Joined: 30 Oct 2008
|Posted: Fri 18 Dec - 12:25 (2009) Post subject: Revealed: How the government probed Britain's greatest UFO mystery
|Declassified government files have revealed how Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials launched a top-level probe into a diamond shaped aircraft seen hovering above a Scottish village.
Chris Hastings and Jasper Copping
Published: 12:01AM GMT 22 Mar 2009
The Ministry of Defence are thought to have taken the unexplained sighting very seriously Photo: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES/ PA WIRE
Officials were so alarmed by the object, which was captured on camera, that they broke with established procedures and referred the sighting to ministers.
They also overrode rules prohibiting investigations into UFO sightings not considered an immediate threat to national security, and spent more than a year trying to crack the still unexplained mystery.
The disclosure about the incident is contained in more than 1,000 pages of official documentation, detailing hundreds of UFO sightings between 1987 and 1993, which has been made available publicly at the National Archives in Kew for the first time today.
Their release comes at a time of increased reports of UFO activity in Britain.
Figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show that sightings for the first two months of 2009 have been higher than for any year for which records are publicly available, and are three times higher than the normal monthly average.
Most of the UFO "sightings" contained in the national archives were ultimately explained away. But the Scottish event still remains a mystery.
According to the files, the Ministry of Defence first became aware of the existence of the craft when the Daily Record newspaper presented it with six colour photographs of the object. The UFO seen by two men, one of whom captured it on camera, as it hovered in daylight near the A9, at Calvine, north of Pitlochry, on August 4, 1990.
The witnesses said it hovered for about 10 minutes – during which time military aircraft were also seen making a series of low-level passes – before moving upwards, out of sight, at great speed.
The files show that officials established from the photographs that the military craft were Harrier jets even though, intriguingly, none were operational in the area at the time.
An MoD minute prepared for the then Armed Forces Minister, Sir Archie Hamilton, and dated September 14, 1990 states: "Under Secretary of State (Armed Forces) may wish to be aware that the Scottish Daily Record may run a story regarding an alleged sighting of a UFO near Pitlochrie [sic] in early August. Such stories are not normally drawn to the attention of Ministers and the MoD press office invariably responds to questions along well-established lines emphasising our limited interest in the UFO phenomenon and explaining that we therefore do not have the resources to undertake any in-depth investigations into particular sightings.
"They [the photographs] show a large stationary, diamond-shaped object past which, it appears, a small jet aircraft is flying. The negatives have been considered by the relevant staff who have established that the jet aircraft is a Harrier (and also identified a barely visible second aircraft, again probably a Harrier) but have reached no definite conclusion regarding the large object."
The MoD even prepared a defensive media strategy in the event that journalists should bombard its press office with questions about the craft.
Journalists who quizzed the department were to be told that "no definite conclusions have been reached regarding the large diamond shaped object".
However, the Daily Record did not run the pictures.
Dr David Clarke, a university journalism lecturer and UFO expert, said: "This is the most tantalising of all the UFO reports. This shows how the MoD was worried about what the hell they were going to say. They had no idea what it was. They couldn't even identify where the Harriers had come from. It is a real mystery. It is one that can't be explained. They took it very, very seriously."
The files show that a year after the original photographs were taken, the MoD tasked experts to produce line drawings of the UFO which would give officials an idea of scale.
Even the creation of the drawings was shrouded in strict secrecy. One undated document suggests "very special handling" because of "sensitivity of the material". It also orders "minimum handling by listed personnel".
In 1992, rumours emerged in the press that the Americans were developing a new spy plane code-named Aurora, and officials wondered whether the mystery craft could have been part of the project.
A note in an undated file states: "Notwithstanding US denials the Aurora story continues to run. The details in this article tie in with some of the things being talked about at last month's UFO conference. I'm not looking forward to the Scottish Daily Record remembering they've got photos of a diamond -shaped UFO taken near Pitlochry in 1990 – the object having been stationary."
The files show that MoD officials regarded many of the sightings reported during the period as being made by credible and genuine witnesses.
Military personnel, police officers and flight crews are among those who have reported UFO activity.
Even a Brighton man who claims to have had an encounter with aliens outside his front window in 1992 is described as "sounding genuine".
An MoD official notes: "Caller sounded genuine enough and his main concern seemed to be that he didn't want to talk too much about the craft if it was one of ours."
The files also show that officials had planned to study systematically a sample of more than 100 unexplained sightings in the hope that they might be able to provide a rational explanation of what was happening. But defence chiefs subsequently blocked the move for fear it would be a public relations disaster.
UFO sightings recorded in the newly-disclosed Ministry of Defence files include:
February 21, 1988: Helicopter crew reports a close night-time encounter with a very bright flashing light. The UFO appears to be 200 or 300 yards long with red and white lights, and appears to swerve to miss the helicopter.
November 5, 1990: Crews of six RAF Tornado jets report being over taken by a giant UFO whilst flying over Germany during an exercise. The pilots believe this could have been a test flight for the then top-secret US Air Force Stealth fighter. A file notes: “I believe any further information made available would only add fuel to the fire. Clearly the incident happened and clearly the pilots saw what they believe (with hindsight) to be a stealth aircraft. I doubt very much if the USAF or even the Soviet air force (if they were flying) would admit to anything.”
May 1, 1992: Crew of a Britannia 737 jet report a near miss with an object travelling at Mach 3 near Elba, off the Italian Coast. A memo notes: “The Civil Aviation Authority believe this may be characteristic of a radar-guided missile. They have not taken any action but would be prepared to contact Italian civil aviation authorities if MoD believe the object was indeed likely to have been a missile.”
June 17, 1992: Flight crew report that four passengers on board a flight leaving Gatwick Airport claimed to have seen a UFO flying level with the plane. The flight crew do not see it, but in a submission to the MoD one states: “I do not believe that the passengers made the story up as they appeared concerned by the sighting and insisted on notifying us before disembarking.”
In November 1992 a Brighton man reported seeing a brightly lit object, possibly an alien craft, hovering above his house. Officials noted that the caller “sounded genuine enough”. They added “His main concern seemed to be that he didn’t want to talk too much about the craft if it was one of ours that we wanted to keep secret.”
March 23, 1993: A “bright cigar-shaped object” is seen above Ilford and Romford, in east London - but the mystery is soon solved. The file says: “Witnesses have reported a bright cigar-shaped object, moving very slowly and making little or no sound. The object almost certainly responsible for these sightings is a brightly illuminated airship. This craft is operated by and is advertising the new Ford Mondeo. The CAA has confirmed that this airship has been operating over London and the surrounding area.”
March 31, 1993: More than 100 people in the West Country and Ireland report seeing two brilliant objects with bright vapour trails flying North to South quickly and silently across the night sky - an episode now known to Ufologists as the Cosford Incident. Officials say some of the sightings may have a been a Russian Cosmos satellite re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, but cannot explain away the sightings entirely. An official notes: “Personally I agree that while the decay of Cosmos 2238 might explain the high level 1.10am sightings, it would not explain the other sightings in the night in question.”
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