The British UFO Files: An Estimate of the Situation?

In recent weeks, the release of a trove of once-classified British UFO documents has managed to arouse controversy, both for the information contained therein, as well as the fact that the documents have had a somewhat limited readership: following their release by the Ministry of Defense, the files were not disclosed in an easily-searchable digital format, evoking cries of suppression, and even conspiracy from eager potential readers worldwide.

Fortunately, news agencies in the UK have been following up, with featured articles appearing every few days that detail elements contained within the files, often dealing with hair-raising encounters kept quiet by the MOD for decades.

One of the most recent reports to come to light deals with an unusual, Cold-War era incident that occurred in October 1982. It involved an American RC-135 spy plane that, while monitoring Soviet military operations, came under some kind of surveillance by a large, unidentified and brightly-lit aircraft.

The USAF base detailed in the report was located at RAF Troodos on Cyprus, and discussed an incident involving an unidentified aircraft which lasted close to 90 minutes.

According to the report, two US Navy F-14 fighters were involved, as well as an RAF Phantom, which had been diverted to join the F-14s in pursuit of the aircraft over Cyprus. The object was observed by the pilots of the American crew streaking away toward the African coast; the intercepting pilots did not report seeing the object.

According to the Sun, “Radar film, tapes and transcripts of the distress call were also analysed by intelligence officers – but removed from the files.”

Reports of similar encounters between military aircraft and unidentified objects are rife throughout UFO literature, having been disclosed in government documents by a number of countries around the world. The UK has a long history of similar incidents, which include an event that occurred in 1956 at Lakenheath-Bentwaters (not to be confused with the later RAF Bentwaters incident, otherwise known as the “Rendlesham Forest Incident”).

Apart from the reports themselves, we are left with considerations about what, precisely, these kinds of incidents represent. Within the broader UFO narrative, a number of hypotheses emerge, which range from skeptical interpretations of the incidents as being pure misidentification of prosaic phenomena, to secret military operations and, yes, the long-held idea of alien visitors.

Different theories, ranging from the thought-provoking, to the downright absurd, have emerged over the years pertaining to UFO sightings. A listing of these might include the following; note that these are arranged in no particular order, and taking into full account that some are highly improbable, while some are, at very least, far less likely than others:

  • Extraterrestrial visitors
  • Unexplained Natural Phenomena
  • Secret technologies developed by the U.S. or other world superpowers
  • A so-called “Breakaway Civilization”
  • Time travelers from the future
  • “Cryptoterrestrial” hidden denizens of Earth
  • Interdimensional visitors
  • Psycho-social phenomenon and misperception/misidentification
  • Evidence of a hologram-like “Matrix” reality, in which UFOs are the operators
  • A form of artificial intelligence of unknown origin

An open-minded collection of ideas such as this takes into account a number of very creative concepts, borrowed largely from science fiction. Though in truth, this has been the case since the inception of the modern UFO phenomenon beginning shortly after WWII, where such ideas began to be appended to the subject in an effort to try and account for the seemingly unexplainable.

In other words, the fact that no simple explanation exists for the “how, why and what” associated with these alleged aircraft has inspired a lot of imaginative thinking over the years, which, of course, isn’t to say that something like “extraterrestrial visitors” can be ruled out entirely. Rather, it is to drive home the point that in the absence of a clear explanation for UFOs, a division of thought has seemingly occurred, where one end of the broader spectrum favors the otherworldly, while the other proposes that simple things have been blown out of proportion, and that no such “phenomenon” exists at all.

These two “primary arguments” will inevitably continue to be appended to the UFO situation, especially with the release of new material like the MOD’s current batch of files. However, if there is truly anything we can glean from new data like this (even if it is decades old by the time we see it), perhaps it is that between the two extremes, there is something which might logically account for why government agencies have had such a long history of encounters with phenomena they can’t explain… and which, at times, has warranted military responses, like with the 1982 Cyprus incident.

A multitude of reports like these, often involving what are described as being clearly tangible objects, and seemingly of technological origin, do remain unexplained. Beyond any filtration through overt belief or skepticism (which often requires a certain level of illogic in order to bend the phenomena to fit the parameters of the interpreter), we are left with a plethora of data that does suggest that something unusual is occurring… whatever that is. Logically, this would appear to stand, even if only a handful of these reports remain viable after cold, hard, skeptical analysis.

So what is our “estimate of the situation”? As with virtually all rational attempts to draw conclusions about the UFO phenomenon, we are left with too many holes in the data to know anything for certain, apart from the fact that something exists, which is seemingly technological, and which cannot be accounted for based solely on knowledge of technologies and aircraft on the civilian level. In our opinion, evoking the paranormal in order to account for these objects requires a logical leap, whereas overconfidence in the skeptical dismissal of every UFO incident, despite the data, represents equally illogical behavior.

Somewhere in between these two “universes of belief”, a more likely, and logical, solution may exist; these aircraft are obviously capable of operating in Earth’s atmosphere, and are seemingly highly-adaptable to earthly circumstances. In equal measure, these objects appear to display an interest in earthly happenings, often interacting with military aircraft; this would seem to suggest that the technologies in question are being operated with an interest in things of a political nature, rather than the pursuit of scientific knowledge, etc. Perhaps this is a significant clue to the ultimate nature of the more tangible UFO incidents that have turned up over the years.

At the end of the day, the same old conundrums keep turning up: we need more physical evidence to back up the claims of tangible objects. Conversely, if these things are “ours”, then whoever is in-the-know isn’t talking… and the likelihood that those with a “need to know” would (or could) keep so quiet, and for so long, seems almost as unlikely as space aliens, dimensional visitors, or time travelers.

If there is something tangible at work here, then there must be some kind of solution too, right? In the long run, solving the UFO mystery may require some creative thinking, paired with a willingness to keep our ideas in check, and not get ahead of ourselves with our theories.


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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