A strange unidentified flying object (UFO) in the form of a "metallic orb" was detected in the Middle East by a US reaper drone sometime during 2022, US defense official Sean M. Kirkpatrick told Congress Wednesday.
Footage of the orb, which had been classified up until now, was revealed by Kirkpatrick, who heads the Pentagon's All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) to study UFOs, as part of the latest US defense sector update on the issue of UFOs.
In particular, Kirkpatrick noted that sightings of UFOs have been on the rise and the agency is tracking around 650 specific incidents - though clarified that there's no evidence any of this is the result of aliens, Politico reported.
However, it is a significant jump from the 350 incidents mentioned in a report shared with lawmakers earlier this year, CNN reported.
This is the second time Pentagon officials have come before US lawmakers in 2023 to provide an update on the many different UFO cases, also known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomenons (UAPs), which many people view as a security threat.
What are UAPs/UFOs?
UAPs and UFOs are, quite simply, something seen in the air that can't be identified. However, it is commonly used to refer to unknown and unidentified aircraft.
These sightings have been part of human culture for hundreds of years, significantly picking up in intensity since the 20th century. It has particularly become part of popular culture, with many claiming they are signs of intelligent alien life coming to visit Earth.
However, for many countries around the world, the primary concern regarding UFOs isn't possible alien visits or invasions but rather a more geopolitical concern: That these aircraft belong to other countries or entities on Earth that are being used to covertly monitor other countries' interests and activities, or even crossing into a nation's sovereign territory. This would also mean that there is a possibility that other countries, such as US rivals Russia and China, could have made technological advancements that Washington doesn't yet know about.
It is for this reason that UFOs and UAPs have been primarily studied by militaries and national security agencies rather than scientists.
This has only become an even more prominent issue following the shooting down of several UFOs by US forces, many of which are believed to be Chinese spy balloons.
However, the footage shown by Kirkpatrick wasn't anything like a Chinese spy balloon.
What was the UFO spotted in the Middle East?
In the footage dated July 12, 2022, which the US Defense Department shared online, the US military's MQ-9 reaper drone somewhere in the Middle East - exactly where wasn't disclosed - can be seen monitoring a strange, metallic silver orb-like object flying around below it at seemingly very high speeds while the drone's camera tries to follow it.
This footage is significant because while there have been previously declassified US military footage of UFOs, those were all taken by pilots in manned aircraft. This one, however, was taken by a drone.
However, this isn't the only time this particular UFO had been seen - apparently, there hae been many other sightings of a strange flying metallic orb in the Middle East.
What explanation could there possibly be for this?
Kirkpatrick said there isn't one, but the reason for that is due to a lack of available data. "It is going to be virtually impossible to fully identify that, just based on that video," he said, according to ABC News
He also shared another video, this one taken by reaper drones in South Asia in January 2023. At first, this footage was also thought to be an unexplainable anomaly. However, the AARO has since come to a conclusion: It was a heat signature left by a nearby commercial airplane, CNN reported.
Kirkpatrick, UFOs, Chinese spy balloons and aliens
Kirkpatrick made waves back in February after his office helped identify the Chinese spy balloon in US airspace. This was later followed by a number of other UFOs spotted in the US and Canada, all of which were shot down.
However, Kirkpatrick has also sparked the attention of UFO enthusiasts, those who believe it may be possible that these objects are signs of intelligent life among the stars.
Back in March, he and Israeli-American astronomer and Harvard University Prof. Avi Loeb theorized the existence of an alien mothership that could have been sending UFO probes to Earth.
Loeb is a leading voice for SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) research in the mainstream scientific community and has long advocated that scientists should consider the possibility that humanity may not be alone in the universe.
While Kirkpatrick was quick to clarify that there is no evidence at this time of any alien activity whatsoever and only a small percentage of UFO sightings could be considered anomalous, he urged UFO enthusiasts to submit their own findings, research and analyses to be peer-reviewed by credible scientific journals. This, after all, is what AARO is doing too.
"That is how science works," Kirkpatrick said, according to ABC News. "Not by blog or social media."