WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Are UFOs visiting Earth? That was the question in Congress on Tuesday as a public hearing was held on that very question for the first time in 50 years.
The Pentagon has opened up a new office tasked with investigating mysterious flying objects reported being seen over restricted military airspace over the last several decades.
Video examples of what the Pentagon is looking at were played for members of a House Intelligence Subcommittee on Tuesday. Often, they are dots, flashes or other objects that pilots say they can't explain.
A 2021 Department of Defense report cited 144 incidents of what the government now calls "Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon" or "UAPs."
"UAPs are unexplained," says House Intelligence Subcommittee Chair Rep. Andre Carson. "It is true. But they are real. They need to be investigated and any threat they pose needs to be mitigated."
"Since the early 2000s, we've seen an increasing number of unauthorized and unidentified aircraft or objects in military-controlled training areas, training ranges," says Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray.
Since the Pentagon issued its 2021 study, military reports have jumped from 144 to 400 incidents. The stigma often associated with reporting UFOs made some pilots fearful it would jeopardize their careers.
Following the public hearing, there was a closed-door session the public was not allowed to see.
While the Pentagon presented no evidence that the UFO sightings represent extraterrestrial life, they're also looking at a more down-to-earth explanation: a technological advancement by a foreign power such as Russia or China.