- On 15 February 1999 an air traffic controller in Scotland
noticed something strange on his radar screen. A bright blip on his screen
suggested there was a very large object travelling at 3,000mph over the
Scottish coastline heading south-west to Belfast.
- The size of the blip suggested the object was 10 miles
long and two miles wide. Two minutes later the object disappeared from
the radar screen.
- Three months earlier, MoD documents record that a commercial
pilot flying over the Midlands reported an unusual object travelling at
'very high speed' with a very bright strobe light flashing once every 20
- Although the two incidents were unrelated, both were
reported to a little-known department in the Ministry of Defence, known
as Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a. This is the secretive section in Whitehall
which collates reports of unidentified flying objects that cross British
- Whitehall has traditionally treated reports of UFO sightings
as highly classified and only released information to the public after
30 years. But the parliamentary Ombudsman insisted that the MoD hand this
information to Colin Ridyard, a research chemist from Wales.
- Dr Ridyard had been seeking information relating to UFO
sightings by pilots or radar operators between July 1998 and July 1999.
Initially the MoD refused on the ground it would be too expensive. But
after the intervention of the ombudsman, Michael Buckley, the MoD agreed
to release the information as a one-off exercise for £75. The
Ministry handed two reports to Ridyard, yet official information from the
Civil Aviation Authority suggests there had been additional sightings.
During the same period the CAA said it reported two more UFO sightings
to the MoD, neither of which the Ministry disclosed.
- According to official CAA reports, in the same month
that a radar picked up an enormous object flying across Scotland, a pilot
flying over the North Sea became startled when his aircraft became illuminated
by an 'incandescent' light. Three other aircraft in the area reported seeing
a ball of light moving at high speed. Air traffic controllers reported
there were no strange aircraft in the area, but five minutes later an
operator at a weather station picked up a fast-moving object on his radar.
- The other incident which CAA reported to the MoD occurred
in June 1999 when the pilot of a B757 flying over the North Sea reported
an unidentified military-looking aircraft passing close by in the opposite
direction. Nothing was seen on the plane's radar or by air traffic controllers.
The MoD told the Authority that there were no military aircraft known to
be in that area at the time.
- Although an MoD spokeswoman would not discuss individual
sightings, she said all these events had perfectly normal explanations.
'Some-times radars have spurious readings caused by military aircraft in
the vicinity, and radar-jamming facilities and bright lights on the underside
of aircraft can be caused by events on the ground.'
- In a letter to one of Ridyard's local MPs, Defence Minister
John Spellar said: 'My department has no interest or role with respect
to UFO/flying saucer matters or to the question of the existence or otherwise
of extraterrestrial life forms - about which we remain open-minded.'
- However, declassified gov ernment documents in the Public
Records Office from June 1965 reveal that 'it was official MoD policy to
play down the subject of unidentified flying objects and to avoid attaching
undue public attention or publicity to the subject... as a result we have
never had any political pressure to mount a large-scale investigation'.
Other documents from that time state: 'The press are never to be given
information about unusual radar sightings_ and [unusual visual] sightings
are in no circumstances to be disclosed to the press.'
- But Ridyard said: 'This is not about little green men,
but about freedom of information. It is clear there are many strange incidents
that happen in the British skies that are kept secret. There may be issues
of aircraft safety or natural phenomena, but by keeping this information
secret these incidents cannot be scrutinised by the public or the scientific
- One of the most infamous incidents relating to a UFO
sighting in Britain only came to light through US freedom of information
legislation. This revealed that in December 1980 three security patrolmen
investigating a potential air crash near the US Air Force base in Suffolk
saw a strange glowing triangular object hovering in the forest near the
base which had a 'pulsing red light on top and blue lights underneath'.
- An official report by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Halt
, the deputy base commander, included a description of the events and stated
that the next day three depressions were found in the forest where the
object was discovered which showed radiation readings. Later that night
three star-like objects were seen in the sky moving 'rapidly in sharp angular
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