No explanation for most UFOs investigated over two decades, US government report finds

Document declines to draw conclusions and says available reporting is ‘largely inconclusive’

A major US government report on UFOs said defense and intelligence analysts lack sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by military pilots. Video: Reuters

The US government still has no explanation for nearly all of the scores of unidentified aerial phenomena reported over almost two decades and investigated by a Pentagon task force, according to a report released on Friday.

A total of 143 reports gathered since 2004 remain unexplained, the document released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said.

Of those, 21 reports of unknown phenomena, involving 18 episodes, possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations.

However, the report said, more rigorous analysis of those episodes is needed.


There is no evidence that any of the episodes involve secret US weapons programmes, unknown technology from Russia or China or extraterrestrial visitations.

But the government report did not rule out those explanations. The nine-page document essentially declines to draw conclusions, announcing the available reporting is “largely inconclusive” and noting limited and inconsistent data created a challenge in evaluating the phenomena.

The report said the number of sightings was too limited for a detailed pattern analysis. While they clustered around military training or testing grounds, the report found that could be the result of collection bias or the presence of cutting-edge sensors in those areas.

Too little data

Government officials outlined a plan to develop, if funding is available, a better programme to observe and collect data on future unexplained phenomena.

The failure to reach a conclusion on the unexplained episodes raised questions about how seriously the government has taken them until now and whether it had assembled adequate scientific expertise to examine them.

Scientific experts and amateurs have advanced explanations ranging from the mundane to the otherworldly, and the report did little to substantiate or dismiss their theories.

Government officials on Friday were reluctant to acknowledge the potential that the phenomena could be extraterrestrial craft, a signal of how unlikely they view that explanation.

There was no evidence that the unexplained phenomena are alien spacecraft in the report.


Among the unexplained incidents are three high-profile videos of aerial phenomena taken by the US navy and witnessed by pilots in recent years.

The report released Friday is an interim report, which is how former officials involved in the Pentagon examination had predicted the government would initially handle the requirement by Congress to submit an unclassified report on what it knows about UFOs.

The government intends to update Congress within 90 days on efforts to develop an improved collection strategy and what officials are calling a technical road map to develop technology to better observe the phenomena, senior government officials said. Officials said they would provide lawmakers with periodical updates beyond that.

The Pentagon and intelligence agencies have eschewed the term unidentified flying object and refer instead to unidentified aerial phenomena. It has been a bit of rebranding, both to cut down on public enthusiasm and remove the stigma that UFO can carry so as to encourage pilots to report their observations and scientists to study them.

The new report laid out five categories of possible explanation for the phenomena: a secret technology developed by an adversarial power like Russia and China, classified cutting-edge US technology, a naturally occurring phenomenon, airborne clutter such as errant weather balloons and a catchall “other” category. That final group could include extraterrestrial technology.

Task force

But of the episodes examined by the task force, only one could be identified and categorised: “a large, deflating balloon” that was classified as airborne clutter.

Officials do not have any indications that the unexplained incidents show objects that are part of a foreign intelligence collection programme or a major technological advancement by a potential adversary, a senior government official said.

They are also unable to confirm that any of those incidents are part of a US government or defence industry programme, a senior official said.

Nevertheless, the report does not completely rule out a Russian or Chinese aircraft or a US classified programme.

The report is being made public because of a provision inserted by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, into a huge spending bill passed by Congress. – New York Times