Last week, the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation held a hearing on UAPs — unidentified aerial phenomena — more commonly known as UFOs. The hearing, which was the first of its kind in decades, comes two years after the Office of Naval Intelligence established the new Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force and nearly a year after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a preliminary assessment that examined 144 events from 2004 to 2021, concluding UAP could “possibly” threaten national security.
Of 18 incidents described in 21 reports, the ODNI said, “observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics,” including the ability to “maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speeds, without discernible means of propulsion.” There were also 11 reported “near misses” with U.S. aircraft.
During last week’s hearing, top Pentagon intelligence official Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott W. Bray said the number of events examined had increased from 144 to 400, and Rep. Andre Carson echoed ODNI’s concerns that UAPs were a “potential national security threat” to the U.S. “and need to be treated that way.”
For background, the UAP Task Force was created after several mysterious close encounters with U.S. military pilots were captured on video. Some of these events were published by The New York Times and aired by CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and the pilots interviewed were uncertain whether their origin was terrestrial or extraterrestrial. In that “60 Minutes” segment, Sen. Marco Rubio told CBS, “I don’t think we can allow the stigma [of UFOs] to keep us from having an answer to a very fundamental question … I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously.”
Mr. Rubio’s concern most likely arises from the fact that many of the incidents under review occurred in restricted airspace near military installations or amidst aerial and naval exercises. This raises serious questions about the intent of the phenomena — or whatever controls it. For all these reasons and more, I believe UAPs are a national security threat to the United States.
Shortly after the ODNI report was published, I wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal titled “UFOs May Be Earthly and Dangerous,” which centered around something that was not included in the ODNI assessment — a 2018 U.S. Navy patent application, Publication No. US2020/0041236A1.
The patent application describes a new laser-plasma technology wherein laser systems would be mounted to the back of a jet and “configured to generate a ghost image such that a plurality of air vehicles appear to be present.” The technology is described as, “a method where a laser beam is configured to generate a laser-induced plasma filament (LIPF), and the LIPF acts as a decoy to detract a homing missile or other threat from a specific target.”
Forbes technology journalist David Hambling also wrote about this technology in a piece titled, “U.S. Navy Laser Creates Plasma ‘UFOs.’” writing, “This technology … create[s] phantom images with infrared images to fool heat-seeking missiles … the laser creates a series of mid-air plasma columns, which form a 2D or 3D image … similar to the way old-style cathode-ray TV sets display a picture.”
A diagram on the patent application shows a drawing of a fighter jet projecting a laser that generates a holographic image resembling a “ghost” aircraft — an image of a UFO. Such technology could explain why many of the recent pictures of UAPs are blurry, and the purported unidentified flying objects move erratically while suddenly appearing and disappearing without any sign of taking off, landing or leaving exhaust contrails — or purportedly arising from and submerging into the ocean.
When asked directly by committee members, DoD officials said they believe most UAPs are probably physical objects. This is most likely because 80 of the 144 incidents referenced in the 2021 ODNI assessment were detected on advanced military systems and radar. But there might be explanations for this. A foreign adversary may have learned to deceive our sensors or they could be detecting a small, hard-to-spot physical drone that is projecting UAP imagery. In 2017, Alexandru Hening, the lead researcher on the aforementioned Navy patent application told IT magazine “with the next generation of lasers you could produce a filament of even a mile.”
Laser plasma technology may sound like science fiction, but both the U.S. and Soviet Union began exploring the concept early as the 1970s. The U.S. began investigating the use of lasers to intercept ICBMs during Project Excalibur, which led to President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly known as the Star Wars program. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. learned that the Soviets took Reagan’s initiative seriously and explored the use of laser-plasma, microwave and photon technology.
In 2017 the Russian Federation declared it had achieved laser-based energy-directed weaponry. In 2019 it was revealed the U.S. Navy was developing a program to project false fleets from drone swarms. While such technology could be used to distract enemy missiles, it could also be used to disorient fighter pilots in combat scenarios and even exploited as a psychological operation to create doubt within the ranks of the world’s greatest superpower that it is vulnerable — while creating panic within its civilian population.
It is possible that not all UAPs have the same origin, and while some may be physical objects, others may not. Whatever UAP’s origin or intent — terrestrial or extraterrestrial — we must consider all possibilities and regard any unknown phenomena that enter U.S. restricted airspace as a threat to our national security until we can identify its origin and intentions.
• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is an investigative journalist who has reported on Russian aerospace and political affairs. He served as a senior U.S. official at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, 2017-2021.