The BBC posted an article today by former UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) UFO hunter Nick Pope. The article reviews the history of the UK’s official UFO investigation program and Pope’s argument for the reopening of the program. The story is on the front page of BBC.com and is featured under Editor’s Picks.
Pope says official interest in UFOs in the UK began with Sir Henry Tigard, the Chief Scientific Adviser for the MoD. His interest in the topic was piqued by UFO articles in newspapers. He encouraged a study which was conducted by a small committee called the Flying Saucer Working Party.
According to Pope, In 1951, the committee concluded “UFO sightings could be explained as misidentifications, hoaxes or delusions.”
They recommended that the government not spend resources investigating the topic. However, that changed the following year when Royal Air Force pilots and other military personnel witnessed UFOs during a NATO exercise. Some were tracked on radar. By 1953, the MoD officially began investigating UFOs.
“A UFO, it’s worth remembering, refers to any unidentified flying object – not necessarily an extraterrestrial one. While the MOD investigations were aimed at determining whether there was evidence of any threat, we were thinking more about Russians than Martians,” writes Pope.
“The theory was that some sightings might involve Soviet spy planes or bombers probing our air defences to try to evaluate the effectiveness of our radar systems, aircraft and pilots.”
Pope manned the UFO desk from 1991 to 1994, but he says “It wasn’t quite as glamorous as sci-fi movies imply: it was less Men in Black and more Men in Grey.”
The MoD mostly looked for conventional explanations for UFO sightings, and briefed defence ministers so they could respond to requests by members of parliament. He said their goal was to “respond in a polite, factual, but dismissive way.”
Pope says there were some good cases to come across the desk, such as the Rendelsham Forest incitement in 1980, and a case referred to as the Cosford incident in 1993. Pope can be seen talking about this case in the video at the top of this story.
According to Pope, “Of around 12,000 sightings that the programme investigated, approximately 5% remained unexplained.”
Although there were unexplained cases, the extraterrestrial possibility was still met with skepticism. Instead, other theories were entertained. A secret intelligence study on UFOs completed in 2000 concluded: “No evidence exists to suggest that the phenomena seen are hostile or under any type of control, other than that of natural physical forces.”
However, the report continued: “It is recommended that further investigation should be [made] into the applicability of various characteristics of plasmas in novel military applications.”
“This is the ultimate dirty secret about UFOs,” says Pope. “A natural phenomenon that could be weaponised would be hugely attractive to the military of any nation.”
In 2009, the MoD closed the UFO desk. The official stance became, “The MOD has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial life. However, in over fifty years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.”
However, Pope disagrees with their strategy. He says there is now no organized method for the UK to collect sighting reports from the public. He is not arguing we are leaving ourselves open for an attack by aliens, but there are other threats as well, such as drones. He warns, “Drones can be used in espionage, while some security analysts have expressed concerns that terrorists could use them to carry explosives, or slam them into passenger aircraft.”
“Without a place people can go to when they observe something strange, we can’t be fully apprised of what’s going on in our airspace,” Pope argues. “And, after all, even if we are alone in the Universe, we’re not alone on Earth.”
Listen to Pope talk about these and other UFO topics on the latest episode of Open Minds UFO Radio.