The Pentagon has acknowledged running a secret program to investigate UFO sightings. Although it says the investigations ended in 2012, officials are reported to be continuing to study any strange aerial incidents.
The US Defense Department has acknowledged authorizing millions of dollars in secretive funding to investigate UFO sightings.
The money went to fund a program dubbed the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, which was given $22 million (€18.7 million) per year from 2007 to 2012, according to program records and participants quoted in a report by The New York Times.
The program produced documents describing sightings of unidentified flying objects that reportedly moved very fast with no clear sign of propulsion or hovered with no readily apparent means of lift.
Officials also examined video of encounters between unknown objects and US military aircraft.
This included one released in August that showed a whitish oval object about the size of a jetliner being pursued by two Navy fighter jets from an aircraft carrier off the coast of California in 2004.
The Pentagon said in a statement the program was now over.
"The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program ended in the 2012 timeframe. It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change," it said, using an acronym to refer to the Department of Defense.
Still running somewhere?
But the Pentagon was less clear about whether the UFO program continued to hover somewhere in the vast expanse of the defense establishment.
"The DoD takes seriously all threats and potential threats to our people, our assets, and our mission and takes action whenever credible information is developed," said Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Ochoa.
The Times reported that alongside their regular work, Pentagon officials were still examining incidents reported by members of the US military.
'No answers yet'
Most of the program's budget went to an aerospace research company run by Robert Bigelow, a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Nevada's former Democratic Senator Harry Reid, according to the Times.
"If anyone says they have the answers, they're fooling themselves," Reid, a longtime enthusiast for space phenomena who retired from Congress last year, said in a tweet Saturday night.
"We don't know the answers but we have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions. This is about science and national security. If America doesn't take the lead in answering these questions, others will," Reid wrote.
bik/tj (AFP, Reuters)