Image copyright NASA Image caption The US Department of Defense has bought 24 new long-range airplanes for the effort
The Pentagon is to launch a new task force that will investigate UFO sightings in the United States.
The agency previously investigated sightings for the US Navy and National Security Agency, but now a newly created unit will investigate all reports.
It will also include UK airspace and French airspace and cover US military and commercial aviation.
The investigations will last two years and will be patterned on those of the US Army.
“Our role is to look at a real phenomenon that has fascinated people, and we want to give them some sense of what it’s about,” said Maj. Michael Fitton, head of the new US Air Force Directorate of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Investigations (UAAPI).
“An example might be a Navy aircraft chasing a pilot,” added Maj Fitton, who was one of a group of civilian Air Force investigators formed by the Pentagon and briefed about the new task force.
It has been a long tradition for the Pentagon to analyse UFO sightings in the US and overseas.
In the 1990s, they dispatched investigators to investigate sightings, including from British airspace.
The last time the United States launched an official task force, the group reported that UFOs had recently destroyed and destroyed the much-feared Area 51 military base at the Nevada Desert.
In January, a new US Air Force unit confirmed an air base at California’s Titan Missile Complex had, according to a senior US military official, “very recently been visited by a UFO”.
Image copyright Air Force Image caption The USAF unit reported claims of UFOs to the USAF’s New York 24th Space Wing
The command also confirmed to US media reports that its commanders had looked into the claims as part of a new intelligence examination of US skies.
The commands involvement in the new Pentagon task force was a lightning rod for criticism among some advocates for UFO buffs, who were surprised that it had taken so long for officials to launch a task force of this type.
US Air Force officers were accused of whitewashing reports of sightings in America’s skies, according to critics in a flurry of online comments.
“What the hell is going on at your Pentagon these days?” wrote one person on the Global Security blog.
Image copyright USAF Image caption A US Air Force Predator drone on deployment
Critics have also claimed that extra-terrestrials are not attempting to illegally explore American skies.
Critics of the new Pentagon task force have made other claims.
They pointed out that the US Air Force had previously reported sightings to the US Air Force’s Nevada Air Defence Command.
Furthermore, in the past, when scrutinising claims of American sightings of UFOs, investigators have disregarded reports of encounters with UFOs on the frontiers of the Soviet Union.
US forces based in Alaska reported of incidents during the Cold War, when they challenged travellers at the back of a convoy who claimed to have spotted a UFO in the sky while driving north.