2021: The Year of the UFO

As 2021 draws to a close I want to offer some thoughts on the year’s most noteworthy and intriguing UFO developments. And what a year it’s been!

Few stories were bigger than the June 25 release of a preliminary assessment of UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The unclassified summary that the media and the public saw wasn’t quite the UFO community’s holy grail of “Disclosure”, but it contained plenty of fascinating material, including what might be termed the key initial conclusion, i.e. that “UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security”. Other key findings were that “Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation”, along with “And a handful of UAP appear to demonstrate advanced technology” – with “radio frequency (RF) energy” and “signature management” being listed as examples. I believe that Congress received an update around 90 days later, covering “collection strategy and technical issues”, but this has not been confirmed and nothing has been made public.

On June 30 there was a short discussion on UFOs in the UK parliament, in the House of Lords. Baroness Goldie, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, told parliament that the MoD had noted the ODNI report, but was not going to reopen investigations into the UFO phenomenon. In December I obtained a shocking admission from the MoD, confirming that nobody in the department had seen the classified version of the ODNI report! It seems bizarre and perverse that the UK hasn’t seen all the data on something that the US assesses to be a possible threat to national security, and it makes the MoD’s refusal to re-engage on the topic look premature at the least.

The most intriguing UFO book of the year was “Skinwalkers at the Pentagon”, co-written by James Lacatski, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp. Lacatski is important because he was named in the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP) contractual solicitation documentation as being the Contracting Officer Representative and the Government Project Leader. The book attempts to clarify the dividing line between AAWSAP and the better-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), but gives rise to some new questions, especially given that the official Department of Defense (DOD) line is that “The total work effort for AATIP consisted of the 38 technical reports produced under the contract vehicle” – essentially claiming that there was no other AATIP output aside from AAWSAP. That said, the DOD line on AATIP – and specifically the question of its UFO-related work – has changed several times previously.

Another big piece of news that emerged this year may help clarify the situation: William Morrow (a HarperCollins imprint) announced that they’d acquired an upcoming memoir from AATIP point man Luis Elizondo. As yet there’s no title or publication date, but 2022 seems likely. On the subject of Luis Elizondo, another big 2021 story was the announcement that he’s working with crusading lawyer Daniel Sheehan on a complaint that went to the DOD’s Inspector General, raising multiple issues about the Pentagon’s handling of the UFO issue, and making specific allegations that officials have unfairly briefed against Elizondo, casting doubts about his involvement with AATIP, thus tarnishing his reputation and potentially jeopardizing his security clearance. 

Investigative journalist George Knapp and filmmaker Jeremy Corbell were also involved in the publication of various additional photographs and videos showing UFOs in apparent close proximity to various US Navy ships. This generated extensive international media coverage, and fed into the wider and still unfolding story about UFO sightings involving the US military, and the ongoing military and intelligence community investigations into all this. On October 19 retired United States Air Force officer Robert Salas organized an event at the National Press Club in Washington DC, titled “UAP and Nuclear Weapons: Witness Testimonies”, highlighting a series of incidents where it’s claimed that UFOs were seen close to nuclear bases and – in some cases – shut down the weapons.

Congress continues to push for more action and more accountability on UFOs. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed very specific provisions on this in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, and Senator Marco Rubio and others subsequently supported her initiative. On November 23 – perhaps to send Congress the message that the DOD was already gripping the issue – the Pentagon announced its own new initiative, the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG), a key aim of which is to see the DOD and the intelligence community working more closely together on the UFO issue. The usual political negotiation process followed in relation to the NDAA, and most – though not all – of the key points in the so-called Gillibrand Amendment survived. As a consequence, what’s in the new defense bill is the most detailed remit Congress has ever handed the military and the intelligence community in relation to UFOs. The message is clear: this is real and it’s in our airspace; it’s a defense and national security issue; we need to find out what we’re dealing with. This common sense assessment of the situation should be welcomed by everyone, irrespective of whether they believe these objects are adversarial technologies from China or Russia, or extraterrestrial spacecraft. The simple truth is that we don’t know, but that it’s time to resolve the issue. President Biden signed the NDAA into law on December 27 – though funding issues remain. Interesting times ahead, for sure!

One of the UFO-related provisions that Congress mandated in the defense bill was the production of a science plan, which leads me to another of the year’s big stories, namely the formation of The Galileo Project by Harvard astronomer Professor Avi Loeb. Professor Loeb’s intriguing theories about the interstellar object Oumuamua made him a household name, and his book “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” is highly recommended. The Galileo Project, as articulated on their website, aims “to identify the nature of UAP and Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments”. I’ve joined The Galileo Project as a Research Affiliate, and Chris Mellon and Lue Elizondo have joined in the same capacity.

Another noteworthy event was the panel discussion “Our Future in Space”, put on by the Ignatius Forum at Washington National Cathedral on November 10. David Ignatius of the Washington Post moderated a discussion which included topics such as future space programs, the scientific search for extraterrestrial life, and UAP/UFOs. The panelists were NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Professor Avi Loeb, entrepreneur Jeff Bezos and theologian David Wilkinson.

As the year drew to a close, the December 25 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope was another development with profound implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. While there are still many steps that need to go right before the telescope is fully operational, its study of exoplanet atmospheres could find biosignatures – the fingerprints of alien life. Additionally, if they exist, it might be able to find so-called alien megastructures – such as the one postulated to exist orbiting Tabby’s Star. Finally, it would be able to spot and study any further Oumuamua-type objects that entered into our solar system.

A final, sad piece of news rounded off the year. On December 28, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid died. Reid had been instrumental in the setting up of AATIP/AAWSAP, and it was the revelations about AATIP and the US Navy UAP videos that played a major part in moving this topic out of the fringe and into the mainstream. It’s arguable, therefore, that most – if not all – of what followed (the UAP Task Force, the ODNI preliminary assessment, the DOD’s AOIMSG, the UAP provisions in the new defense bill, etc.) wouldn’t have happened without Harry Reid’s vision and courage. In these politically fractious times, his gripping of an issue that few politicians dared touch is a timely reminder that the UFO phenomenon isn’t a partisan issue. We can’t know what the future will bring, but in time, Reid’s championing of the UFO issue may come to be seen as an enduring part of his legacy.

On the personal front, all of the stories I’ve mentioned have made it an exceptionally busy year for me. Because of my previous experience researching and investigating this topic for the UK government, the mainstream media often come to me for an insider’s perspective on this topic. I’ve probably done more TV news interviews this year than in any previous year, with the same being the case for documentaries. There are lots of new shows in the pipeline for 2022 as well – too many to mention individually, but watch out for me in some new episodes of Ancient Aliens, and in Season 3 of The Basement Office! It’s difficult to pick out favorites from the broadcasting and the related journalism that I’ve done in 2021, but highlights include being interviewed by BBC’s Today programme, writing an op-ed for The Daily Telegraph, appearing on The Guardian’s daily podcast Today in Focus, filming with Demi Lovato in Sedona, appearing on Kesha’s podcast, featuring in a Tucker Carlson UFO special, and taking part in the 3-hour UFO special “UFOs: Declassified Live”, simulcast on Science Channel, Discovery Channel and Travel Channel. I also enjoyed taking part in two TV specials filmed at our desert home in Tucson: a Politico feature with Bryan Bender, and a spotlight on my government UFO work on Arizona’s KOLD News channel.

My constant presence in the mainstream media this year generated some conspiracy theories suggesting that I’m still secretly working for the government, where my mission – according to some people in the UFO community – is to ramp up the threat narrative in relation to UFOs. According to one bizarre and very specific claim doing the rounds, I’ve been given three luxury properties in Soho for this work! It’s nonsense, of course, but as an ex-government UFO investigator who comments on this topic, I’m always going to be the villain in some people’s eyes – and this certainly isn’t the first time that bogus claims and conspiracy theories about me have been circulating in the blogosphere! While these latest claims that I’m an intelligence officer with a counter-intelligence and/or disinformation role are false, it is true that I’ve used some of my 2021 media interviews to explain how those of us who’ve looked at this issue from inside government define the UFO phenomenon in terms of the equation threat = capability x intent. This means that UAP should be treated as a potential national security threat, in view of the apparently impressive capabilities and the unknown intent. And this, of course, is precisely the way in which the US government and Congress are now looking at the phenomenon.

In summary, 2021 has been a fascinating year for UFO-related developments, and 2022 promises further developments and revelations. Watch this space!

Pentagon Updates Line on AATIP

I obtained the following statement on AATIP from the DOD’s Public Affairs Office:

Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP)

The purpose of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) was to investigate foreign advanced aerospace weapon system applications, with future technology projections over the next 40 years, and to create a center of expertise for advanced aerospace technologies. The goal was to help understand the threat posed by unconventional or leap-ahead aerospace vehicles and technologies that could have national security implications for the United States.

The program commenced in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 with $10 million appropriated in the Defense Supplemental Appropriation Act. DIA awarded a contract to a sole bidder, Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, LLC. The contract was known as the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Applications Program (AAWSAP).

The contract goal was to study 12 technical areas: lift, propulsion, control, armament, signatures reduction, materials, configuration, power generation, temporal translation, human effects, human interface, and technology integration. The contractor identified and worked with academics and scientists to produce technical reports. In developing the reports and exploring how to create a “center of expertise,” the contract allowed for research drawn from a wide variety of sources, including reports of UAPs. However, the examination of UAP observations was not the purpose of AATIP.

The first 26 reports were completed by late 2009. The Defense Appropriations Act for FY2010 included an additional $12 million for the program, and 12 additional reports were produced. A total of 38 technical reports were delivered. The list is below. All of the reports are either classified or marked For Official Use Only. Only a few have been released to the public.

After a review in late 2009, it was determined that the reports were of limited value to DIA. The department terminated AATIP when funding for the program ended in 2012.

Reports produced under AATIP:

  1. Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion
  2. Advanced Nuclear Propulsion for Manned Deep Space Missions
  3. Pulsed High-Power Microwave Technology
  4. Space Access
  5. Advanced Space Propulsion Based on Vacuum (Spacetime Metric) Engineering
  6. BioSensors and BioMEMS
  7. Invisibility Cloaking
  8. Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy
  9. High-Frequency Gravitational Wave Communications
  10. Role of Superconducters in Gravity Research
  11. Antigravity for Aerospace Applications
  12. Field Effects on Biological Tissues
  13. Positron Aerospace Propulsion
  14. Concepts for Extracting Energy from the Quantum Vacuum
  15. An Introduction to the Statistical Drake Equation
  16. Maverick Inventor Versus Corporate Inventor
  17. Biomaterials
  18. Metamaterials for Aerospace Applications
  19. Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions
  20. Technological Approaches to Controlling External Devices in the Absence of Limb-Operated Interfaces
  21. Materials for Advanced Aerospace Platforms
  22. Metallic Glasses
  23. Aerospace Applications of Programmable Matter
  24. Metallic Spintronics
  25. Space-Communication Implications of Quantum Entanglement and Nonlocality
  26. Aneutronic Fusion Propulsion I
  27. Cockpits in the Era of Breakthrough Flight
  28. Cognitive Limits on Simultaneous Control of Multiple Unmanned Spacecraft
  29. Detection and High Resolution Tracking of Vehicles at Hypersonic Velocities
  30. Aneutronic Fusion Propulsion II
  31. Laser Lightcraft Nanosatellites
  32. Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) Air Breathing Propulsion and Power for Aerospace Applications
  33. Quantum Computing and Utilizing Organic Molecules in Automation Technology
  34. Quantum Topography of Negative Energy States in the Vacuum
  35. Ultracapacitors as Energy and Power Storage Devices
  36. Negative Mass Propulsion
  37. State of the Art and Evolution of High Energy Laser Weapons [SECRET//NOFORN version]
  38. State of the Art and Evolution of High Energy Laser Weapons

AATIP vs. UAP Task Force (UAPTF)

The UAPTF is not a continuation of AATIP. Since the majority of reporting about UAP observations in recent years came from naval aviators, the Department of the Navy had been leading assessments of UAP incursions into DOD training ranges and designated airspace since approximately 2018. Beginning in 2019, DOD undertook efforts to formalize the good work done by the Navy for DOD. Former Deputy Secretary Norquist approved the establishment of the UAPTF on Aug. 4, 2020.

Nick Pope comment:

The above statement updates previous Pentagon statements on AATIP, attempting to clarify its role and – in particular – resolve the question of whether it was or wasn’t a UFO program.

If AATIP had genuinely been about next generation aerospace and weapon threats (which is still the line being pushed) one would expect the center of gravity to have been Russia and China. It isn’t. The list of reports produced under AATIP are focused on advanced theoretical physics concepts such as anti-gravity, additional dimensions, warp drive and wormholes. The fact that one report was about the Drake Equation further indicates that the true purpose was nothing to do with terrestrial adversaries such as Russia and China – the purpose of the Drake Equation is to estimate the number of communicable civilizations in the galaxy.

The key sentence in the revised Pentagon statement is this one: “In developing the reports and exploring how to create a “center of expertise,” the contract allowed for research drawn from a wide variety of sources, including reports of UAPs”. Based on my own UK Ministry of Defence handling of the UFO/UAP subject, this suggests to me that the focus of AATIP was indeed UFOs, but that those drawing up and managing the contract disguised the true nature of the program. Thus, they described it in terms of next-generation aerospace and weapon threats, to get it past senior Defense Intelligence Agency mangers and to keep it off the radar of the Appropriations Committees in the US Congress. Simply put, a study into UFOs was unlikely to have been approved, so AATIP’s true purpose had to be hidden.

The Pentagon’s apparent flip-flopping on the issue likely reflects the inability of current staff to untangle what was done years ago, in a situation where – as part of the deception – the paper trail didn’t tell the full story, and where most of those involved are no longer in US government service. The fact that this was a highly-compartmentalized intelligence program likely made it even more difficult for current DOD and DIA staff to find out exactly what happened.

This latest Pentagon statement is welcome, but is unlikely to resolve the debate.

Pentagon Announces UFO Task Force

The Pentagon today formally announced the establishment of an “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force”. Here’s their official news release:


This move has been rumored for some time, and the task force was specifically mentioned in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 as existing within the Office of Naval Intelligence (see the previous blog entry), so there’s a debate to be had about how new this task force really is. There’s also a debate about the relationship between this unit and AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program), which is widely believed to have investigated UFOs, though the DOD has flip-flopped on this issue and is currently working on a statement clarifying the position on this.

There will be predictable controversy about the exact remit of the UAP Task Force, and use of the phrase “incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace” is doubtless designed to ‘spin’ the mission as being about people flying drones over military bases. But there’s no getting away from the fact that UAP is the term that the government, the military and the intelligence agencies use for what the media and the public commonly refer to as UFOs. It was a term we popularized in the Nineties at the UK Ministry of Defence, when I worked on this issue.

One of the task force’s first jobs may be to co-ordinate the response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request that the Director of National Intelligence submits a report on the phenomenon, consulting the Secretary of Defense and others. The Senate Armed Services Committee is also involved, and senators on both these committees have confirmed having received classified briefings on the issue.

I support this move and wish the task force every success with their mission. I know from personal experience how difficult such official research and investigation can be, given the skepticism of many people within the government when it comes to this phenomenon. But it’s important work and the DOD rightly categorize this as a defense and national security issue. Whether these mystery objects that have been penetrating restricted airspace and interacting with US military aircraft are from China, Russia, or somewhere else, we need to quickly ascertain the true origin, nature and intent of what we’re dealing with, and evaluate what threats or opportunities arise from the situation.

UAP Task Force

The Senate Intelligence Committee has called for a report on UFOs from the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and others as appropriate. Details were given in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, on pages 11 and 12, under the heading “Advanced Aerial Threats”:


The Act made reference to a hitherto unknown unit, referred to as the “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence”. This was picked up in a July 23 article in the New York Times, and a July 25 article in Popular Mechanics quoted from a DOD statement about this UAP Task Force:



I have obtained the full, unexpurgated statement from the DOD’s Office of Public Affairs, and am publishing it below:

“As we have said previously, the Department of Defense and all of the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously, and examine each report. This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP) when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing. Thorough examinations of any incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace often involves assessments from across the department, and, as appropriate, consultation with other U.S. government departments and agencies. The safety of our personnel and the security of our operations is of paramount concern. To protect our people and maintain operations security, which includes not providing information that may be useful to our adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examination of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP. Regarding the task force mentioned in the article, I can say that the department is creating a task force to gain knowledge and insight into the nature and origins of UAPs, as well as their operations, capabilities, performance, and/or signatures. The mission of the task force will be to detect, analyze, catalog, consolidate, and exploit non-traditional aerospace vehicles/UAPs posing an operational threat to U.S. national security and avoid strategic surprise.”

I fully support the creation of this new task force, which should go some considerable way towards meeting the concerns expressed by the Senate Intelligence Committee (and the Senate Armed Services Committee). UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) was a term we popularized at the UK Ministry of Defence in the Nineties, as part of a ‘rebranding’ of the UFO phenomenon, attempting to ditch the pop culture baggage that attached to the term “UFO” and reframe the debate as the defense and national security issue that those of us studying the phenomenon knew it to be. Every government rightly wants to secure the territorial integrity of its airspace and ensure that all objects and phenomena in its airspace or in close proximity to its military assets are identified. This bold new initiative may be controversial, but it makes perfect sense in strategic terms, whatever the true nature of the phenomenon.


As a frequent media commentator on conspiracy theories, Nick Pope has received numerous questions about the various Coronavirus-related conspiracy theories currently doing the rounds. While wishing to avoid giving the oxygen of publicity to most of this, Nick has compiled the following list of Coronavirus facts and issues that may actually offer some hope in the days ahead:

1. With testing, concern over false negatives has arisen, but the issue of false positives may also be an important factor.

2. It’s important to check which figures are listed as being “confirmed” as opposed to “confirmed and presumptive”. If someone tests positive for Covid-19, is asymptomatic or only has mild symptoms, but then dies of a heart attack (or anything else), many nations count this as a Coronavirus death. 

3. Different countries count their figures in different ways. This BBC Future article is informative, though even here they don’t really address relative population size, which is another factor in making more populous nations such as the US seem harder hit:


4. Initial estimates of US dead in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic were around 40,000. Once better data were available, the CDC revised the figure down to 12,000.

5. Finding more infections is – counter-intuitively – good news, because it suggests the CFR is much lower than initial estimates.

6. If there are more infections than people suspect, herd immunity may already be kicking in, which is why developing a reliable antibody test is so important.

7. When viruses mutate they can become more or less lethal, but increased virulence puts a downward pressure on the transmission rate, because sick hosts infect less people than healthy ones. Simply put, successful viruses don’t kill their hosts.

8. We’re constantly being told that Covid-19 isn’t the flu, and while that’s true, it’s important to at least be aware of the flu figures. In the US, the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 39 million illnesses, 410,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths from flu:


9. We need to consider ‘secondary deaths’, i.e. those people dying from heart attacks, cancer, strokes, etc. because either they’re too scared to go to the doctor or hospital, or because they can’t get into the system at all.

10. For the future, one way to free up capacity in the medical system is to cut back on elective surgeries.

11. While the science isn’t exact, many viruses break down in higher temperatures and a number of coronaviruses show marked winter seasonality.

12. While finding a vaccine would be a big step forward, it’s not a universal panacea. We have a flu vaccine, but in many previous years its effectiveness has been very low:


13. Pushing the “everyone’s at risk” line ensures people are sufficiently fearful that they’ll abide by lockdowns, but while “everyone’s at risk” is technically a true statement, the degree of risk varies immensely, with a staggering proportion of the deaths involving people who are elderly and/or have pre-existing health conditions (often multiple ones) that have severely compromised their immune systems. Rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ strategy, resources should be concentrated on those who are genuinely at high risk, with longer voluntary self-isolation.

14. For the future, when the hysteria subsides and when people have more time to look at the actual data, and when they realize this virus has overwhelmingly killed people with pre-existing health conditions, people may change their behaviors. While many pre-existing health issues are just bad luck (in a genetic sense), others arise from lifestyle choices. Smoking, illegal drug-taking and obesity massively stack the odds against people who catch Covid-19. If people address such issues to stack the odds back in their favor, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved over the years to come.

15. Covid-19 has led to better cleaning of public areas and more public placement of hand sanitizer, frequent and thorough hand-washing, less touching of one’s face, and people learning to stay at home when they’re sick. If this becomes the norm, hundreds of thousands of flu deaths will be prevented over the next few years.