11:54 GMT23 April 2021
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    The US Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots to officially report “unidentified aircraft” or “unidentified flying objects” (UFOs), which may help destigmatize the process of informing the service about such encounters.

    "There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years," the Navy said in a recent statement to Politico. 

    Thus, it said, "the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A new message to the fleet that will detail the steps for reporting is in draft."

    According to the US Navy, highly trained military personnel and pilots have had enough encounters with UFOs to warrant officially reporting them in a systematic and formal way.

    Nick Pope, who used to investigate UFOs for the British government, told Sputnik Wednesday that he "welcomes these new guidelines," which should "make it easier for US Navy pilots and other military personnel to report UFOs."

    ​"Many years ago, the United States Air Force had the policy lead for this subject and ran a program called Project Blue Book," Pope explained, referring to a series of studies of UFOs conducted by the US Air Force starting in 1952. The project was eventually terminated in 1969, because the US government decided that UFOs were "no longer of any interest." However, the sightings continued, and pilots had nowhere to report them, Pope noted.

    "Over the years, a culture developed where pilots — military and civilian alike — would see UFOs, but where many of these sightings went unreported, because of the perception that the government wasn't interested, and because pilots feared they wouldn't be believed, that they might be ridiculed, and that their state of mind might be questioned, leading to them being grounded or losing their jobs," Pope explained.

    Despite the fact that Project Blue Book was terminated, the Defense Intelligence Agency continued to investigate UFOs between 2007 and 2012, unbeknownst to the public. The research, which cost around $25 million, was funded by the Department of Defense under its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) and was made public in 2017 after a Freedom of Information Act request by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

    "We now know that despite the termination of Project Blue Book, the US government was still interested and that investigations were continuing, but without the media and the public being told. The Pentagon's AATIP initiative, for example, investigated several such cases. Three declassified videos of US Navy F-18 jets chasing UFOs were made public in December 2017, when the existence of AATIP was first revealed," Pope told Sputnik. 

    The video footage released in 2017 showed a 2004 encounter between two US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and an unknown object. In the recording, the fighter pilots attempt to intercept the unidentified object, described as having "no obvious wings or tails." The pilots were unable to intercept the mysterious aircraft Sputnik previously reported.

    In 2017, the New York Times also reported that even though the Pentagon shut down its hush-hush program to study UFOs in 2012, it continues to investigate UFOs brought to its attention by servicemembers.

    "We still don't know if these objects are foreign military aircraft or drones, or something else. But pilots see them, radar operators track them, and now the US Navy wants to make sure it acquires as much data on this phenomenon as possible. I strongly support this new initiative. Any nation wants to ensure the territorial integrity of its airspace. If there's something in our skies, we want to know what it is. Whatever people believe about UFOs, there are defense, national security and air safety issues here," Pope added.


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