By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force general overseeing North American airspace said on Sunday after a series of shoot-downs of unidentified objects that he would not rule out aliens or any other explanation yet, deferring to U.S. intelligence experts.
Asked whether he had ruled out an extraterrestrial origin for three airborne objects shot down by U.S. warplanes in as many days, General Glen VanHerck said: “I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out. I haven’t ruled out anything.”
“At this point we continue to assess every threat or potential threat, unknown, that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it,” said VanHerck, head of U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command.
VanHerck’s comments came during a Pentagon briefing on Sunday after a U.S. F-16 fighter jet shot down an octagonal-shaped object over Lake Huron on the U.S.-Canada border.
The incidents over the past three days follow the Feb. 4 downing of a Chinese balloon that put North American air defenses on high alert. U.S. officials said that balloon was being used for surveillance.Another U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the military had seen no evidence suggesting any of the objects in question were of extraterrestrial origin.
VanHerck said the military was unable to immediately determine the means by which any of the three latest objects were kept aloft or where they were coming from.
“We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason, said VanHerck.
The incidents come as the Pentagon has undertaken a new push in recent years to investigate military sightings of UFOs – rebranded in official government parlance as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAPs.
The government’s effort to investigate anomalous, unidentified objects – whether they are in space, the skies or even underwater – has led to hundreds of documented reports that are being investigated, senior military leaders have said.
But the Pentagon says it has not found evidence to indicate Earthly visits from intelligent alien life.
Analysis of military sightings are conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in conjunction with a newly created Pentagon bureau known as AARO, short for the cryptically named All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office.
Their first report to Congress in June 2021 examined 144 sightings by U.S. military aviators dating to 2004.
That study attributed one incident to a large, deflating balloon but found the rest were beyond the government’s ability to explain without further analysis.
A report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued last month cited 366 additional sightings, mostly things like balloons, drones, birds or airborne clutter. But 171 remained officially unexplained.
“Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” the office said in the report.
Sill, Ronald Moultrie, under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, told reporters in December that he had not seen anything in the files to indicate intelligent alien life.
“I have not seen anything in those holdings to date that would suggest that there has been an alien visitation, an alien crash or anything like that,” Moultrie said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington; Additional reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Tim Ahmann)