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We've picked something up on radar! by Don Solo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/donsolo/3029452838/

UFOs: Radaring in on the Evidence

It’s fair to say that my views on the nature and origin of the UFO phenomenon do not fit comfortably within what I consider to be the far-too-rigid and outmoded scenario that they represent literal extraterrestrial visitations. For the last decade or so, I have been more inclined to look elsewhere for answers than I was in times-past. But, there’s absolutely no doubt that the phenomenon is a distinctly real one, and one of paramount importance, too. Skeptics and outright debunkers, however, often ask: “Where is the evidence that UFOs represent a genuinely-unknown phenomenon?” My answer is: “If you look for the evidence, you can actually find it.”

And that’s one of the problems: many of the UFO skeptics that veer in the direction of debunking just don’t want to do the hard-work and the digging to find those ufological answers. Instead, they prefer to pontificate loudly from within the confines of their offices with respect to how this or that simply cannot be. If they were to spend a lot more time in the field, or digging into old, archived files – and far less time telling us why they are right and we are wrong – they might come across some extraordinary data that would force them to take a second look at the things they are so often quick to dismiss. Such as the following, extracted from official British Air Ministry files, and which tells a truly extraordinary story, one that even had certain factions of officialdom secretly accepting that something strange really was flying around…

 

On the morning of April 4, 1957 – according to now-declassified British Royal Air Force documents housed at the National Archive, Kew, England - radar operators at Balscalloch, Scotland reported to RAF West Freugh, Wigtownshire that they had detected a number of “unidentified objects on the screens of their radars.” And it quickly became apparent this was no Cold War penetration of British airspace by Soviet spy-planes or bombers.

As the mystified radar-operators watched their screens, they were amazed to see a large, stationary object hovering at 50,000 feet that then proceeded to ascend vertically to no less than 70,000 feet. According to the files: “A second radar was switched on and detected the object at the same range and height.”

The X-Files-style report continued: “The unidentified object was tracked on the plotting table. After remaining at one spot for about 10 minutes the pen moved slowly in a NE direction, and gradually increased speed. A speed check was taken which showed a ground speed of 70 mph, the height was then 54,000 feet.”

And further reports began to pour into military bases across Scotland, as the following extract reveals: “At this time another radar station 20 miles away, equipped with the same type of radars, was asked to search for the object. [An] echo was picked up at the range and bearing given and the radar was locked on.”

In fact, it appears that there were multiple UFOs in the area, as the RAF made clear in its report to the Air Ministry at Whitehall: “After the object had traveled about 20 miles it made a very sharp turn and proceeded to move SE at the same increasing speed. Here the reports of the two radar stations differ in details. The two at Balscalloch tracked an object at about 50,000 feet at a speed of about 240 mph while the other followed an object or objects at 14,000 feet. As the objects traveled towards the second radar site the operators detected four objects moving in line astern about 4,000 yards from each other. This observation was confirmed later by the other radars.”

Most significant of all at this stage was the assessment by the radar experts of the incredible proportions of the UFOs: “It was noted by the radar operators that the sizes of the echoes were considerably larger than would be expected from normal aircraft. In fact they considered that the size was nearer that of a ship’s echo.”

And officialdom’s additional thoughts on the affair make for extraordinary reading: “It is deduced from these reports that altogether five objects were detected by the three radars. Nothing can be said of physical construction except that they must have been either of considerable size or else constructed to be especially good reflectors.”

But is it possible that aircraft or balloons were to blame? Radar experts thought not: “There were not known to be any aircraft in the vicinity nor were there any meteorological balloons. Even if balloons had been in the area these would not account for the sudden change of direction and the movement at high speed against the prevailing wind.”

The military also addressed the possibility that cloud formations might have produced spurious radar reports. But, again, this was summarily ruled out: “Another point which has been considered is that the type of radar used is capable of locking onto heavily charged clouds. Cloud of this nature could extend up to the heights in question and cause abnormally large echoes on the radar screens. It is not thought however that this incident was due to such phenomena.”

And in a final, two-sentence statement, the military came to a remarkable, out-of-this-world conclusion: “The incident was due to the presence of five reflecting objects of unknown type and origin. It is considered unlikely that they were conventional aircraft, meteorological balloons or charged clouds.”

There ends the extraordinary report. That the West Freugh case mystified the military of 1957 was something that caused the Air Ministry a considerable amount of unease – even more so when it became apparent that the national media of the time had uncovered certain details of the story. Witness the following Secret report prepared by the Air Ministry’s Deputy Directorate of Intelligence:

“It is unfortunate that the Wigtownshire radar incident fell into the hands of the press. The two other radar incidents have not been made public and reached us by means of official secret channels. We suggest that Secretary of State does not specifically refer to these incidents as radar sightings. We suggest that S. of S. might reply: ‘Of the fifteen incidents reported this year, ten have been identified as conventional objects, two contain insufficient information for identification and three are under investigation.’”

On April 17, 1957 Stan Awbery, Labor Member of Parliament for the English city of Bristol, raised the issue of UFOs with Secretary of State for Air, George Ward. Awbery asked: “What recent investigations have been made into unidentified flying objects; what photographs have been taken; and what reports have been made on this subject?”

In his reply, George Ward stated that: “Reports are continually being received, and we investigate them wherever the details are sufficient. Most of the objects turn out to be balloons or meteors. One photograph recently received some publicity but was faked.”

Why Ward did not inform Awbery of the then-recent – and highly-credible – incident at West Freugh, Scotland is something of a mystery. That is unless one takes the view that the encounter was deemed so sensitive by the Air Ministry that the non-disclosure of information to elected members of the British Parliament was thought justified – which in itself is a matter of profound significance. And possibly too significant for many of the skeptics to dare confront…

 TAGS:

  • saskahavas

    I just searched the National Archive, and could not find anything related to this incident. Can you provide a link to where we can find the document in the National Archives, or the necessary search terms to access it (I tried various combinations “Wigtownshire”, “Balscalloch”, “Radar”, “UFO”, “1957″)? It’d be good to have the EVIDENCE, in the form of actual records, to provide to skeptical folks.

  • Nick_redfern

    Saskahavas:
    The official file number of the documents on this case is AIR 20/9320. If it’s not available online, contact them via email, letter or phone, quote that number, and you can order photocopied copies of the document to be sent to you via mail.

  • Nick_redfern

    Saskahavas:
    I should add that I obtained my copies of the file years ago, via mail, long before the Internet was even a dream. I think around 1988/1989. That’s how long ago they were declassified. I can’t confirm the following, but maybe some of the older UFO files – declassified 20-years ago or more – are not online. But, regardless, there should be no hassle re you getting them by mail.

  • http://www.dailygrail.com Rick MG

    “Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is already made up.” — Rule #1 in the Skeptic’s Manual.

    Best example is Seth Shostak & Benjamin Radford “debating” UFOs with Leslie Kean (http://www.dailygrail.com/Alien-Nation/2010/11/Return-the-Saucer) — neither of the skeptics had even read Kean’s book “UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record”! The irony is, Kean is the real skeptic.

  • —-

    Yes, Rick, there is the problem of the threshold of what some people consider plausible and what implausible. Some people do set the threshold way too high.

    However, I have to point out that the threshold of ruling out various on-earth phenomena needs to be put sufficiently high as well. For example, in the article above I find it curious that no mention is made of the refraction, that is, bending, of the radar rays. This “anomalous propagation” condition can make for rather startling radar sightings from rather mundane terrestrial phenomena.

    I remain convinced that there are phenomena that we are not conclusively familiar with yet. However, in my work as a radar expert in the armed forces of a European country, I have not seen a single oddity where I could rule out terrestrial phenomena to full satisfaction of the “Generals and Government Officials”.

    //P