More than a year after its existence became public, the details surrounding the U.S. military’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, or AATIP, continue to be as fascinating as they are bizarre. We now know the titles of all of the nearly 40 studies the project funded in roughly four years of operation, as well as their authors and who they worked for. These reports cover a far wider breadth of topics than previously known, ranging from invisibility cloaks and warps drives, to fusion power and laser weapons, to more general advanced physics and materials science work. Some of the work appears to have been legitimate, but there’s at least one instance where the U.S. government almost certainly paid for junk science.
Steven Aftergood, who leads the Federation of American Scientists’ (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy obtained a copy of the list on Jan. 16, 2019, along with a cover letter, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, which you can see below. The original five-page document is available here. The Defense Intelligence Agency had originally put together the list at the request of the offices of the late Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and his ranking Democrat colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rhode Island’s Jack Reed.
Author’s note: It has come to our attention that George Knapp’s I-Team, part of Las Vegas CBS affiliate Channel 8 News, had obtained and published a near-complete list of the report titles and authors in July 2018. Nick Pope also obtained the same five-page document that FAS did earlier this month.
“Based on interest from your staff regarding the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)’s role in the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) please find attached a list of all products produced under the AATIP contract for DIA to publish,” the cover letter reads. “The purpose of AATIP was to investigate foreign advanced aerospace weapons threats from the present out to the next 40 years.”
That second statement is interesting in of itself given what is otherwise known about the program, which officially began in 2007 as the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications (AAWSA) program. Between 2008 and 2012, DIA spent approximately $22 million on the program, which eventually became known as AATIP, and produced a total of 38 reports.
Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace had won the AATIP contract and managed its research. Bigelow, who made his money in the hotel and real estate industries, is well known for his interest in unidentified flying objects (UFO), fringe science, and the paranormal. Individuals who worked for the program, including Luis Elizondo, who was head of the project for DIA, have since said publicly that investigating reported UFO sightings was a particular focus of the efforts.
As we at The War Zone
have noted before, this actually makes good sense in many ways, since UFO sightings can turn out to be very real advanced and top-secret aviation programs. At least outwardly, DIA appeared to be taking the work of AATIP seriously, placing it under its Defense Warning Office, which has been monitoring for “threats to U.S. interests in critical regions” since its creation in 2002.
We know that AATIP definitely did do some investigating of UFO sightings. The disclosure of the program’s existence has led to the emergence of a detailed report on a 2004 sighting of an object commonly known as the “Tic-Tac,” as well as video footage that F/A-18 Hornets shot using their Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) targeting pods during that incident. You can view those clips below.
But it has also already been clear that AATIP sponsored research into a much wider array of topics beyond UFOs. Based on the list that FAS obtained, much of the research does appear to have come from reputable sources, even if the topics sound highly theoretical or outlandish in some cases. Of the 38 studies, more than half were the work of individuals working at academic institutions, such as the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Nevada-Reno, The Ohio State University, and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. You can find a good rundown of different authors and their known work at The Black Vault, which collects previously classified government documents and makes them available online.
One report from the University of St. Andrews may sound particularly fanciful with its title “Invisibility Cloaking,” but came by way of German scientist Dr. Ulf Leonhardt, who has been publishing papers on that topic since 2006 and is a noted expert on the topic. Though widely thought to be still far away from being practical, his research is grounded in real science to do with quantum physics and the behavior of light.
There are two more reports from Lockheed Martin, one of which is explicitly about fusion power and another that appears to be related to that topic. That firm’s legendary advanced projects division, the Skunk Works, has been publicly working to make fusion a reality since 2014. A third report from the company is simply titled “Air Breathing Propulsion and Power for Aerospace Applications” and sounds well in line with its known work on advanced propulsion technologies, including hypersonic aircraft and missiles.
Virginia-headquartered Directed Technologies, Inc., which has been receiving government contracts since 1985, appears to have provided a report so legitimate on high energy laser weapon development that AATIP published two versions, one of which was classified Secret with instructions not to release it to foreign nationals. This is the only one of the 38 studies that is classified in any way. All of the others are simply labeled “For Official Use Only.”
But the full list also exposes more dubious projects based on more questionable science from a network of individuals with close ties to Bigelow. The largest single source of these reports is EarthTech International of Austin, Texas. EarthTech’s CEO Harold ‘Hal’ Puthoff, Ph.D. and another one of the company’s employees, Eric Davis, Ph.D. both have ties to the Nevada business mogul’s now-defunct National Institute for Discovery Science, or NIDSci. An archived copy of that organization’s website is available here and features information UFO sightings, extraterrestrials, and other fringe topics.
Puthoff and Davis were the primary authors on six of the 38 reports in total between them. Davis is also the co-author on another report from independent consultant Richard Obousy. Since the list FAS received only notes the primary author, it’s impossible to know how many of the studies EarthTech may have actually had a hand in.
Three of these reports are available online and we at The War Zone have examined their contents previously. In late 2017, after news of the program first broke, Corey Goode posted copies of two of the reports online, one covering “Advanced Space Propulsion” and another delving into “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions.” A third report, dealing with “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, And Negative Energy,” is available separately.
A figure representing a notional “stargate” in New York City from “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, And Negative Energy,” a report that AATIP sponsored.
All three of these works rely on what is, at best, borderline fringe science. All three individuals have direct links to Bigelow himself. The list contains additional reports from Dr. George Hathaway of Hathaway Consulting, another person with clear ties to Bigelow and his more fringe and paranormal interests, including Paul Czysz, a retired Air Force officer and McDonnell Douglas engineer, another known name in the UFO watcher community, was also among the contributors to AATIP’s research.
Marc Millis, a former NASA propulsion engineer who founded the non-profit The Tau Zero Foundation, which works on various efforts related to novel spaceflight concepts, including faster-than-light travel, is also among the authors. Millis left NASA following an apparent scandal for attending a venture capital event that Joe Firmage hosted in 1999. Firmage is a Silicon Valley tech millionaire who says he had an unexplained visionary experience with a being who he says produced a ball of energy, which then entered his body.
In addition, there is at least one instance where the work that DIA, or Bigelow acting on their behalf, agreed to fund is especially suspect. Robert Baker’s GravWave company supplied AATIP with a report on high-frequency gravitational waves (HFGW). However, a 2008 report from the JASON group, a collective of expert scientists who advises the U.S. government, questioned the very scientific grounding of separate work Baker had done for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on this topic.
“The proposed applications of the science of HFGW are fundamentally wrong,” the JASON review said of Baker’s work. “No foreign threat in HFGW is credible.”
With all of this in mind, the newly released list of reports that AATIP funded paints a newly complex picture of the organization and its research efforts. It also further calls into question what its exact objectives were and how focused its work was in meeting those goals – or not.
Hal Puthoff and Luis Elizondo both have gone on to work for the To The Stars Academy, which former Blink 182 front man-turned-UFO enthusiast Tom DeLonge founded in 2015. This private enterprise is continuing to pursue similar work as what had occurred under AATIP, albeit in the unclassified realm, as well as entertainment-related projects and extremely exotic aeronautics programs of questionable merit.
There’s still nothing official to confirm the more outlandish claims of work that AATIP may have been doing on the side, including accounts of having mysterious material from downed objects in storage lockers. But what is clear is that there is still much about the program that we don’t know.
Some would say that this information remains squirreled away out of concern that it would reveal an actual threat to national security, or alternatively, it would be overly embarrassing to disclose. The nature of a number of the reports the program generated would seem to lend evidence to the latter.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Joe Firmage claimed he had been abducted by aliens. He claims that he had a visionary experience with an unexplained being. He has also said that he believes in extraterrestrial life and that those beings have visited earth, but not that they have abducted him.
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