The Department of Defense released three videos taken by U.S. Navy pilots revealing mysterious flying objects that to this day remain unidentified.
The declassification of the videos late Monday, one of which was taken in 2004 and the subsequent two taken in 2015, was meant to "clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos," the Pentagon said in a statement Monday.
The footage, which shows unidentified objects flying at high speeds in the Earth's atmosphere along with audio of Navy pilots expressing shock and awe, was initially leaked in 2007 and 2017. The videos were taken during training flights and the 2017 leaks were published by the New York Times.
"The U.S. Navy previously acknowledged that these videos circulating in the public domain were indeed Navy videos," the Pentagon's statement read. "After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena."
"The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as 'unidentified'," it said.
The Pentagon's release of the videos removes speculation as to whether they were real and is sure to spur deeper questioning concerning the existence of extraterrestrial life and human interaction with it.
"There's a whole fleet of them … My gosh, they're all going against the wind, the wind is 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing dude!" a pilot exclaims in one of the videos.
The U.S. Navy actually began formalizing a reporting process last year for pilots to report incidents of UFO sightings, saying in an April 2019 statement that there have been "a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years."
"These kinds of incursions can be both a security risk and pose a safety hazard for both Navy and Air Force aviation. For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report," the 2019 statement said.
The Pentagon has been off and on over the past decades with funding to investigate unexplained aerial phenomena, and one such known project was shuttered in 2012, according to media reports. The Defense Intelligence Agency released a list of 38 research titles funded by the program in early 2019 under the Freedom of Information Act.
Luis Elizondo, a former Pentagon official who helped lead that initiative, known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, resigned in protest after its closure and in opposition to what he described as the excessive secrecy of the program. He told CNN in a 2017 interview that "my personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone."