UFO-Forschung - PM: Inside the Pentagons Secret UFO Program -1/2



The government can’t keep its story straight about its involvement with UFO research. After a yearlong investigation, we bust open the files, break through the noise, and reveal the definitive, staggering truth.

As I sit in a small cafe in the shadow of the ancient Roman gates in Trier, Germany, talking to a person whose credibility seems beyond reproach, but who will only agree to talk to me if provide absolute assurances of anonymity, I can’t help but feel like I’m trapped in a Dan Brown novel. The Da Vinci Code, however, never dealt with unidentified flying objects.

“Was it about UFOs? Of course,” this person whispers with a grin of melodrama.

After almost a year of investigating the U.S. government’s interest in UFOs, what they’ve just said should neither be shocking, nor revelatory. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve only further confirmed what over a dozen other people with backgrounds inside the government and the now-defunct Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) have already admitted to me.

Just like the fictional Robert Langdon, the path to understanding these mysterious government programs has taken me through the catacombs of informal secret societies, whose surprising memberships include accomplished professionals from the military, aerospace, academic, medical, and intelligence communities.

Though diverse or abstinent in how they define exactly what it all means, each of these enigmatic characters shares one common belief: unidentified flying objects are neither myth nor figment of overactive imaginations. With absolute conviction, they’ve all told me that UFOs are real.

Now, after two years of scant details and a myriad of contradictory statements, Popular Mechanics is ripping open the U.S. government’s massive UFO problem. What follows is a deep, unprecedented well of information that’s only been known by a very small select group of insiders—until now.



On December 16, 2017, the New York Times disclosed that the Pentagon had secretly funded research into UFOs through the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP. As if the U.S. government quietly investigating UFOs wasn’t enough, for the first time, the public also got a chance to see three videos captured by the U.S. Navy showing what has been claimed to be “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” or UAP.

In an instant, UFOs were no longer relegated to society’s nihilistically curious, and for the first time in decades, droves of the mainstream public suddenly found themselves peering skyward with wonder.

But almost as quickly as the excitement of mysterious black budget UFO programs crashed ashore, so, too, came vexing waves of criticism, confusion, and controversy.

From the onset, disarray and debate raged on whether the second “A” in AATIP officially stood for Aerospace or Aviation, with the former “Aerospace” eventually proving to be correct. Adding to the chaos, an entirely different program moniker emerged: the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Applications Program, or AAWSAP. For over two years, no one has been able to adequately explain whether AAWSAP and AATIP were two separate programs, or the same intuitive under two separate names.

To muddle matters more, a revolving door of Pentagon spokespeople have successfully issued waves of contradictory statements about what the Department of Defense (DoD) did or didn’t do when it came to studying UFOs.

Initially, the Pentagon said, AATIP had indeed investigated UFOs under the leadership of Luis Elizondo, a former senior member of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSDI). Eventually, in a complete reversal of official stances, the Pentagon’s newly crowned UFO point person, Senior Strategic Planner and Spokesperson Susan Gough, recently told The Black Vault, “neither AAWSAP nor AATIP were UAP related,” “Elizondo was not the director of AATIP,” and he didn’t have “assigned responsibilities” within the program.

In some consolation to the UFO faithful, the DoD has consistently been willing to say they consider the curious objects shown in the 2017 videos to be unexplained UAP. What exactly that means, however, has been open for interpretation and debate.

After months of conducting interviews and uncovering previously undisclosed materials, Popular Mechanics is revealing here that the U.S. government does indeed have a definite interest in UFOs.

Provided, of course, that nobody says it out loud.


The Bigelow Aerospace headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada.


The path to truly understanding the Pentagon’s current UFO problems doesn’t begin in 2008 with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the AAWSAP, but rather, a decade earlier and some 2,000 miles from the nation’s capital at the doorstep of a billionaire Nevada entrepreneur.

Robert T. Bigelow, the owner of Budget Suites of America and founder of the space technology company Bigelow Aerospace, has never shied away from amplifying his interest in UFOs. In a 2017 interview, Bigelow told CBS’s 60 Minutes he was “absolutely convinced” aliens exist, before passionately declaring, “I don’t give a damn!” when asked if it was risky to publicly say he believes in UFOs and aliens.

In 1995, four years before founding his aerospace startup, Bigelow established the National Institute for Discovery Sciences (NIDS). From the company’s cached website, NIDS described itself as “a privately funded science institute engaged in research of aerial phenomena, animal mutilations, and other related anomalous phenomena.”


The cached website of the now-defunct National Institute for Discovery Sciences.

Before ultimately disbanding in 2004, NIDS conducted research into a host of various paranormal topics, such as cryptid encounters, cattle mutilations, and especially UFOs. The group’s most recognized research was the investigation of a purported paranormal Utah homestead owned by Bigelow called Skinwalker Ranch, which would later play a significant role in the DIA’s UFO interest.


Robert Bigelow.

In a 2018 interview with New York magazine, former Nevada Senator Harry Reid told an interesting tale about a curious letter Bigelow received from a senior official from a federal national-security agency. “I’m interested in talking to you, Mr. Bigelow. I have an interest in what you’ve been working on. I want to go to your ranch in Utah,” Reid recounted.

After vetting the letter’s author, the individual Reid described as a “very low-key scientist” was granted a pass to visit Bigelow’s ranch. In a lecture at “UFO MegaCon” in 2019, KLAS Las Vegas reporter George Knapp told the crowd these events occurred in 2007, and claims the person, described by Knapp as a “DIA scientist,” had an “experience” while visiting the supposed paranormal site.

In an interview with researcher Joe Murgia, former AAWSAP contractor and astrophysicist Eric Davis shared what colleagues had told him of the DIA scientist’s experience:

“In the living room of the former NIDS double wide observation trailer/staff quarters. A 3D object appeared in mid-air in front of him and changed shape like a changing topological figure. It went from pretzel-shaped to Möbius strip shaped. It was 3D and multi-colored. Then it disappeared.”

According to Reid, whatever happened at Skinwalker was enough to convince the DIA to seriously investigate paranormal and UFO phenomena. “‘Something should be done about this. Somebody should study it.’ I was convinced he was right,” Reid told New York.

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Hal Puthoff, a former subcontractor for the AATIP, confirms the scientist’s visit, but was unsure how significant a role it played in the origins of AAWSAP.

“Reid is correct that early on there was a DIA scientist who expressed interest in hearing of the Skinwalker Ranch and did visit,” Puthoff says. “The degree to which this influenced initiation of the AAWSAP Program, however, or was just a side issue, I don’t know.”

While we don’t know how pivotal the Skinwalker visit was in the formation of the DIA’s UFO studies, we do know AAWSAP and AATIP were already taking shape almost a year before funding was established and the solicitation was issued.

Navy fighter pilot Cdr. David Fravor has arguably become the face of the famous UFO encounters by the Nimitz Strike Carrier Group, it was actuallyMarine Lt. Col. Douglas “Cheeks” Kurth who was first directed to investigate the strange airborne contacts that radar operators captured in November 2004.

On his LinkedIn profile, Kurth indicates he worked as a program manager for Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, LLC (BAASS) until June 2013. Interestingly, Kurth began working for BAASS in December 2007—a month before Bigelow officially established his LLC in January 2008. That might be because Nevada state records show BAASS was technically a subsidiary of another business owned by Bigelow: International Space Hardware Services (ISHS). According to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, ISHS was incorporated on October 31, 2007.

Hal Puthoff.

Puthoff, who entered the BAASS fold in 2008, tells Popular Mechanics he was aware that Kurth was involved in the Nimitz events in 2004, but he didn’t believe BAASS specifically recruited Kurth because of it. “I think that it was just because of his experience he reached out to join [BAASS],” says Puthoff, who later founded and now runs the advanced concepts research institute Earthtech International.

Puthoff says he believes the DIA had expressed a need for what would become AAWSAP in 2007, but isn’t sure if the organization ever made a formal request. “I think that anything from 2007 was likely quite informal—discussions, letters, emails—but I’m not certain,” he says.

Regardless, roughly six months after BAASS opened up shop, with the support of late senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye, Reid set up funding for AATIP and the AAWSAP contract in the Supplemental Appropriations Bill of July 2008. “It would be black money, we wouldn’t have a big debate on the Senate floor over it,” Reid told New York. “The purpose of it was to study aerial phenomena. The money was given, a directive was given to the Pentagon, to put this out to bid, which they did.”

On August 18, 2008, the contracting arm of the DIA issued a 32-page solicitation/contract/order for commercial items for the AAWSAP. When bidding closed three weeks later on September 5, as the sole bidder, BAASS was awarded $10 million dollars for the guaranteed first year, of a five-year option, for the contract.

On September 13, 2008, Bigelow Aerospace began listing career opportunities with BAASS in 14 different disciplines related to aerospace and research sciences.


A statement of objectives for AAWSAP.



Absent from the AAWSAP solicitation is any language related to UFOs or UAP. Instead, as originally outlined in the July Supplemental Appropriations Bill, the “primary focus is on breakthrough technologies and applications that create discontinuities in currently evolving technology trends. The focus is not on extrapolations of current aerospace technology.”

In past interviews, Reid has indicated the interested parties at the DIA felt it prudent to avoid any language that might cause someone to realize the underlying focus of the AATIP program was UFOs. According to Reid, a representative with the DIA told him, “What I will do is prepare something for you that anyone can look at it that wants to, it’s strictly science.”

On multiple occasions over the past two years, both the government and former contractors have used the terms AATIP and AAWSAP almost interchangeably. This has caused significant confusion of whether AATIP and AAWSAP were two separate programs, or the same activity under differing names. In a recent statement, Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough told longtime researcher John Greenewald, “[AATIP] was the name of the overall program. [AAWSAP] was the name of the contract that DIA awarded for the production of technical reports under AATIP.”

While all sources associated with the programs confirm Gough’s statement with Popular Mechanics—AAWSAP was the contract component of the broader umbrella program dubbed ATTIP—they dismiss the latter sentiment expressed by Gough that “neither AATIP nor AAWSAP were UAP related.”

The evidence collected here overwhelmingly suggests the government was indeed studying UFOs and not, as the Pentagon has said, “investigating foreign advanced aerospace weapons system applications with future technology projections over the next 40 years, and to create a center of expertise on advanced aerospace technologies.”

The cover of BAASS’s Ten Month Report, issued in July 2009.


In July 2009, BAASS provided a comprehensive report to the DIA at the conclusion of the first-year option of the AAWSAP contract. The 494-page “Ten Month Report,” as it’s called, is chock full of strategic plans, project summaries, data tables, charts, descriptions of biological field effects, physical characteristics, methods of detection, theoretical capabilities, witness interviews, photographs, and case synopses—each one entirely, explicitly about unexplained aerial phenomena.

Throughout the report, “the sponsor” is mentioned, however, the DIA is never explicitly named.

The first pages list the names of every contractor working for BAASS with appropriate security clearances to have access to the program. Amongst dozens of credentialed names, some of those listed are very familiar to the UFO community, including Puthoff, Davis, Jacques Vallee, and Colm Kelleher. Regardless of one’s existing opinions of the UFO phenomena, the sheer volume of content in the BAASS Ten Month Report is astounding.

Some of the notable content of the 2009 BAASS Ten Month Report includes:

Overview of the BAASS Physics Division’s efforts to conduct research on advanced aerospace vehicles, including the development of standardization for measurement of physical effects and signatures associated with UAP.

Overview of BAASS research for measuring and gleaning the effects on biological organisms from UAP.

Mention of Skinwalker Ranch in Utah as a “possible laboratory for studying other intelligences and possible interdimensional phenomena.”

Strategic plans to organize a series of intellectual debate forums targeted to broad audiences pertaining to the “potential disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence.”


Plans to create a “medical physiological UAP effects program.”

Request for Project Blue Book files that have not been made public.

Mention of BAASS program dubbed “Project Northern Tier,” which involved securing documents related to instances where dozens of UFOs flew over restricted airspaces of facilities housing nuclear weapons.

A possible UAP landing reported to BAASS by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and its STAR Team (rapid response field investigators funded by BAASS in March 2009).

Project databases of UAP-related materials compiled through various partnerships, and the intent to expand these databases by coordinating with foreign governments.

Summaries of multiple UAP events both inside the U.S. and in foreign countries.

Photographs of UAPs provided by various sources, including foreign governments.


Photograph of page 317 of the BAASS Ten Month Report.

From cover to cover, the BAASS report references the government’s new buzzword for UFOs: UAP. However, nowhere could Popular Mechanics find a single reference to foreign (terrestrial) advanced aerospace weapon systems, or projected technological innovations based on current industry trends.

Sources tell Popular Mechanics the BAASS Ten Month report was only a sample of the materials the organization provided to the DIA. “Monthly reports were being sent to the Pentagon, in addition to annual program updates, that were all about UAP or anomalous phenomena,” says one former BAASS contractor.

Chris Bartel, a security officer and investigator for BAASS (later Bigelow Aerospace) from 2010 to 2018, confirms the accounts of former BAASS and AATIP employees with Popular Mechanics. He says he indeed encountered some fairly dramatic paranormal events while working at the Skinwalker Ranch, and says he’d also heard mumblings of BAASS being interested in studying paranormal activity in hopes it could lead to technology research. However, Bartel says he didn’t know anything about AAWSAP or AATIP until last fall. “I was a bit taken back, to say the least,” he says.

Photograph of page 17 of the BAASS Ten Month Report.

Though unaware of any formal contract with the DIA, Bartel confirms that reports generated about paranormal events on the ranch were being faxed to both Bigelow and the Pentagon on a regular basis. (“I would hate to think my experiences up there were somehow manipulated by outside man-made forces,” Bartel says. “I truly believe the ranch to be hallowed Native land.”)

Some have suggested the “paranormal” events associated with Skinwalker Ranch or AAWSAP could be associated with secret and highly advanced weapons testing. While Bartel says it’s possible weapons were being tested, nothing he observed was consistent with his experiences of top secret testing.

Puthoff also says he saw no evidence that BAASS was involved in weapons testing during his tenure with the organization—“a statement I’m certain Mr. Bigelow would support,” he says. (Bigelow could not be reached for comment.)


Jesse Marcel, who initially investigated the Roswell UFO site 1947.


The revelations in the BAASS report beg the question: Why is the government now insistent it never studied UFOs, and why aren’t these documents being discussed or made available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests?

Individuals who worked on the AATIP program say the current uncertainty and confusion was by design and involved a dizzying shell game that’s entirely consistent with how black budget intelligence programs are run. “What you’re dealing with is the very core of government secrecy and how things they absolutely don’t ever want to discuss are kept hidden away,” one former AATIP contractor tells Popular Mechanics.

Sources say the key to understanding current denials of UFO studies in AATIP comes from a phrase stamped on each page of the BAASS Ten Month Report obtained by Popular Mechanics:

“The information is proprietary and cannot be disseminated or used without prior written consent from the Operating Manager of BAASS.”

According to several former AATIP contractors, the “product” being produced for the DIA was technical reports on exotic and potential “game-changing” aerospace technologies, and the manner of determining what areas these radical airborne breakthroughs might emerge was through the research of UFOs.

In exchange, not only would the DIA get the agreed-upon technical reports, but it would also gain access to the extensive research BAASS was gathering on UFOs. While the DIA had access to the volumes of UFO data, the materials were actually commercial property of BAASS, as a subsidiary of Bigelow Aerospace.

The idea of using an aerospace research project as a cover for a secret UFO program may seem unscrupulous. “But this all rings very familiar,” Neil Gordon, an investigator with the Project on Government Oversight, tells Popular Mechanics.


Gordon, whose area of expertise is in federal contractor misconduct, contractor accountability, and government privatization, says running the “commercial in confidence” program through AATIP is consistent with how the DoD deals with programs it wants to keep secret. “Whether it’s right or not is another story,” Gordon says, “but everything sounds very common for how black budget programs run.”

The DIA may have had extensive access to the UFO materials, but because all of the data technically belonged to BAASS, under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, disclosing or releasing proprietary materials provided to the government in confidence is a federal crime. Essentially, the DIA’s UFO program was set up to circumvent FOIA requests and avoid having to discuss UFOs publicly.

Out of concern for providing Popular Mechanics access to the 2009 BAASS Ten Month Report, the person who made these materials available did so only under the guarantee of anonymity. It’s worth noting this person is not a current government employee, nor were they involved with BAASS or the AAWSAP contract.

“Unfortunately, the government attempting to evade FOIA by contracting out its responsibilities is nothing new,” Josh Budray, an attorney who specializes in FOIA and First Amendment cases, tells Popular Mechanics. “Both federal and state FOIA statutes strive to eliminate such obvious gamesmanship—avoiding transparency and disclosure obligations by contracting out functions—but whether they are successful in doing so is an entirely different story.”

Davis, the astrophysicist and former AAWSAP contractor, says his work on the AATIP program was entirely consistent with all of the technological intelligence programs he’d previously worked on over the last 30-plus years. “Indeed, science is applied, but right now there’s not enough data on UAP to make examining it a scientific endeavor. It’s an intelligence issue, not a scientific endeavor,” he says.

Puthoff, meanwhile, says BAASS produced “stacks of material to the ceiling,” but because of the way things were done, he was surprised to hear any of it had become public. “To be honest, I didn’t think this stuff would ever see the light of day,” he says.


When reached for comment, Colm Kelleher, the former Deputy Director of BAASS, said, “I am unable to discuss this topic.” Multiple other requests to Bigelow Aerospace for comment went unanswered.

The entire manner in which the DIA partnership allegedly operated raises an important question: Could the reason for the Pentagon’s recent denials of AATIP or AAWSAP conducting UFO research be the result of the current DoD administration being naive to the program’s underlying and commercially secret hidden purpose? It seems like a plausible theory … if it wasn’t for something else Popular Mechanics uncovered.



Last year, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientistsobtained via FOIA request and published a January 2018 letter that the DIA Congressional Relations Division sent to members of Congress. In the letter, the DIA provided “a list of all products produced under the AATIP contract for the DIA to publish.” The referenced list includes 38 technical papers, called Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRDs), which cover a range of advanced, exotic, and theoretical aerospace topics.

Given what’s been said about the commercially confidential nature of AATIP, the phrase “for the DIA to publish” may be a critical play on words. Nevertheless, a source with access to the materials provided Popular Mechanics with a copy of a previously unreleased technical paper listed as one of AATIP’s products.

While the DIA refers to the paper as “Field Effects on Biological Tissue,” the original title for the submitted paper appears to actually have been “Clinical Medical Acute & Subacute Field Effects on Human Dermal & Neurological Tissues.” According to the study’s introduction, the paper is an examination of “clinical medical signs and symptoms and biophysics of injury known and expected from near-field (mostly ultra-high), NIEMR Microwave, Thermal, from unintended exposure to anomalous systems.”

You can read the entire study below.

In light of the cumbersome clinical language, just a cursory scan reveals the entire focus was on examining injuries that may have occurred after contact with UFOs or UAP. In fact, the very term “UFO” appears 16 times in the report; the word “anomalous” is used 27 times (most often with the word “aircraft,” “aviation,” or “aerospace” immediately following); and the phrase “Advanced Aerospace Systems Applications Program” is mentioned in bold on four occasions.

Popular Mechanics spoke with the study’s author, Christopher “Kit” Green, a forensic clinician and neuroscientist. Green was surprised to learn his research paper had become publicly known, because he was under the impression it was never included in the distributed set, nor was it finally peer-reviewed.

Green confirms his paper wasn’t cited correctly in the letter to Congress, however, he says the 54-page document Popular Mechanics obtained appeared to be the same paper he was requested to provide as a product of AAWSAP.

“This focused on forensically assessing accounts of injuries that could have resulted from claimed encounters with UAP,” says Green. “I didn’t work for BAASS, other than as a contractor for my paper, and I wasn’t a part of AAWSAP. However, it is my understanding this program was a UFO study that outwardly was not supposed to look like it had anything to do with UFOs.”


Green cautions some past speculations about his paper were inaccurate, including the claims it was an effort to understand or reverse-engineer UAP technology. Green also stresses that while his work focused on encounters with unknown or unidentified aerial objects, all of the injuries he assessed could be accounted for by known terrestrial means, and did not provide any evidence for extraterrestrial or non-human technologies.

Could the 38 technical reports BAASS produced for AATIP represent what it determined accounted for UAP?

“Many of the topics could be called ‘dual-use’ given that, say, papers on advanced plasma propulsion and invisibility cloaking could apply to our own advanced aerospace development as well as possibly some UAPs,” says Puthoff. But his “spacetime metric engineering paper, the warp drive and wormhole papers, and specifically the Statistical Drake Equation paper are essentially applicable only to UAPs.”

Davis, who worked with Puthoff and authored four of the DIRDs, offers a particularly intriguing detail about the DIA’s 38 reference papers.

“This wasn’t focused on whether or not [UAP] are real. It’s already been well established that UAP are real by a preponderance of evidence. Some classified and some proprietary [that] I can’t talk about,” he says.

Instead of investigating if UAP are real, the 38 technical papers for the AAWSAP contract were also an intelligence assessment to measure just how far advanced UAP could be from current and projected scientific understandings. “Me, Hal [Puthoff], and an aerospace executive who had access to materials worked on that assessment for the DIA,” Davis says.

Ultimately, aside from the wealth of BAASS proprietary evidence, Green’s study alone—which the DIA told Congress was a product of AATIP that it would “be happy to provide upon direct request”—seems to completely dispute the Pentagon’s recent claims that neither AATIP or AAWSAP were related to UFOs.

A Timeline of UFO Programs

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