Was 2022 the year of the UFO? New Pentagon report poses critical question

Though hundreds of sightings of UFOs/UAPs still cannot be explained, the US Department of Defense still cannot confirm the existence of alien life.

 UFO (illustrative). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
UFO (illustrative).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A report released by the Pentagon on Thursday showed that hundreds of people across the United States reported sightings of unidentified flying objects, or "UFOs." Of more than 500 reported sightings, only half of those sightings can be explained, local sources reported.

A newly declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said that hundreds of new sightings were reported in 2022. While more than 200 sightings can be explained away as government vehicles, drones, and at least one Chinese drone, ODNI says that a large chunk of sightings still needs to be explained.

ODNI says they are focusing on 171 cases where objects "appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis."

This annual report is nothing new and comes from a law that also requires the ODNI to pass Congress a classified version of the same report each year.

Though we may know them as UFOs, the US military refers to these as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena - or UAPs. For generations, people have reported uncomfortable aerial sightings to their local government officials, only to be met with doubt and resistance. Now, the US government is taking strides "to destigmatize the topic of UAP and instead recognize the potential risks."

An attendee wears an alien mask at the gate of Area 51 as an influx of tourists are expected, responding to a call to 'storm' the secretive U.S. military base, believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, in Rachel, Nevada, September 20, 2019 (credit: JIM URQUHART/REUTERS)An attendee wears an alien mask at the gate of Area 51 as an influx of tourists are expected, responding to a call to 'storm' the secretive U.S. military base, believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, in Rachel, Nevada, September 20, 2019 (credit: JIM URQUHART/REUTERS)

Contrary to popular belief, efforts to identify UAPs are not centered around an interest in the great beyond. 

While an extraterrestrial discovery could have its perks, government officials seek to identify foreign actors in American airspace, posing potential threats to Homeland security. Aviation hazard and "potential adversarial activity," such as foreign surveillance efforts, are key players in the hunt to identify UAPs.

What objects have been identified?  

NPR reported that a large number of reported flying objects — 163 — were attributed to balloons "or balloon-like entities," according to the Pentagon's report. 26 were attributed to various drones, noting an increase in civilian drone usage. At least six more were identified as "clutter," which includes trash picked up by the wind, weather phenomena, and birds.

Though many objects still cannot be identified, the US government has not reported any indication of extraterrestrial life. According to a transcript from a US Department of Defense press briefing from December 2022, no confirmed cases of alien or extra-terrestrial life have been found.

"We've looked at all that; I have not seen anything in those holdings to date that would suggest that there has been an alien visitation, an alien crash, or anything like that," Ronald Moultrie, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, told media personnel.