Image copyright DISABLED AMERICAN SOLDIER Image caption An alleged UFO sighting near Honolulu, Hawaii, in July, 2016
The Pentagon is to launch a new unit to investigate alleged UFO sightings.
It will replace a Navy unit that specialised in investigating sightings across the US Pacific fleet.
As it stands the Navy unit has investigated some 3,000 reports of UFOs in just 13 years.
A Pentagon spokesman, Commander Gary Ross, told Al Jazeera the new unit will help ensure UFO enthusiasts have access to credible information, but did not confirm the existence of the new unit.
In October, the military will turn over the current investigation unit to an entity called “the Project Blue Book project”.
Project Blue Book is a term used to describe the original FBI study into UFO sightings in the 1950s. The new study will be headed by researcher Paul Erickson.
Image copyright US Navy Image caption But Army general Thomas Shockemyer admitted in 2006, after the Pentagon ordered the new study, that there had been no “surprise interference from intelligent beings”. Image caption The research carried out during Project Blue Book was kept secret by a Pentagon directive
According to the US Navy account of research carried out in the 1980s, the Navy’s investigations of UFOs had three major objectives:
Provide for statistical and physiological data. The unit was charged with scrutinising all aircraft sightings at sea to determine whether they merited a response
Investigate the circumstances surrounding a particular sighting
Traditionally, investigative units consist of a squad of military intelligence officers with trained law enforcement counterparts, stationed aboard ships that periodically patrol the oceans.
The Navy’s current UFO unit, known as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), was established in 1995.
Their chief investigator, Capt William Ryan, worked for 12 years as a police officer in San Diego. He returned to the Navy as a Navy detective in 2000.
A spokesman for the NCIS said they could not release or confirm details about the incident.
Image copyright DCI Image caption The US military has stepped up its UFO investigation following Donald Trump’s election win
Lt Ralph Goodale, the official spokesman for the Pentagon, said the Navy’s plans would be completed over the next three months.
He added that no questions could be asked about the nature of the new operation.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has expressed scepticism about the project.
“I think this is the first step in a process that will lead to a full-scale denial, which I find especially despicable.”
An alleged sighting involving Cuban fighter jets over a US military base in Key West in October 1961 remains one of the most notorious US UFO events of all time.
The discovery of HMS Surprise, a remotely operated submarine built by the Russian navy, floating in the ocean south of Cuba in 1962 is another iconic moment.
The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has previously said the majority of UFO reports received by them have been hoaxes.
Most recently, the US Defence Intelligence Agency said in a 2014 report that alien life likely does not exist.
However, on 17 June, President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to establish an organisation dedicated to evaluating the data and using the evidence “for real-world military operations”.
This announcement triggered fresh interest in UFOs with Americans’ attitudes to the phenomenon becoming more accepting.
Since September, US Congress has funded a series of hearings on the subject.
On 20 June, Rep Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House judiciary committee, said he would work to investigate the increase in UFOs.
An estimated 1,000 people gathered for a seminar on UFOs hosted by astronomers at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC in June.
In July, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking the government to get “a better handle” on the issue, by establishing “an authoritative US Office of National UFO Reporting”.