The national security concerns that surfaced over the suspected Chinese spy balloon (and its destruction) now appear, with hindsight, to have been largely overblown. Nevertheless, the near-hysteria over this now “identified” flying object did serve to highlight a far more important national-security issue, namely, the continuing mystery surrounding the origin and identity of exotic UFOs, “unidentified” flying objects that hover in place, execute right-angle turns, and often become “evasive” when sighted.

So what are exotic UFOs?

Some in the research community were hoping that the recent release of the congressionally mandated 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would provide some preliminary answers to that question. It did not. Indeed, that short and unremarkable report disappointed both UAP/UFO skeptics and supporters alike.

Skeptics would have preferred to see most UAP/UFOs dismissed as misidentified conventional objects such as drones and balloons, and indeed almost half of the 366 newly reported UAP fell into that category. But remarkably the other half did not, and some were even said to demonstrate “unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, [that] require further analysis.”

Yet this important admission hardly satisfies UFO supporters, who wonder why that analysis has not already been accomplished. After all, the exotic UFO phenomenon is hardly new—“unusual flight characteristics” have been reported since at least 1947—and it is totally naïve to believe that the military/intelligence community has not commissioned some fairly sophisticated analysis of a small number of UFOs that could pose a serious national security threat. In that regard, this latest unclassified report (is there a classified version?) is unhelpful and simply continues official obscurantism with respect to important aspects of the UFO mystery.

Some UFO supporters have asserted for decades that the government has been hiding evidence that some UAP/UFOs are extra-terrestrial. Perhaps, but no smoking gun has ever surfaced. On the other hand, several skeptics have asserted that UFOs may simply be a convenient “cover” for the government’s own clandestine flight/technology programs, designed to keep secrets and mislead potential enemies. Perhaps some are, but this theory—currently popular with the smart chattering classes—has its own set of difficulties.

First, reliable pilot and ground observation—including radar confirmation—of exotic UFOs that hover, perform extraordinary turns and accelerate soundlessly has been around in abundance since the 1940s. It is almost impossible to believe that the U.S. has had this very advanced flight technology for more than seven decades but that none of it has yet to openly surface in our own security regime.

Second, there are dozens of military reports of (very) close U.S. jet encounters in pursuit of UFOs. There are solid reports of onboard jamming (EM) of radar and electronics. Very dangerous stuff. It is difficult to believe that a cover for some clandestine program could ever justify 70 years of placing our military and commercial pilots and their passengers at risk. But that is not difficult to believe if the actual purpose of such close encounters was to discover more about the technology of exotic UFOs.

Third, UFOs exhibiting “unusual...performance capabilities” have been observed, recorded on radar and chased by military aircraft from all over the world. Almost every country in Europe and Latin America has a vast data resource on the phenomenon that contains reports identical to those in all previous U.S. collection programs. The point is that no U.S. covert program could ever risk an accident or crash of its own exotic technology over Mexico City or Iran, or even over the outskirts of Detroit. Not possible.

So what are exotic UFOs? What is “under the covers,” so to speak? Certainly, the recent congressional concern that we get to the bottom of this mystery is hopeful, although there are decades of official disappointments on this matter. Perhaps the next intelligence report will have some real answers. This one does not.