Acceptable Ignorance: Prioritize Airspace Sovereignty

The US Pentagon.
Image: Flickr/Wiyre Media

By Jacob Bosen

Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) have once again gained traction from not only the American public but the United States Government. Although the United States Government has always been interested in and investigated UFOs, it wasn’t until recently that it has done so with so much rigor. The United States has largely labeled the UFO and UAP issue as a threat to national security, but it has also admitted that it does not know the source of UFOs and UAPs. To discern what kind of threat, if any, the objects pose to the national security of the United States, an understanding of their origin needs to be attempted. 

It is most likely that UFOs and UAPs are a mixture of black projects, adversarial capabilities, and extraterrestrial vehicles. After all, the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes were often mistaken for UFOs at the beginning of the Cold War. It is also most likely that the extraterrestrial explanation is positioned at the base of origin. Much of UFO activity might not actually be a threat. Because of the likelihood of extraterrestrial origin, the national security implications significantly shift.

The United States Government officially started taking an interest in UFO activity with the creation of Project Bluebook through the United States Air Force. Project Bluebook ran from 1947 to 1969 and investigated over 12,000 UFO sightings. The Project’s findings asserted that no UFO reported and evaluated showed a threat to U.S. national security. Despite these findings and ruling out the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs, the U.S. military continued to secretly investigate UFOs after discontinuing Project Bluebook. Out of the more than 12,000 sightings investigated, over 701 remained unidentified and unexplainable by conventional science.  

In 2019, the USS Russell experienced and recorded several crafts off the coast of San Diego, which appeared to be pyramid shaped. Additionally, the USS Omaha recorded a circular-shaped craft that went from aerial capability to maritime capability without being destroyed; it was reported that a submarine attempted to track the craft but was unable to do so.  

In 2020, the Pentagon announced the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The task force investigated the “tic tac UFO” and found it had the following characteristics:

  • It was no known aircraft that the United States or any foreign nation had.
  • It rendered U.S. radar capabilities ineffective.
  • It had advanced aerodynamic performance and no indication of means to generate lift.
  • It was able to remain stationary in the air.
  • It may have had cloaking capabilities.
  • It may have gone into the ocean, which means it had air and sea capabilities.  

At the beginning of 2023, the United States Military released a video of what seems to be a UAP flying over an active conflict zone in Mosul, Iraq, in 2016. This video is significant because it shows that whoever and whatever is behind the origin of UFOs has the capability to penetrate an ongoing conflict zone. 

UFO sightings have been reported worldwide, and governments have taken different steps to investigate them. Notable investigations have occurred in BelgiumChile, and the Soviet Union.  

Just as the public has been involved in spreading disinformation about UFOs, so has the United States Government. It is a possibility the military might be testing new technologies against already existing capabilities. Further, the military might be releasing UFO evidence to distract the public and adversaries of the United States from newly developed technologies by assigning an unknowable source. 

During the height of the Cold War, the United States Government was worried about the public fascination with UFOs and considered how the Soviet Union could use this fascination as a psychological operation against the United States. The Central Intelligence Agency’s Robertson Report suggests “mass hysteria” over UFOs could lead to “greater vulnerability to possible enemy psychological warfare.” This threat resulted in the creation of Project Bluebook, which sought to debunk UFO reports to give the public and government ease on the issue. 

There are many possibilities for the origin of UFOs. These possibilities include black projects, adversarial powers, and extraterrestrial sources. Some arguments are stronger than others, and it is most likely that the origin of UFOs and UAPs is a mixture of all claimed sources of origin. 

The likelihood of most UFOs being black projects is high. As Franc Milburn argues, “UAP might be exotic American tech, near-peer adversary platforms, or something else entirely.” During the Cold War, some newly developed bombers and spy planes were frequently mistaken for UFOs. There is a high chance that the government has technologies that the public is unaware of, and when a handful of people see them tested, they assume they are seeing a UFO or UAP. 

There is also a chance that UFOs might be adversarial powers. Although, this seems to be the least likely. The United States, Soviets, and British all experienced shutdowns when UFOs approached their nuclear missile sites. If it was a hostile power, then why are the adversaries of the United States experiencing the same thing? 

Humans have been reporting UFOs for thousands of years. Going back to the BC era, cultures worldwide have spoken of UFO activity. It is a possibility that what the ancients saw UFO activity similar to that being observed today, but they did not have the descriptive scientific language to describe what they were seeing that modern society has today.  

In 1948 an Air Force Intelligence Memo stated that UFOs are not of domestic origin, and a 1952 FBI memo says that analysts at the agency were “fairly certain that UFOs are not ships or missiles from another nation in this world.” Col. John Alexander has briefed high levels of government and has stated, “Importantly, there have been sightings for millennia. That excludes the possibility of foreign development. Reports of interactions between humans and sentient non-humans have also been stated since recorded history and in all cultures.”  The New York Times has reported that the Department of Defense was given classified briefings about the collection of extraterrestrial UFOs. Congressman Tim Burchett stated, “we have recovered a craft at some point, and possible beings.”  

At the base of UFO origin most likely lies the extraterrestrial explanation. Reports of UFOs have gone back thousands of years, and it is safe to assume that governments did not have advanced technological capabilities back then. The argument can be taken even further by suggesting that what people saw in ancient times was entirely something else, and the UFO problem started in the 1940s. If that is the case, the government certainly seemed to be confused about what was being seen and experienced. Today, governments worldwide still claim that they do not know what is going on and the source of origin. Have all governments been keeping the same secret for decades? Probably not. 

If UFOs and UAPs are mostly of extraterrestrial origin, they do not seem hostile. If they were malicious, they would have attacked humanity long ago. The United States needs to worry about UFO and UAP technology falling into the hands of adversarial powers, not about otherworldly visitors.

Regardless of origin, the reality of UFOs exists. States have not been able to adequately identify the origin, current known technologies are vastly inferior to the capabilities that the UFOs display, and UFOs present the possibility of a public danger that governments cannot prevent. Because of this, regardless of origin, UFOs and UAPs present a threat to traditional conceptions of national security and sovereignty. 

UFOs have frequently been reported over nuclear weapon sites since the 1940s. The United States, Soviets, and British all had shutdowns when UFOs approached or were hovering over their nuclear missile sites—a significant cause of concern. In 1967, Air Force Captain Robert Salas reported that sixteen nuclear missiles went inoperative at Malmstrom Air Force Base when base security informed him of a UFO over the base. Lt. Colonel Dwynne Arneson corroborated the story.  

Hundreds of advanced UFO activities have been reported since 2021. John Ratcliffe, former President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, stated in reference to UFOs, “…there are technologies that we don’t have and frankly that we are not capable of defending against… it’s an issue of national security…” This year was the release of The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2023, which labels UFO and UAP activity as a national security concern. 

The origin and source of UFOs help define the national security implications, and one cannot start understanding and speculating about national security threats until the origin is determined. 

If UFOs are of an adversarial power, it is exceptionally concerning that the United States does not have the same capabilities as the adversary. The ability to outmaneuver the United States Military’s greatest assets and skilled service members shows just how vulnerable the United States is. If UFOs are secret black projects, then the United States is much further ahead in technological advances than its adversaries. Black projects have happened throughout United States Military history but usually come into the open eventually. If UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin, the threat can go both ways. Extraterrestrials may be scouting Earth. If extraterrestrials wanted to destroy humanity and take over the planet, they would have done so thousands of years ago and even in the 1940s when contemporary reports of UFOs started appearing in the headlines. But they have not, and that is important to remember. Still, the ability to evade United States Military capabilities and to shut down nuclear systems is a cause for concern. The origin of UFOs is most likely a mixture of adversarial, black project, and extraterrestrial origin, with extraterrestrial origin at the base of where the UFO and UAP phenomena started. 

Jacob Bosen is a graduate student of statecraft and international affairs at the Institute of World Politics. He participated in the Russian American Cooperation Initiative in Moscow in December 2021. 






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