In response to a series of anomalous encounters involving carrier strike groups and secure facilities, the Unites States Navy is drafting guidelines that will enable its personnel to report encounters with unidentified flying objects, in a move intended to create a formalized process that will collect, analyze, and ultimately destigmatize, the reporting of UFO sightings.

“There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years,” according to a statement sent to Politico by the Navy. “For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.

“As part of this effort,” the statement continues, “the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A new message to the fleet that will detail the steps for reporting is in draft.”

One of the incursions being referred to in the Navy’s statement is likely the “Tic-Tac UFO” encountered by the USS Nimitz carrier group in 2004, a series of objects that were tracked by ship-borne radar and recorded by the ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared) equipment on board the aircraft sent to intercept them. This video footage was brought to public attention by the New York Times in December 2017, along with the revelation that the Defense Intelligence Agency had briefly run a UFO research project called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).

These incursions are also being noticed by government officials, according to the Navy. “In response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety.” Although the statement didn’t identify the recipients of these briefings, former Nevada Senator Harry Reid was instrumental in securing funding for AATIP, and has been calling for renewed Congressional hearings into the UFO matter.

“Right now, we have situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” according to Chris Mellon, a former Pentagon intelligence official and ex-staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We have systems that exclude that information and dump it.”

For example, Mellon said “in a lot of cases [military personnel] don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3. They will dump [the data] because that is not a traditional aircraft or missile.”

The reporting of UAPs also carries a potentially career-damaging stigma that furthers the culture of silence surrounding the UFO phenomenon, a stigma that has the potential to cause problems with national security. “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something. With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something,'” former head of AATIP, Luis Elizondo, illustrates.

Elizondo goes on to add that these anomalous aircraft “don’t have a tail number or a flag — in some cases not even a tail — it’s crickets. What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”

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