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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Mellon

What’s Up with America’s Multi-billion Dollar Air Defense Systems?

In 2017, Lue Elizondo and I made senior policymakers in the Administration and Congress aware that unidentified aircraft were routinely violating sensitive, restricted airspace off the East Coast of the U.S. This was soon confirmed on Capitol Hill by the testimony of U.S. Navy aviators. Although not as prolific elsewhere, it turned out that similar incidents were occurring near U.S. warships off the West Coast and over DoD test ranges in other parts of the country.


Then, earlier this year, we learned that China sent an instrumented intelligence collection platform across the U.S. using a high-altitude balloon. It now appears this activity may also have been going on for years. In the immediate aftermath of the balloon shootdown, several other objects were also engaged and shot down by U.S. fighter aircraft. One of these, a cylindrical object floating over the Arctic, reportedly interfered with the sensor systems onboard the U.S. fighter aircraft that shot it down. This pattern of interference with sensors aboard advanced U.S. fighter aircraft has occurred in a number of cases, including a case that came to light during a recent Congressional hearing on the UAP issue.


Meanwhile, beginning in 2018, as a direct result of Congressional action, DoD began instructing personnel to report rather than conceal UAP sightings. The result has been an explosion of UAP reports. The government acknowledged 144 official UAP reports from 2004-2021. Now, less than two years later, the number is over 800 official reports. Many cases have been explained, but hundreds of cases remain unexplained. That is all strange enough, but the vast majority of these 800 reports seem to be coming from pilots and aviators rather than America's massive, multi-billion dollar automated air and space surveillance systems.This seems distinctly odd, as though NORAD and America’s SSPAR radars are either failing to detect UAP or failing to report those incidents to the new All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) and to Congress.


Indeed, I managed to confirm a prominent example of a UAP incident that led NORAD to scramble F-15 fighter aircraft that was not reported to AARO or Congress. This case involved a high-flying fast vehicle that overflew a large area of the Western U.S in 2018. The craft was detected by FAA radars and its location was independently confirmed by commercial airline pilots. F-15s failed to get close to the object which, as far as we know, remains unidentified. Yet, when I contacted AARO, the organization confirmed that this extraordinary case, which only came to light by chance, had not been reported to it by the Air Force. How many more cases like this have not been reported? In light of that case and the Chinese balloon mishap, and the hundreds of ongoing unexplained UAP reports, I suggest Congress balance its focus on UAP with a hard look at the performance and effectiveness of the air and space surveillance systems that we rely on to protect the nation from surprise attacks like Pearl Harbor or September 11th.


The massive air and space surveillance systems funded by the taxpayer at huge expense include the most powerful radar emitters on the planet. They closely monitor vast regions of air and space 24 hours per day 365 days per year. It is technically inconceivable that these systems do not detect anomalies from time to time. They should certainly be seeing UAP independently of fighter aircraft, yet aside from the Chinese balloon and the 3 other objects shot down in the following days, I don’t know of any reports of that kind going to AARO or Congress. How come these massive and redundant systems do not seem to be independently reporting UAP? Why were they unable to supply radar data to help explain the famous Nimitz incident in 2004 when the intense UAP activity tracked by the USS Princeton for several days off the coast of Southern California was occurring almost directly in front of the giant phased array radar at Beale AFB? The most likely answer is that these systems indeed are detecting UAP on a regular basis, but NORAD is not releasing that information to Congress or the All Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) that Congress created to oversee UAP collection and analysis. This could simply be another case of excessive government classification, but that should not prevent members of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees from getting answers and working to ensure this information is reaching AARO.


If America’s air defense system is indeed failing to detect and report these unidentified craft, notwithstanding generous Congressional support of USAF requests for tens of billions of dollars in recent decades, don’t we need to fix that? I strongly suggest Congress look closely at the sources of the over 800 military UAP reports to date to determine which sensors are proving most and least effective in monitoring U.S. airspace and detecting UAP. That is vitally important and can be easily done by simply asking the Air Force to supply the data. While they’re looking into this, I also suggest Congress ask for a list of all the instances in which fighter aircraft on strip alert have been launched to intercept UAP over the last 10 years. This is important for determining how frequently these UAP are actually being detected, where incidents are occurring, and the outcomes of these attempted intercepts. This is another easy-but-important-ask for evaluating the performance of America’s air defense systems and the frequency and nature of UAP intrusions.


The tragedies of Pearl Harbor and September 11th both involved failures of our air defense systems. The extraterrestrial hypothesis is a valid and serious issue, but that controversial topic should not distract Congress from its important duty to assess the effectiveness of America’s air and space surveillance systems. From a national security standpoint, the country needs to know how effectively this massive and complex system is functioning. That won’t happen until Congress presses for answers regarding the performance of systems whose effectiveness have recently been brought into doubt by the Chinese balloon incident and the soaring number of UAP reports from U.S. military personnel. Answers to these questions could also provide substantial new insights into the nature and extent of UAP activity over the U.S.

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