The Real X-Files – I’ve worked for the Ministry of Defence for nearly fifteen years now, and have had a variety of fascinating posts. But by far and away the most amazing was my tour of duty in a division called Secretariat(Air Staff)2a, where for three years my responsibilities included researching and investigating the UFO phenomenon.
I should say first of all that the Ministry’s interest in UFOs has more to do with the Russians than the Martians: it stemmed not from any corporate belief in extraterrestrials, but from the understandable desire to know about any object that had penetrated the UK’s Air Defence Region. But in keeping an eye out for the Soviet aircraft that routinely probed at our air defences during the Cold War, it soon became clear that there were other more exotic craft operating in British airspace. For at least the last fifty years there has been a steady stream of UFO reports sent to the MOD, some from military sources and some from members of the public. So what’s going on?
Each the year the MOD receives two or three hundred UFO reports, although some years are busier than others (there were 750 reports in 1978, 600 in 1981 and 609 in 1996). My job was to investigate these reports in an attempt to see whether there was evidence of any threat to the UK. After careful investigation I managed to find explanations for around ninety percent of sightings, which turned out to be misidentifications of ordinary objects or phenomena. The common culprits included aircraft lights, satellites, meteors and airships. But there was a hard core of sightings that simply couldn’t be explained in conventional terms, where trained observers such as police officers and pilots saw unidentified craft performing speeds and manoeuvres way beyond our own capabilities.
The MOD has over two hundred files packed full of information about UFOs. Of these, I believe that around twenty have been made available at the Public Record Office in Kew, where their release is governed by the terms of the Public Record Acts – which generally allow information to be released when it’s more than thirty years old. I’m well aware that ufologists have been very excited about the prospect of a UK Freedom of Information Act and have been planning to blitz the MOD with requests for UFO data. This is precisely what happened in America, where the casefiles of the United States Air Force study into UFOs (Project Blue Book) were made public. I had access to all the MOD’s UFO files, and can tell people that if and when this information is made public, there is some very exciting information that will be made available. So what can people expect to find?
Over the years, the MOD has been involved in a wide variety of sensational UFO cases which defy any conventional explanation. One of the earliest took place in August 1956 when a UFO was tracked on radar systems at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Lakenheath. Two RAF jets were scrambled in an attempt to intercept the mystery craft, and a game of cat and mouse ensued as the pilots attempted to lock-on to the target. But the UFO was too quick and too agile, and managed to elude the pilots, who eventually ran low on fuel and were forced to return to base.
Britain’s most sensational UFO case occurred in December 1980 in Rendlesham Forest, between RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge. UFO activity was witnessed over a series of nights, and on one occasion a military guard patrol encountered a landed UFO. The Deputy Base Commander, Lt Col Charles Halt, submitted an official report to the MOD, describing the UFO as “metallic in appearance and triangular in shape”. Radiation readings were subsequently taken from the landing site, and were found to peak in the three indentations where the craft had touched down in a clearing.
In November 1990 a number of RAF Tornado jets were overtaken by a UFO whilst flying over the North Sea, and this is just one of several aerial encounters on file. The most disturbing of these relate to a series of terrifying near-misses between UFOs are civil aircraft. There were two such cases from 1991, both involving incidents over Kent, and another from 1995, involving a Boeing 737. The pilots encountered what they described as a brightly lit UFO while on their approach to Manchester airport, and believed that it had passed only yards from their aircraft. This incident was investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority, but no explanation was ever found.
One of the most sensational cases I ever investigated related to an incident that occurred in the early hours of March 31, 1993. There had been a wave of UFO sightings that night, culminating in the direct overflight of two military bases, RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury. The UFO was described to me by one of the military witnesses as being a vast, triangular craft only marginally smaller than a jumbo jet. It flew slowly over the base at a height of around 200 feet, firing a narrow beam of light at the ground, before flying off at high speed.
These then, are the sorts of incidents to be found in the MOD’s UFO files: visual sightings correlated by radar; incidents where military jets have been scrambled; near-misses with civil airliners and reports of landings. Some of these incidents were classified secret at the time.
The files contain various other material of interest to researchers, and because of the perceived link with UFOs, contain some reports of alien abductions, crop circles and animal mutilations. Perhaps it’s no surprise that as I got drawn into such mysteries I found myself dubbed “The Real Fox Mulder”!
So will the release of official files end speculation that the Government has been covering up the truth about UFOs? This is unlikely. The release of official files in America simply fuelled interest in the subject, and led to accusations that other more highly classified papers were still being withheld. The US Government’s denial was not helped by the claims of a former US Army Colonel, Philip Corso, who claimed that the so-called Roswell incident from 1947 really did involve the crash of a UFO. He claimed that he’d seen the bodies, and that his job at the Pentagon involved him in finding ways to use the technological secrets gleaned from the debris of the craft. Corso died of a heart attack shortly after going public with these claims, so took the secrets to his grave. Conspiracy theorists love this sort of thing, and are unlikely to be satisfied by any release of papers that doesn’t support their own bizarre theories about cover-ups and sinister conspiracies. There isn’t a cover-up in the UK, although a letter sent from the MOD to the American Government in 1965 admits that MOD policy “is to play down the subject of UFOs”.
My three years of official research and investigation into the UFO phenomenon changed my life for ever. I’d come into the job as a sceptic, but on the basis of the cases I’d looked at, and what I’d discovered in the files, I came to believe that some UFOs might well be extraterrestrial. If these files are now to be made public, I think people are in for a big surprise, and I believe that like me, people will come to see that this is a serious subject which raises very important defense and national security issues. As far as these files are concerned … the truth is in there!