Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What might it be?

May 18, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Over the last year or so, several videos have been made public which capture what the US military calls “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” or UAPs. The acronym UAP has replaced the older, more common description of such sightings as an “Unidentified Flying Object” or UFO.  On his show on FOX News, Tucker Carlson has discussed the topic of the recent sightings by the military on a number of occasions, for example, here, here and here, and here. Also, CBS 60 Minutes recently aired a report.

In the recent Defense appropriations bill passed by Congress in December 2020, Senator Marco Rubio inserted language requiring the US military to provide an unclassified report on the subject in June 2021.  Given the growing media interest in the topic, and the growing interest and expectations regarding the impending June report on UAPs, I thought I might comment on what this phenomena might be.

The options briefly analyzed below assume, arguendo, the accuracy of the reports that have come to light over the last year or two involving the UAP phenomena. That is to say, UAPs are said to exhibit sudden acceleration, to move at great speed both in space, the air, and under water(!); UAPs do not have control surfaces like ‘normal’ aircraft; they do not leave heat signatures, and do exhibit anti-gravity lift without any visible means of propulsion. Below, I have provided some broad hypotheses under which UAPs might be considered. At the end of this article, I’ll provide my thoughts on what UAPs might be.

The options:

  1. Advanced human technology.  This option falls into four categories.
    • 1.1 –  Adversary Hypothesis: Advanced technology developed by a leading adversary, such as China and Russia. While it is certainly possible that American technology has been leapfrogged, I find it difficult to believe the development of such a technology from the drawing board, to testing, to production of such a craft or vehicle could have been conducted without any of the various capabilities at the disposal of US intelligence having uncovered any clue this was going on. To have missed this development or even some sign of it would be an egregious intelligence failure. Yet, such a horrendous failure would not be without precedence when one thinks of Pearl Harbor and 911. Yet, even with these failures there were bits and pieces of information, and hints of something major coming. I certainly hope our intelligence agencies are looking back over old intelligence reporting and data for indications they may have missed something here.
    • 1.2 – Secret US Technology Hypothesis.  This hypothesis would suggest that what navy pilots and personnel witnessed was secret U.S. aircraft using advanced technology. Perhaps this craft was being tested against friendly military forces to see whether and or how the craft would be detected, reported, etc. While I suppose that is possible, I personally doubt it. If this had been the case, I believe the military would have briefed Senator Rubio to the existence of this highly classified technology, and as a consequence, he would not have subsequently pushed for the military to provide an unclassified report on UAPs in June 2021. Furthermore, the military would have leaned more heavily on naval pilots not to come forward and do public interviews to prevent revelations about the craft’s capabilities.  
    • 1.3 – The Captain Nemo Hypothesis: Perhaps a variant of the human-origin, Adversarial Hypothesis option is that a non-governmental entity, e.g., a wealthy inventor like one out of an old James Bond movie, developed the technology away from the prying eyes of the world’s intelligence agencies. Such an inventor might be likened to the mysterious character of Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s sci-fi classic novel, “Twenty Thousands Leagues Under the Sea.” In that great novel, Verne’s Captain Nemo developed the first submarine powered by electricity, far advanced for its time when the navies of the world had ships powered by sail and or steam, and were only beginning to experiment with primitive submarines. While this might make for a great movie(!) or sci-fi novel; it would be difficult to impossible to privately produce such craft in secrecy, especially without the apparatus of the modern state to enforce confidentiality on workers, the movement of materials, etc.
    • 1.4 – Ante-Deluvian hypothesis: If we are to consider all human-origin possibilities, I suppose as a matter of extreme speculation, it is possible the technology might have been ‘discovered’, i.e., artifacts of a prior, advanced, human civilization.  For example, what if human civilization before the Deluge was a very advanced one — and that remnants of that technology might have survived the great global catastrophe somewhere, somehow, to then be rediscovered or unearthed (in Antarctica?) by someone in modern times. I throw this out as a possibility to cover all bases — but it too is improbable.  Most obviously, if an ante-Deluvian civilization had such technology, surely many would have used it to escape the catastrophe, and then afterwards, set about rapidly rebuilding the world with their high technology. However, there is no indication in the historical record that any of that happened. Further, depending on when one wants to date the time of Adam and Eve, and the time of Noah; there may not have been time for a civilization to have developed anything even near the level of technology available to the ancient Romans, let alone to our modern age.
  2. The Alien Hypothesis.  This option is self-explanatory. There are a number of difficulties with the Alien Hypothesis. First, the possibility of life existing on another planet appears remote, given all the factors known to be necessary to support life (see, for example, here). However, given the magnitude of interstellar distances, the likelihood that another alien civilization, even if one or more of them exist, could traverse such distances and find our planet seem miniscule.  Even if we assume such a civilization could send craft this far, why then would they come such a great distance only to observe our civilization from the ‘peripheries,’ seemingly for decades — and without any apparent logical purpose for doing so. Further, the latest reports suggest there are, apparently, regular, even daily sightings of UAPs around US military bases, naval fleets, and military aircraft. Surely if this alien technology is so advanced to enable travel across the galaxy or from beyond it, our military capabilities must be grossly insignificant in comparison — and thus would not warrant the level of attention they seemingly have received. Hearing of these many reports around US military assets, one of my questions as a former intelligence officer would be:  do our intelligence agencies have any indication that the Chinese, Russian, and other advanced militaries are reporting similar UAP sightings of their own as well? I think that an important question. Consider, if aliens were traveling this far, and if these aliens are interested in studying earthly military technologies, then it would seem to follow that American, Chinese, Russian and other militaries should all have similar sighting reportsIf this is not the case, then it seems to me we are not dealing with aliens or alien technology. 
  3. A Natural Phenomena HypothesisThis hypothesis would suggest that the observed phenomena might be electromagnetic in nature. Luis Elizondo, the former head of the US Defense Department program investigating UAPS (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP) has indicated with regard to UAPs that there is “low observability, or cloaking” (see History.com article).  Per Elizondo, “Even when objects are observed, getting a clear and detailed view of them—either through pilot sightings, radar or other means—remains difficult. Witnesses generally only see the glow or haze around them” (see here).  Consequently, I wonder if this “glow” or “haze” might point to some sort of electrical or electromagnetic phenomena, which as others have observed can even appear to act under intelligent control, e.g., seeming to fly in formations (see UFO or Plasmoid?).  I think this an interesting hypothesis, and do wonder if perhaps the physics behind advanced capabilities on some of our warships or bases are in fact triggering under certain environmental conditions a natural phenomena which are observed as UAPs. Alternatively, might Chinese or Russian capabilities with electromagnetism be inducing the phenomena around our military assets, i.e., in this case we would not be speaking of a craft as we were in the “Adversary Hypothesis 1.1” above.
  4. The Preternatural Hypothesis:  In this hypothesis, according to some, a credible UFO or UAP report would fall into the category of being preternatural; or more specifically, as being demonic in origin (see, for example, here). Certainly, from a Christian perspective, scripture does warn of “lying signs and wonders”:

For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, Whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)

Final Thoughts

I am certainly curious to see what analysis and or evidence, if any, is brought forward in the June report on UAPs.  Clearly, something is being observed, but what?

Personally, I doubt the Alien Hypothesis, as I do doubt intelligent life exists on worlds other than our own. Still, keeping an open mind, I do think this hypothesis can be reality “checked” to a degree.  As I indicated earlier, if aliens have come all this way to check our military technology, surely they must be doing the same to the Chinese, Russians, and other advanced militaries (e.g., UK, France, India). Consequently, the Senate and House should direct the US intelligence agencies to comment on whether there is intelligence reporting indicating the Chinese, Russian, and other world class militaries are in fact experiencing and reporting similar phenomena. The answer would be an interesting data point.  I think near universal reporting of similar phenomena would be a necessary but still not a sufficient condition to suspect the phenomena is alien.  At the same time, if there is independent and corroborated intelligence reporting that the Russian and Chinese are reporting the same phenomena, perhaps with a similar mystified reaction to our own, then it would seem — barring a strategic deception worthy of Sun Tzu — that the Adversary Hypothesis is less likely. 

Personally, I doubt the Adversary Hypothesis. I think it would be hard to develop, test, and produce craft that perform as described without our intelligence agencies knowing something of it before now. Still, given our nation’s recollection and experience of Pearl Harbor and 911, US intelligence agencies need to do a deep review of old reporting for clues that might have been missed over the last few decades. The danger of being wrong here is too great to either do nothing or to even wait.

As for some of the other hypotheses, I see no reason, certainly not at this time, to appeal to the Preternatural Hypothesis.  Personally, I see no reason to suspect it, at least not at this point. Regardless, even if we consider it within the realm of possibility, the other explanations, particularly the Adversary Hypothesis, must first be excluded for purposes related to national security.

So…what is my opinion? As I said, I doubt the Alien Hypothesis. I find it curious the US military stopped referring to such reported sightings as “Unidentified Flying Objects” (UFOs) — a term, I believe, they first used in preference to “Flying Saucers” back in the 1950s. Now, instead, they call them “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” as if hedging their bets by calling them “phenomena,” perhaps suggesting they are hesitant or unsure these are objects. In other words, does the US military doubt these are physical objects at all?

My view at the moment is that the phenomena is some sort of natural phenomena, such as a plasmoid (see above) — and this might account for some of the reported difficulties in observing them due to a “glow” or a “haze” around them. Perhaps the strange phenomena might be inadvertently triggered under certain environmental conditions by capabilities inherent in technology deployed by US forces, and thus this might explain why the phenomena more likely appears in the vicinity of US forces; and or perhaps the UAP phenomena may be the result of Chinese or Russia electromagnetic technology projected into an area surrounding US forces. 

So, bottom line, for the moment at least — based on the available, limited reporting — I don’t believe the phenomena is a “craft” or vehicle of any kind. I believe it more likely to be a natural phenomena, but greater study of it is necessary to rule out the Adversary Hypothesis; whether as a craft or an electromagnetic phenomena. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the June UAP report, which I hope will be made public — and that it sheds more light on the subject. 

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com  or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

7 thoughts on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What might it be?

    1. Thanks, Tito, for the comment!

      As I indicated in the article, I certainly wouldn’t exclude the preternatural hypothesis. I do think that the phenomena needs to be evaluated on the basis of evidence in case there is a national security threat here, such as in the event an adversary has leapfrogged our technology, or there’s a crazed “Captain Nemo” out there.

      But…I still think there might be an underlying natural phenomena here, perhaps electromagnetic in nature. In which case, we still need to study and understand the phenomena. I’d be curious if the AATIP folks ever looked at correlations between sightings and various natural events, e.g., sun spot activity, planetary alignments, and or earthquake/volcanic activity on earth. For one, magnetic north has shifted a lot over the last 50-70 years or so — a period over which we’ve had lots of UFO reports; so I wonder if this is correlated to possible electromagnetic anomalies in our skies and or oceans.

      Just some thoughts!

      Thanks again, Tito.



  1. There is probably a reason the Almighty set the speed of light so high as to set a barrier to interstellar travel. I don’t know what it is and don’t think it much matters as far as life on earth is concerned. Assuming life exists outside the solar system, a mathematical probability, contact would be technically impossible and essentially irrelevant, with apologies to Gene Roddenberry.


    1. Donald, thanks for the comment.

      I would disagree with you on the mathematical probability of life outside of the solar system.

      The argument for ET life from mathematical probability is based on the premise the occurrence of life is a random event, contingent on certain conditions being present….and then there being an evolutionary process following that.

      However, if life is NOT a random event, and or if there is no evolution in the accepted sense of the term — then the existence of life elsewhere is not a matter of probability and random events. Therefore, for various reasons, scientific, theological, and commonsense — I reject that life arises on its own, and reject the notion of evolution. The appearance of life is contingent on an act of God’s will; and not even a question of His permissive will. Viewed in this light, whether there are 10 exo planets or 10^bizillion exo planets in the universe; they do no move the needle either way in the equation.

      Whether light is a the universal speed limit…I have my doubts. Gravity, for example, must propagate faster than the speed of light, as Dr. Van Flandern argued. However…this is getting of topic!

      Thank you for reading the article, and for your comment.




  2. I agree with your conclusion. In regards to the possibility of extraterrestrials, I highly recommend the book “Christianity and Extraterrestrials? A Catholic Perspective” by Marie I. George. Her conclusion is that they probably don’t exist and I agree with her.


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