balls or flaming orbs following fighter pilots across the European and later Pacific theatre. Both sides thought they were an advanced technology belonging to the other side. Others say the real shift came with Kenneth Arnold in 1947 with his 'flying saucer' sighting. The interesting thing is that the shape of the craft that Arnold saw was a sort of boomerang shape - 9 of them moving in formation across Washington state at about 1200mph, moving along like saucers skipping on water. The media coined the term flying saucers, and interestingly that's what people started seeing (more on that concept later)
The US military took it very seriously and was probably investigating it from the 'foo fighter' stage onwards. The 1970's were a golden age for the Freedom of Information Act and it was extremely powerful. Lots of memos from various government agencies and the military were released where they candidly talked about UFOs being a real thing, how they should be internally reported, etc. These memos were written long before the FOIA existed and weren't expected to ever see the light of day. Eventually the government clamped down on the act and made it very difficult to get anything of substance from them, but thousands of documents were released before that happened. Some examples:
"2. It is the opinion [of this Command] that:
a. The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.
b. There are objects probably approximately the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors.
d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically or remotely."
"Sightings of unexplained objects at great altitudes and traveling at high speeds in the vicinity of major U.S. defense installations are of such nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known types of aerial vehicles."
This one is a little hard to read and contains a lot of other UFO related memos, but the key line is:
"This matter is considered top secret by Intelligence Officers of both the Army and Air Forces"
Indeed according to a leaked memo from the head of the Canadian UFO project in the 1950s, the US considered the matter at a higher level of secrecy than even the Manhattan project.
We know of a few US studies into the phenomenon at that time:
The first was Project Sign, setup by Twining (from the first memo) with the aim to collect, evaluate, and distribute within the government all information relating to UFO sightings, on the premise that they might represent a national security concern. The original theory was that they were some kind of Soviet technology, but the final official report could not determine their origin. According to Cpt. Edward J. Ruppelt (the man heading up a later project) the actual conclusion was that the most likely explanation was that they were interplanetary, which led to the head of the Air Force shutting the project down.
Second was Project Grudge. This project started from the very beginning with the ingrained belief that UFOs could not exist and any unusual explanation was ridiculous. The people behind the project were so focused on debunking the idea that in the end their reports lacked credibility among the military and were mostly ignored.
Third was Project Blue Book which lasted much longer than it's predecessors. Ruppelt headed this initially and coined the term "unidentified flying object" to replace the earlier terms like flying saucer as a more neutral term. Ruppelt's aim was to be far more open-minded and base conclusions on the evidence available, not preconceived notions of what was or wasn't possible. Dr. J Allen Hynek was brought on a scientific advisor and started out as mostly a skeptic, and was instrumental in coming up with possible explanations for what people were seeing (e.g. "swamp gas"). A few years into Blue Book things began to change though. In 1952 there was a huge number of sightings both by observers and caught on radar, particular over Washington D.C.. People were freaking out and the Air Force were dealing with mountains of sightings all at once. The media and even President Truman were demanding an explanation and jets were being scrambled to chase them away. Once it died down the US convened the Robertson Panel to try and remove the topic from the public eye to stop the sightings overloading intelligence channels. They suggested using the media, celebrities and public experts to turn the subject into a point of ridicule; to monitor civilian UFO groups and keep them in check (later infiltrating them, stealing their materials, and publicly discrediting them); and to make it a crime for military personnel to discuss UFO reports with civilians. The aim of Blue Book became to minimise unexplainable sightings and debunk everything with any possible explanation
That era ended with the Condon committee which was to evaluate a sample of Blue Book's data and provide a final word on the matter. Condon himself thought the subject of UFOs was "nonsense", and his committee found that there was no reason to give the subject any further study. Hynek, by now a 'convert' to the phenomenon after studying it for more than a decade, dismissed the report and pointed out that many of the cases they evaluated had no possible explanation other than something outside of our comprehension. But that was basically it for UFOs. It was now the subject of ridicule.
Sightings however never stopped. Some believe that dropping the first H-bomb in 1952 was what triggered the large wave that year, and during the 1960s and 70s pretty much every nuclear silo in the US was probed by unknown craft from the air - and they were able to physically manipulate the missiles, arming and then disarming the missiles one by one while security panicked. The missiles were later tested and they weren't malfunctioning - it only ever happened when a UFO was present. This also happened in the Soviet Union I believe but there are less records about that.
I should also point out that UFOs aren't a uniquely American phenomenon - they're seen everywhere in the world. Some examples:
- Australia's Westall school encounter of 1966
- 1976 Tehran encounter (and somewhat similar 2004 encounter)
- Belgian 'black triangle' wave of 1990
- Zimbabwe's Ariel school encounter of 1994
The modern resurgence of the UFO topic has it's roots in 1995. There's a full article about that here, but the short story is that a group of interested individuals got together to try and learn about the topic - some astronauts, military/agency personnel, a billionaire, and Harry Reid. Reid got together with a couple of other Senators and got funding for the "Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program" (AATIP). This began in 2007 and was setup to investigate UFOs and other topics. Reid tried to get AATIP designated as a Special Access Programme (SAP) - which is where many of the black projects are housed, and would have potentially given them access to a lot of very close-held information. Unfortunately the Pentagon denied the request, and shut down AATIP in 2012 (though their work continued out of the office of the DNI until around 2016-17). Luis Elizondo (the head of the programme) resigned and stated in his resignation letter that the subject needs far more attention due to the potential threat to the US military.
Since then Luis and a group of like-minded people have been pushing a media campaign to try to encourage disclosure from the US military. It started with the NYT article of 2017 which made AATIP public, along with releasing videos that were later confirmed as authentic by DoD. Last year Senators Rubio and Warner inserted language in a bill that requested the formation of a UFO task force (mostly known as "UAP" now) and the release of a report by them within 180 days. That deadline is due to be the end of June though it might drop before. The Pentagon appears to have leaked the conclusion to the media that there's no evidence of alien technology, though they have no other explanation either (concluding only that it's not secret US tech). Luis and his colleagues originally eased people into the conversation by saying it could be Chinese or Russian, but over the last year or so their position has evolved to ruling those out entirely. China actually disclosed it's own UFO investigation a few days ago, and is allegedly leading the charge to get the UN involved.
Elizondo and his team have been popularising the "five observables" that make UFOs/UAPs uniquely interesting. These are:
- Anti-gravity propulsion - no visible propulsion trail or engines/wings/rotorblades/propellers
- Instantaneous acceleration - accelerating with hundreds of Gs, making it impossible for humans to be occupying them without going splat
- Hypersonic velocity - going many times the speed of sound, with no sonic boom or sound at all
- Low observability - sometimes only appearing on infrared and radar but not in visible light
- Trans-medium travel - being able to travel between space, air and water without any impact on speed
I'll chop the thread here as the above is mostly documented information, whereas there is context that isn't official that I feel is important to be aware of - granted this is me editorialising so take it with a pinch of salt. But it's based on what I've seen and heard from people closer to the topic.
Firstly - AATIP is/was not the 'official' US UFO programme (of which there may be more than one). I believe it's sole purpose was as a trojan horse by outsiders like Harry Reid to try and get access to the world of SAPs, where the real 'insider' programmes potentially are. That failed, so I think their plan B has been to try and force public disclosure through media/public pressure and Senate hearings. The US never stopped investigating UFOs and from the memos clearly took it deadly seriously, despite publicly ridiculing it. For them to just shrug when unidentified aircraft are seen over sensitive installations suggests to me that they probably know exactly what it is and don't see it as a threat, or realise there's not much they can do to stop them beyond chasing them away.
So what we're witnessing at the moment is a game being played. There are people on the inside who want disclosure, and there are people on the inside who very much do not (for whatever reason). The outsiders are using AATIP as a sort of bluff to get the public on their side, by overstating the significance of it and trying to trip the Pentagon up. I believe the Pentagon can't explicitly lie, especially to the politicians helping with disclosure, and any ambiguity creates headlines. So far they haven't said very much beyond confirming the videos that were released show unidentified 'things'. They have not confirmed they're not man-made or particularly significant. There is clearly more than they're letting on, as Harry Reid has a habit of dropping some potentially big bomb shells and then later walking it back as if he was pressured to (despite his original quote being very clear). I do not think the UFO report this month will be hugely significant, but it's probably going to be the first real step in a multi-year process. Apparently public figures like Sam Harris (himself a notorious skeptic) are being approached to assist in disseminating information in a way that the public can understand (and not create panic in the process). I think a scientific inquiry will probably begin (especially with NASA starting to look into the subject), and there may well be public hearings after the Inspector General of DoD finishes their investigation.
But let's be clear - this has been studied for decades already. They may try to pretend it only became real in 2004 with the Nimitz incident and that the investigation began after that point. But that is not true. Someone is feeding very similar lines to people like former Presidents Clinton and Obama but I'm not sure if that's the Pentagon, or the disclosure people (the very careful wording to me implies the Pentagon)
This leads me on to my second point, which is - UAP/UFO does not necessarily mean extra-terrestrials. I do not believe it's modern technology simply because 1) it would be impossible to cover that up with the amount of spying that goes on, and 2) they've been seen with the same capabilities since at least the 1940s. But the ET hypothesis is one out of many, and it's probably a bit simplistic. Some notable other theories are:
- Human-made technology, from the future, but not actually here with us - sort of bleeding through time like a ghost
- Human-made technology, from the future, but actually here - i.e. time travel becomes possible in the future
- Human-made technology, from some kind of breakaway civilisation that has somehow gone undetected
- Human-made technology, from an official government, from reverse-engineering downed craft - possible, but that would require the tech coming from elsewhere originally
- An interdimensional civilisation that can appear in our dimension at will (sounds woo-woo, but it's the main theory of some people very close to the insiders)
- A non-human civilisation that may potentially pre-date our civilisation, likely based underground or under the oceans where they're pretty difficult for us to detect (most UFOs are seen near large water sources and indeed submerging)
- An ultra-terrestrial form of life that is almost akin to a deity, at least to us. In this case the 'vehicles' we see aren't really there or are manifestations, possibly to guide human progress in certain directions. Before 'flying saucer' sightings people in the 1890s saw advanced airships across the country, despite American airship tech being pretty poor at this point. This is the theory advanced by Jacques Vallée, a scientist who worked on Project Blue Book with Dr. Hynek. I'm partial to this theory because of the sheer range of sightings and shapes that people see, as well as elements that make no sense at all, and often seem to be taunting us.
- Simulation theory - i.e. that we're in a simulation. That would cover the weird nature of the phenomenon too if it's people outside of it messing around
- Some kind of Von Neumann probes - that these are unmanned reconnaissance vehicles that may be all over the galaxy, monitoring inhabitable planets and the lifeforms that occupy them. I'm partial to this explaining some of them, particularly the black triangles which appear to be mapping the planet
I'd suggest anyone who hasn't seen it already to watch The Phenomenon which gives an easy to digest history of some of the best documented cases. This really is only the tip of the iceberg though and even this post can't do the subject justice. It is vast. There are thousands of decent sightings and hundreds of thousands of recorded sightings - I haven't mentioned the 1997 Phoenix Lights, the 2006 Chicago O'Hare incident, the Zamora incident, etc. I will also link to this leaked interview with the former head of the DIA. The man himself has denied it is accurate, but the person interviewing him and hinted that it's legit and the well connected people are very sure that it's legit (especially as the "interviewer" is a scientist who's part of the disclosure team). It's a very frustrating but mindblowing read, but again take it with a pinch of salt.