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NORAD Investigates UFOs, according to ‘Declassified’ Memos

In a series of recently declassified memos and operations manuals, an interesting dichotomy has emerged. The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) seems to have been caught in a lie. Publicly and officially, NORAD does not investigate or have any interest in the UFO phenomenon. Yet, in a collection of documents unearthed by researcher Paul Dean, the top secret reality is very different; NORAD’s collection of UFO data is thorough and goes directly to their top brass.

NORAD is a joint American and Canadian military organization tasked with the defense of North American airspace. In simple terms, they use a multitude of complex radar and satellite systems to maintain a constant eye on the skies. This live aerospace picture, which even goes up into space, is designed to track everything flying above the United States and Canada. While the official mission of NORAD is to focus on the defence of sovereignty, UFO researcher Paul Dean has uncovered several documents, the mandates of which are to also keep track of unknown objects which occasionally seem to show up on NORAD’s aerospace tracking infrastructure.

I interviewed Dean in regards to his extensive knowledge concerning NORAD, and their “unofficial” stance on UFOs. According to Dean, the standard line being towed by the branches of the military, and NORAD itself is that UFOs are not investigated. Since the closing of Project Blue Book in 1970, UFOs have not been of any interest to any government agency. Dean stated that,

NORAD has generally maintained that the only ‘UFOs’ they detect and track are simply strayed aircraft, hostile formations of Russian combat aircraft and such.

The declassified documents suggest that this may not always be the case.

Dean provided me copies of the documents, as well as some background on the nature of their purpose. He highlighted one particular procedures manual called the Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings. The document instructs personnel on what and how to report incoming air, land and sea vehicles to their superiors. The list of objects is pretty typical; aircraft, missiles, submarines, boats. Section C of the list, however, plainly states ‘Unidentified Flying Objects.’

Dean was quick to point out that,

‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ is listed as distinct from single aircraft, formations of aircraft, missiles, and the rest.

This begs the question; if all UFOs are simply conventional aircraft that are misidentified, wouldn’t they be listed under the standard aircraft section?

Dean also explained that these reporting documents are sent directly to the Commander-in-Chief of NORAD. So if NORAD is not interested in UFOs, why is the officer in charge of the whole program allowing themselves to be bothered with UFO reports?

Even more interesting is a radar tracking manual for operators, known as NORAD/ADCOM Manual 55–19, Vol. VII, Aerospace Reporting System. The manual’s purpose is to provide instructions to regional control centres on a system called ‘OPREP-3.’ In a section titled, Identification of Air Traffic, the manual goes on to explain how unknown radar tracks should be handled, and who they should be sent to.

Point 1 of figure 15 states,

1 (U) Subject and Purpose. This report provides the NCOC with additional data concerning each track classified as unknown (to include unidentified flying objects – UFOs)

The famous NCOC Entrance

The famous NCOC Entrance

The document goes on to explain the rates at which this data needs to be transferred to the NCOC depending on the defence readiness condition (DEFCON) level NORAD is at any given time. The more extreme the DEFCON, the faster the unknown radar data needs to be sent to the NCOC. This makes sense. Dean explained that the NCOC stands for the NORAD Combat Operations Center, which is in Colorado. It is essentially the central nervous system for the entire organization; all regional NORAD bases report to it, and it issues commands to the regional stations. Dean finds this document interesting because,

It is still rather extraordinary to see the phrase ‘unidentified flying objects – UFOs’ mentioned so distinctly.

Even more interesting is that all regional NORAD stations must report unknown radar tracks, UFOs included, to the NCOC. Again, if UFOs are not taken seriously by NORAD officially, why submit this data to NORAD’s command center? Dean points to another document discovered by his colleague, Canadian UFO writer, Palmiro Campagna. This particular memo from 1988 directs NORAD personnel to no longer send UFO reports to National Defence Operations Centre in Ottawa, Canada. Instead, it provides the appropriate in-house agencies that need this information. It states that unknown object reports are to be sent to the following: “Air Command Operations Centre Winnipeg, NORAD Cheyenne Mtn Complex CO/J3Y,  and FGHQ North Bay/SSO Int.”

Dean explained that these regional centres are of key importance to the NORAD defence structure. The first one located in Winnipeg, Canada answers directly to NORAD headquarters. It is near the geographic centre of North America, is in command of two other regional bases in Alaska and Florida, and can scramble fighter jets to intercept targets within minutes anywhere on the continent. The second on the list is in Colorado, and is literally the building which houses the men and women who directly control all NORAD operations. The final center is the Canadian regional NORAD headquarters, but more importantly, home to NORAD’s Special Security Office which is tasked with aerospace flight control and surveillance. Dean explained,

…and the ‘Int’ always stands for Intelligence.

To sum up, all UFO radar and observational reports go to four places. They go to the Canadian and American NORAD headquarters, NORAD’s NCOC, to NORAD’s center in Winnipeg which is tasked with scrambling defensive and offensive fighters to engage inbound targets, and NORAD’s in-house surveillance and intelligence branch. This is not some simple “UFO desk” hiding in the back corner of some out of the way government building; these four NORAD centers are the primary defence structures for all of North America.

Air Command Ops in Winnipeg, Canada can scramble fighter jets to intercept any target over North America within a couple of minutes.

Air Command Ops in Winnipeg, Canada can scramble fighter jets to intercept any target over North America within a couple of minutes.

Clearly military organizations are looking into the UFO situation. While these documents do not provide a smoking gun in relation to evidence for UFOs, they do clearly indicate that the government and military are very interested in them. UFO evidence has been nothing short of elusive, but for Dean, these documents do suggest something odd is going on. While the military probably doesn’t have any alien bodies locked up in any freezers, they do seem very interested in the unidentified objects that occasionally show up in our airspace.

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  • BW

    The problem here is the wording. The NORAD document can also mean “UFO” as anything flying that cannot be classified as an aircraft, missile, etc. — and that situation could occur because of a lack of information, system failure, and so on. To believe otherwise is to assume that NORAD uses the term “UFO” as synonymous with “intelligently controlled flying object of non-terrestrial origin” … and that is a big assumption.

    That said, I believe there are unexplained phenomena in the atmosphere (and on the ground, under water, etc.) It would surprise me to learn that NORAD did not track such objects and attempt interception … but like the phrase “fast walker”, there is probably a dedicated jargon to describe such events and the objects associated with them.

  • Ghostdanser

    Yep…nothing really mysterious here. If an incoming aircraft turns off its transponder then you have to rely on primary radar information, range to target, bearing to target…and if it is a 3d radar altitude to target. You still need to establish communications or get eyes on the target to determine who/what it is. If the target leaves your airspace before it is identified then it may remain a UFO forever. You may be able to say that based off of the altitude it’s flying, the speed, strength of the radar signature, etc. that it’s most likely a Russian TU-95 Bear bomber…but in the end it is just a guess without confirmation. That said, knowing some of the the people that make those guesses I’d say that they are pretty accurate and know how to do very detailed analysis of radar data.

  • St Kos

    Thank you gentlemen for pointing that out. The author himself explains NORAD as North American AEROSPACE Defense Command. They were concerned with anything entering our airspace that they detected. I am sure they tracked falling space debris and meteors as well.

  • Ghostdanser

    The 1st Space Operations Squadron tracks the space debris in orbit, when it deorbits I’m pretty sure they notify NORAD. So yeah, they track pretty much anything that appears on the radars they monitor.

    Probably worth pointing out just a couple other things, atmospheric conditions can give false targets, malfunctions can give false targets, and a lot of drug smugglers that try to sneak in frequently turn off their transponders…which pretty much makes them UFO’s also. And then their are “black” programs which the watch standers may not be read into…so they will log an unidentified target…but the higher ups know it’s a test aircraft, which they won’t want known…so it remains a UFO.