The US Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots and personnel to report sightings of unexplained aerial phenomena, colloquially known as UFOs.The Navy told Politico on Tuesday that the decision was made in response to recent sightings of unidentifiable aircraft spotted near protected airspace and naval and air formations."There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years," the Navy said in a statement to Politico. "For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [US Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”
In November, pilots for British Airways and Virgin Airways reported bright, quickly moving lights off the Irish coast. “We saw a bright light and then it disappeared at a very high speed,” the British Airways pilot, who was flying from Canada to the UK, told air traffic control in a recording. “We don’t think it was on a collision course, but we were wondering what it could’ve been.”
According to the Navy statement to Politico, the new guidelines would formalize a process for reporting unusual findings, like the sighting of an unexplainable aircraft. “The Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities,” said the statement.A 2017 report from the New York Times found that the Pentagon dedicated $22 million to an office called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) that investigated reports of unidentified flying objects. The office was officially shut down in 2012, the New York Times reported, but officials continued to investigate sightings while performing their other duties.Topics studied by AATIP included invisibility cloaking, wormholes, and “the manipulation of extra dimensions,” a freedom of information request later revealed.Luis Elizondo, a retired Pentagon official who previously ran that office, told Politico that personnel aren’t encouraged to report sightings. "If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something," Elizondo said. "With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: 'If you do see something, don't say something.'"The Navy statement doesn’t mean that UFOs are going to be a top concern, or that the government is on the lookout for aliens (rather than experimental aircraft), but it does signal that government officials are ready to take sightings seriously.Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.