The US government is tracking more than 650 potential cases of so-called “unidentified aerial phenomena,” commonly known as UFOs, according to the director of the office created last year to focus on the sightings.
Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday that the number of cases was up from the 350 reports referenced in an unclassified intelligence report on unidentified aerial phenomena released earlier this year.
“Of those over 650, we’ve prioritized about half of them to be of anomalous interesting value, and now we have to go through those and go ‘How much of those do I have actual data for?’” Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick outlined to lawmakers how his office is helping the Pentagon and intelligence community to identify emerging foreign technologies, including his role in helping to identify the high-altitude surveillance balloon from China that flew over US airspace in February.
He played video from two of cases that had been declassified, one that had been resolved and the other unresolved.
The first video showed a small orb that flew through the camera screen of an MQ-9 drone in the Middle East in 2022. The drone’s camera followed the object as it moved through the sky, coming in and out of the screen.
Kirkpatrick explained that this case was unresolved because there was no other evidence beyond the video. “It is going to be virtually impossible to fully identify that, just based off of that video,” he said, adding that the hope was as more data was gathered on these episodes, patterns could emerge to help explain the unresolved cases.
In the second video from South Asia earlier this year, an object flew by two MQ-9 drones, including one that captured video appearing to have a propulsion trail behind it, which Kirkpatrick said was initially believed to be “truly anomalous.”
But he said after they pulled apart the video frame by frame, his office determined that it was a “shadow image.”
“This is in the infrared, this is the heat signature off the engines in a commuter aircraft that happened to be flying in the vicinity of where those two MQ9s were at,” he said.
Thursday’s hearing, chaired by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is the latest that Congress has held over the past year on UAPs as lawmakers pressure the Pentagon to solve the unexplained sightings.
While much of the public focus is over the possibility of UFOs, Kirkpatrick once again reiterated there’s no evidence of represented extraterrestrial life in the sightings.
“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,” Kirkpatrick said.
Senators asked Kirkpatrick about the prospect of emerging technologies from foreign countries like Russia and China. He said that in a small number of cases, he has concerns the episodes could be evidence of potential technological advancements. Those cases, he said, are handed off to the intelligence community to investigate further.
“They are less risk averse at technical advancement than we are. They are just willing to try things and see if it works,” he said. “Are there capabilities that could be employed against us in both ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) and a weapons fashion? Absolutely. Do I have evidence they’re doing it in these cases? No, but I have concerning indicators.”