Is the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base playing a role in helping U.S. and Canadian governments identify the unknown “objects” discovered in North American airspace in the past week?
Some observers think it’s a decent bet, particularly with Congress’ recently expanded mandate for NASIC in the arena of UFOs, or “UAPs” as they’re often called today, short for “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
Over three days this past weekend, Air Force jets shot down three airborne objects, flying over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron. Counting an earlier balloon thought to be a surveillance device from China, four objects have been shot down in about nine days.
Details have been scarce as to the origin and purpose of the latter trio of objects. But answering those questions is part of NASIC’s job.
“Analyzing the nature and origin of unidentified aerial phenomena is a core feature of what NASIC does,” said defense industry analyst Loren Thompson, who is chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute in northern Virginia and who is familiar with NASIC and Wright-Patterson, where NASIC is headquartered. “It’s a safe bet the intelligence agency is working closely with NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) to figure out the recent sightings, and assess what they mean for the future.”
“One would think NASIC would be involved in some fashion,” said Douglas Dean Johnson, a Maryland resident who has long followed Congressional work on the question of UAPs.
A NASIC representative referred questions to NORTHCOM, or the U.S. Northern Command, which provides and oversees command and control of Department of Defense homeland defense efforts.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN this weekend that: “We really have to declare that we’re going to defend our airspace. And then we need to invest. This shows some of the problems and gaps that we have. We need to fill those as soon as possible because we certainly now ascertain there is a threat.”
In an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Monday, Turner declined to provide specifics on whether NASIC is involved in examining these objects. But he acknowledged that gathering information about these kinds of incidents do “fall within the core mission” of NASIC and similar agencies.
“The threats to the United States have increased by both the complexity and the number of foreign actors,” the congressman said. “We are going to have to step up our game. We are not merely watching Russia anymore.”
“These intelligence collection threats could prove devastating to some of our most important military sites,” he added.
When it passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in March 2022, Congress did indeed give NASIC a role in the investigation of unidentified flying objects.
That law requires that all Department of Defense and federal Intelligence Community components share UAP information with NASIC, as well as a Pentagon office on the issue, the then-new Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group.
Johnson noted that the law requires that “each element of the Intelligence Community and component of the Department of Defense with data relating to unidentified aerial phenomena shall make such data available immediately...to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.”
Wright-Patterson has a notable history in this arena. The base was the headquarters of Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s program to investigate UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s until it was terminated in late 1969.
Project Blue Book, and forerunners known as Project Sign and Project Grudge, investigated 12,618 sightings reported around the world between 1947 to 1969. Of those, 701 were never explained, according to a January 1985 letter on the topic issued by Wright-Patterson public affairs officials.