Pentagon formally opens new UFO investigation unit

The US military has taken another step towards transparency regarding what it knows about UFOs, announcing the formal start of a new department to investigate aerial phenomena. 

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), whose existence was reported in July, was officially approved on August 4 and formally announced by the Pentagon on Friday (local time). 

It comes after the US Department of Defense officially released videos showing navy pilots' encounters with UFOs shot in 2004 and 2015, months after they were leaked online by a UFO investigation organisation run by former Blink-182 singer Tom DeLonge.

"The Department of Defense established the UAPTF to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs," Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said in a statement.

"The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to US national security."

The US' primary concern isn't aliens, but rather that its rivals have somehow developed technology far beyond what it's capable of.

The Pentagon in 2017 acknowledged the existence of a previous UFO investigations unit, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, claiming it had been shut down in 2012. The New York Times later revealed that wasn't entirely true, with informal probes continuing past that date. 

In June, the US Senate Intelligence Committee voted to make some of its UFO findings public.

"We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises, and we don't know what it is and it isn't ours, so that's a legitimate question to ask," said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the committee.

"Frankly, if it's something from outside this planet, that might actually be better than the fact that we've seen some sort of technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary."

An astrophysicist who used to work for the Pentagon's secret UFO division claimed in July it was the US military itself that had "off-world vehicles not made on this Earth".