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The UFO Phenomenon

Should the objects shot down over the US be defined as 'UFOs' ?

February 20, 2023 · Comment icon 8 comments

Interest in the phenomenon has risen significantly in the last few weeks. Image Credit: Pixabay / christianplass
Space policy expert Wendy Whitman Cobb takes a look at the modern UFO phenomenon and what we mean by 'UFO'.
On the heels of the Feb. 4, 2023, shooting down of a Chinese balloon suspected of spying on the U.S., American fighter jets have shot down three additional objects in or near U.S. airspace.

When the media asked Glen VanHerck, the Air Force general responsible for overseeing North American airspace, about these events, he refused to rule out extraterrestrial forces at play. Other military officials later clarified that otherworldly origins aren't a serious consideration, but the comment highlighted the U.S. government's lack of knowledge about these objects.

As a space policy expert, I'm often confronted with questions about UFOs and little green people. However, as these recent episodes have shown, a UFO is far more likely to be human-made, rather than originating from some faraway place in the universe.

What does UFO mean?

Unidentified flying object, or UFO for short, is the term that has historically been used to describe aircraft that aren't easily identified or explained. The modern UFO craze in the U.S. dates to the late 1940s and early 1950s, coinciding with the development of new technology like rockets and missiles.

Today, the U.S. government uses the phrase unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs. This change is partially to try to disassociate the term from science fiction aliens. The term also encourages greater scientific study and reflects the fact that many of these "objects" end up being strange atmospheric phenomenon or tricks of camera equipment.

Taking a serious look

There are thousands of unconfirmed UAP sightings by the public each year, but until recently there was no formal way for the U.S. to track these sightings. That lack of interest began to change in 2020 when the Pentagon officially released three videos taken from the cockpits of fighter jets showing unidentified objects moving in mysterious ways.
The following year, in 2021, Congress mandated the creation of an assessment on UAPs. As part of this report, the director of national intelligence identified 144 firsthand accounts of UAPs from military aviators and government sensors between 2004 and 2021.

The report identifies several potential explanations for UAPs, including clutter - an umbrella term that includes, for example, birds, balloons and drones. Other explanations include natural atmospheric phenomena such as ice crystals and thermal fluctuations, as well as secret technologies being developed by the U.S. or other nations.

It is this last category that has drawn attention, with the U.S. military shooting down a number of balloons and unidentified objects in the last week. Countries like China and Russia can gather a significant amount of intelligence using satellites, but balloons - and potentially other technologies as yet unknown by the American public - represent another way to collect sensitive data. If the U.S. military or government can't identify a new technology, it is easy to classify an object as a UAP.

In 2022 alone, the Pentagon received 247 new UAP reports, about half of which were eventually attributed to balloons or "balloon-like entities."

At the same time, it's also easy to miss UAPs if people don't know what to look for, as appears to be the case with previous spy balloons that China has sent around the world.

Whether future UAPs are balloons, secret technology or something else, there will continue to be a greater national focus on studying UAPs and an increasing ability to detect them. It is likely that reports will continue to pour in and U.S. aircraft will keep tracking them down.

Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, Air University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article. The Conversation

Source: The Conversation | Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by and-then 1 year ago
I think they shouldn't be shooting things down that they have not at least partially Identified.  The likely reality is that they've known what these craft are but have been hesitant to acknowledge them.  
Comment icon #2 Posted by Nicolette 1 year ago
Right I found it hard to believe that anyone felt the need to shoot missiles at objects that they couldn't even give a decent deion of...  And also this stigma thing is idiotic unidentified means unidentified... It's deive enough.
Comment icon #3 Posted by the13bats 1 year ago
Our friendly skies are full of unknow objects none are aliens at least never proven aliens where as many other explanations have been proven. I dont think our military shoot down unknowns unless they are a hazard, a danger which means they are not fully unknown, the amount of toys in the air is growing at such a quick rate we are going to hear more and more fluff and true believers are going to have their tizzies "its aliens". I simply do not believe all the fluff is either unknown or alien.
Comment icon #4 Posted by qxcontinuum 1 year ago
Ufo = unidentified flying objects . Out of 5 only two were identified. The rest remained unidentified since can't be recovered so they were ufo... Not alien powered tehnology of course. Those can zap us military in a flash or teleport instantaneous ... blah blah
Comment icon #5 Posted by the13bats 1 year ago
You missed that boat, anything that is unknown is automatically either under the blanket explanation of paranormal or if in the sky a UFO and UFO has always meant "aliens" . Also the military is of 100% transparencies they tell the people everything, even if its our secret weapons etc we dont want enemies to know about.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Poncho_Peanatus 1 year ago
yes they can UFO stands for Unidentified flying object, now if they are Aliens from outher space or hobby baloons from Illiois is all another matter. The modern term I belive is UAP btw.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Golden Duck 1 year ago
If the object has been shot down, it's no longer flying.  Duh!
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hawken 1 year ago
People still associate UFO with aliens instead of it's true meaning, Unidentified.  I see a newer designation is UAP. But it will probably get associated with aliens also.

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