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NEWS | April 20, 2023

DOD working to better understand, resolve anomalous phenomena

By David Vergun DOD News

In July 2022, the Defense Department set up the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office to, among other things, identify unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAP, that might pose a threat to national security and the operations of the military and federal agencies.

UAP are anything in space, in the air, on land, in the sea or under the sea that can't be identified and might pose a threat to U.S. military installations or operations. 

Sean M. Kirkpatrick, director of AARO, testified today at the Senate Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Videos
South Asian Object 1
In a Senate hearing, Sean M. Kirkpatrick, AARO director, shared a video depicting an unidentified object with an apparent atmospheric wake or cavitation trailing it as it moves. An MQ-9 forward-looking infrared video sensor captured this footage in South Asia as it was recording another MQ-9. AARO assesses that the object likely is a commercial aircraft and that the trailing cavitation is a sensor artifact resultant of video compression. Case resolution is pending final review.
South Asian Object 2
An MQ-9 captured this footage in South Asia as it was recording another MQ-9. After analysis of the full motion video, inclusion of additional footage with a longer focal length, and analysis of commercial flight data in the region, AARO assesses that the object likely is a commercial aircraft and that the trailing cavitation is a sensor artifact resultant of video compression. Case resolution is pending final review. This video is the additional footage with a longer focal length. The apparent back-and-forth motion is an artifact of the longer focal length and the sensor attempting to zoom in on the fast-moving UAP, rather than the MQ-9.
Middle East Object
This clip was taken by an MQ-9 in the Middle East, and while AARO assesses the object in the clip is not exhibiting anomalous behavior, the object remains unidentified. This video is a representative example of many of the cases AARO receives where there is limited data surrounding the observation. These cases are retained in AARO's active archive pending the discovery of additional information that may lead to case resolution.

The department is working to better understand and respond to UAP. Unidentified objects in any domain pose potential risks to safety and security, particularly for military personnel and capabilities, he said.

AARO team scientists have taken important steps to improve UAP data collection, standardize internal reporting requirements, and implement a framework for rigorous scientific and intelligence analysis, resolving cases in a systematic and prioritized manner, he said, adding that the team is also reviewing UAP-related historical records.

The team is leading a focused effort to better characterize, understand and attribute UAP, with priority given to UAP sightings in or near areas of national security importance or reported by military personnel, including pilots, he said.


"We cannot answer decades of questions about UAP all at once, but we must begin somewhere. While I assure you that AARO will follow scientific evidence wherever it leads, I ask for your patience as DOD first prioritizes the safety and security of our military personnel and installations in all domains," Kirkpatrick said.

"I want to underscore today that only a very small percentage of UAP reports display signatures that could reasonably be described as 'anomalous.' The majority of unidentified objects reported to AARO demonstrate mundane characteristics of balloons, unmanned aerial systems, clutter, natural phenomena or other readily explainable sources," he said.

"Humans are subject to deception and illusions, sensors to unexpected responses and malfunctions and, in some cases, intentional interference," he said.

A man launches a balloon.
Balloon Launch
A meteorologist at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., launches a weather balloon, Aug. 25, 2015. Balloons are sometimes misidentified as unidentified anomalous phenomena.
Photo By: Mark Schauer, Army
VIRIN: 150825-O-WH463-469

A large number of cases remain technically unresolved, but this is primarily due to a lack of data associated with these cases, he pointed out.  

"Without sufficient data, we are unable to reach defendable conclusions that meet the high scientific standards we set for resolution, and I will not close a case that we cannot defend the conclusions of," Kirkpatrick said.  

"I should also state clearly for the record that in our research, AARO has found no credible evidence thus far of extraterrestrial activity, off-world technology, or objects that defy the known laws of physics," he said.  

Most sightings being examined by the team are in the 15,000- to 25,000-foot range. The reason for this is because that's where a lot of aircraft fly, he said.

As of this week, the team is examining 650 cases. Of that number, the team has prioritized about half of them that appear to be especially interesting and anomalous, he said.