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Washington: The US Navy is drafting new guidelines for pilots and other personnel to report encounters with “unidentified aircraft”, a significant new step in creating a formal process to collect and analyse the unexplained sightings and destigmatise them, the media reported.

“There have been a number of reports of unauthorised and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years,” Politico news quoted the Navy as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

“For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the (US Air Force) takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.

“As part of this effort, the Navy is updating and formalising the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A new message to the fleet that will detail the steps for reporting is in draft.”

The US Navy isn’t endorsing the idea that its sailors have encountered alien spacecraft. But it is acknowledging there have been enough strange aerial sightings by credible and highly trained military personnel that they need to be recorded in the official record and studied.

The new policy will standardise how incidents are reported, and what radar or other data may be gathered that the military can store long term for further analysis, a Navy official told CNN.

Meanwhile, a senior military official said that some of the recent sightings are highly classified military aviation programmes undergoing testing in the western US.

Because the sightings have garnered public attention, senior Navy intelligence officials have briefed Congress, as well as aviators on the safety hazards.

The Pentagon has intermittently over the decades funded various efforts to evaluate unexplained incursions and phenomena, but the last official effort known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was shuttered in 2012.

Luis Elizondo, a former Pentagon official who led that programme and resigned in protest when it was ended, told CNN in 2017 “that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone”.