US Congress has held its first hearing in half a century on unidentified flying objects. And no, there is still no government confirmation of extraterrestrial life.
Testifying before a House Intelligence subcommittee, Pentagon officials did not disclose additional information from their ongoing investigation of hundreds of unexplained sightings in the sky.
But they said they had picked a director for a new task force to co-ordinate data collection efforts on UFO, or what the government labels "unidentified aerial phenomena" (UAP).
Ronald Moultrie, the undersecretary of defence for intelligence, said the Pentagon was also trying to destigmatise the issue and encourage pilots and other military personnel to report anything unusual they see.
"We want to know what's out there as much as you want to know what's out there," Moultrie told lawmakers, on Tuesday adding he was a fan of science fiction himself.
"We get the questions not just from you. We get it from family and we get them night and day."
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers say UFOs are a national security concern. Sightings of what appear to be aircraft flying without discernible means of propulsion have been reported near military bases and coastlines, raising the prospect that witnesses have spotted undiscovered or secret Chinese or Russian technology.
But the sightings are usually fleeting. Some appear for no more than an instant on camera, and then sometimes end up distorted by the lens. The US government is believed to hold additional technical information on the sightings that it has not disclosed publicly.
An interim intelligence report released last year counted 144 sightings of aircraft or other devices flying at mysterious speeds or trajectories. In all but one, there was too little information for investigators to even broadly characterise the nature of the incident.
Naval intelligence deputy director Scott Bray told the committee the number of UAPs catalogued by the task force had grown to 400 cases.
During the hearing, Bray stood next to a television to show a short video taken from an F-18 military plane.
The video showed a blue sky with passing clouds. In a single frame, there is an image of one balloon-like shape.
"As you can see, finding UAP is harder than you may think," Bray said.
Representative Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat who chaired the hearing, called on investigators to show they "are willing to follow the facts where they lead".
Australian Associated Press
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