According to a U.S. Navy spokesman, military pilots who encounter unidentified aircraft are now being encouraged to report the incidents to military authorities. Joseph Gradisher, a spokesperson for Vice Admiral Matthew Kohler, the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told NBC News MACH, “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,” adding that Navy and the Air Force “take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report.”
The Navy issued a statement to Politico, asserting, “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. 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 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.”
Chris Mellon, a former Pentagon intelligence official and ex-staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Politico that the new attitude would constitute a “sea change,” adding, “Right now, we have situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored. We have systems that exclude that information and dump it … 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.”
Luis Elizondo, the former chief of the Advanced Aviation Identification Program, which existed from 2007-2012, pointed out, “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.’”
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, explained that there have been practical reasons for reporting unidentified aircraft, saying, “The government has been interested in this since the 1940s, and always for the same reason: they want to know if these are enemy aircraft. That’s still the case here. There’s always going to be a group of people that leaps to the more interesting conclusion. But 90 percent of these sightings turn out to be a laundry list of things like birds, balloons or other aircraft.”
Recent incidents may have provoked the Navy’s change in attitude; in November 2018 a female pilot reported seeing bright lights near her as she flew from Montreal to London. When she inquired whether there were military exercises in the area, air traffic control said there were not. NBC News reported she stated, “It came up on our left hand side and rapidly veered north,” adding that it was moving “so fast.” A second pilot, flying a Virgin Airlines flight, also reported seeing the object, saying, “Two bright lights over at 11 o’clock seemed to bank over to the right and then fly away.”
The incident prompted an investigation by the Irish Aviation Authority.