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But what, then, were those programs? Herein lies the most intriguing—and potentially ground-breaking—question that the Pentagon study leaves us wondering: What exactly are the secret compartmentalized programs that the whistleblowers and government witnesses misidentified as being related to UAP technology? What, exactly, are the Pentagon, intelligence community, or defense contractors working on that, from a concentric circle or two away inside the shadowy world of SAPs, looks and sounds like reverse-engineering out-of-this-world technology or even studying so-called “non-human biologics”?

There are at least four clear possibilities.

Secret Tech From Foreign Nations

First, what exotic technological possibilities have been recovered from unknown terrestrial sources? For example, if the government is working on reverse-engineering technologies, those technologies are likely from advanced adversary nation-states like China, Russia, and Iran, and perhaps even quasi-allies like Israel that may be more limited in their technology-sharing with the US. What have other countries mastered that we haven’t?

A Question of ‘Peculiar Characteristics’

Second, what technologies has the US mastered that the public doesn’t know about? One of the common threads of UFO sightings across decades have been secret military aircraft and spacecraft in development or not yet publicly acknowledged. For example, the CIA estimated that the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s accounted for as much as half of reported UFO sightings. And the AARO report spends a half-dozen pages documenting how confusion over subsequent generations of secret US government aircraft appear to have also contributed to the great intergalactic game of telephone of UFO programs inside the government, including modern Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk drones. AARO investigated one claim where a witness reported hearing a former US military service member had touched an extraterrestrial spacecraft, but when they tracked down the service member, he said that the conversation was likely a garbled version of the time he touched an F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter at a secret facility.

There are surely other secret craft still in testing and development now, including the B-21 stealth bomber, which had its first test flight in November and is now in testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, as well as others we don’t know about. The government can still surprise us with unknown craft—like the until-then-unknown modified stealthy helicopter left behind on the Pakistan raid to kill Osama bin Laden. And some of these still-classified efforts are likely causing UFO confusion too: AARO untangled one witness’s claim of spotting a UAP with “peculiar characteristics” at a specific time and place and were able to determine, “at the time the interviewee said he observed the event, the DOD was conducting tests of a platform protected by a SAP. The seemingly strange characteristics reported by the interviewee match closely with the platform’s characteristics, which was being tested at a military facility in the time frame the interviewee was there.” So what was that craft—and what were its “peculiar characteristics?”

Relatedly, the US military has a classified spaceship, the X-37B, that has regularly orbited around the Earth since its first mission in 2010—it just blasted off on its seventh and most recent mission in December—and its previous, sixth, mission lasted a record-breaking 908 days in orbit. The Pentagon has said remarkably little about what it does up there for years at a time. What secret space-related or aviation-related programs is the government running that outsiders confuse as alien spacecraft?

A Material Matter

The third likely area of tech development that might appear to outsiders to be UFO-related is more speculative basic research and development: What propulsion systems or material-science breakthroughs are defense contractors at work on right now that could transform our collective future? Again, AARO found such confusion taking place: After one witness reported hearing that “aliens” had observed one secret government test, AARO traced the allegation back to find “the conversation likely referenced a test and evaluation unit that had a nickname with ‘alien’ connotations at the specific installation mentioned. The nature of the test described by the interviewee closely matched the description of a specific materials test conveyed to AARO investigators.” So what materials were being tested there?

There are some puzzling materials-science breadcrumbs wrapped throughout the AARO report. It found one instance where “a private sector organization claimed to have in its possession material from an extraterrestrial craft recovered from a crash at an unknown location from the 1940s or 1950s. The organization claimed that the material had the potential to act as a THz frequency waveguide, and therefore, could exhibit ‘anti-gravity’ and ‘mass reduction’ properties under the appropriate conditions.” Ultimately, though, the new report concluded, “AARO and a leading science laboratory concluded that the material is a metallic alloy, terrestrial in nature, and possibly of USAF [US Air Force] origin, based on its materials characterization.”

A Knowledge Limit

Fourth and lastly is the category of the truly weird: Scientists at the forefront of physics point out that we should be humble about how little of the universe we truly understand; as Harvard astronomy chair Avi Loeb explains, effectively all that we’ve learned about relativity and quantum physics has unfolded in the span of a single human lifespan, and astounding new discoveries continue to amaze scientists. Just last summer, scientists announced they’d detected for the first time gravitational waves criss-crossing the universe that rippled through space-time, and astrophysicists continue to suspect that the universe is far weirder than we think. (Italian astrophysicist Carlo Rovelli last year posited the existence of “white holes” that would be related to black holes, which, he pointed out, were still a mystery just 25 years ago when he was starting his career.)

Answers here could be almost unfathomably weird—think parallel dimensions or the ability to travel at a fraction of the speed of light. And one of the most intriguing questions left by the UAP “game of telephone” is whether there are truly astounding advances in physics that government scientists, defense contractors, or research laboratories or centers could be feeling around that could also appear from the outside to be UFO-related.

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