In 1993, an RAF Wing Commander lobbied MoD officials about the need for a properly funded study.
He told them: “The national security implications (of UFOs) are considerable. We have many reports of strange objects in the skies and have never investigated them.”
He added: “If the sightings are of devices not of earth then their purpose needs to be established as a matter of priority. There has been no apparently hostile intent and other possibilities are: (1) military reconnaissance, (2) scientific, (3) tourism.”
The Wing Commander, whose name is blanked out in the documents, said the MoD could learn from the craft.
“If the reports are taken at face value then devices exist that do not use conventional reaction propulsion systems, they have a very wide range of speeds and are stealthy. I suggest we could use the technology, if it exists.” …
The internal debate in the MoD came to a head in 1995, when documents were made public revealing that UFO reports were routinely copied to specialist “Defence Intelligence” branches.
An exasperated intelligence office wrote to the UFO Desk: “I see no reason for continuing to deny that (Defence Intelligence) has an interest in UFOs.
“However, if the association is formally made public, then the MoD will no doubt be pressurised to state what the intelligence role/interest is.
“This could lead to disbelief and embarrassment since few people are likely to believe the truth that lack of funds and higher priorities have prevented any study of the thousands of reports received.”
Dr Clarke said: “Some of these officials, like the Wing Commander, obviously believed in some pretty weird stuff. He doesn’t seem to have any evidence for his theories, but seems to have just been watching the X Files, like everyone else at the time.
“These are senior officials and yet they believe some pretty bizarre things.”
An inquiry, Project Condign, was eventually launched in 1996, apparently without the knowledge of then defence secretary Michael Portillo. It was completed in 2000 under Geoff Hoon.
The report found: “That (UFOs) exist is indisputable. Credited with the ability to hover, land, take-off, accelerate to exceptional velocities and vanish, they can reportedly alter their direction of flight suddenly and clearly can exhibit aerodynamic characteristics well beyond those of any known aircraft of missile – either manned or unmanned.”
It went on that, although they existed, UFOs presented no threat to defence.
It found that many sightings of UFOs were in fact “plasmas” of gas caused by charges of electricity in the atmosphere.
The author even suggested that exposure to plasmas could cause responses in parts of the brain that lead to elaborate hallucinations that might be interpreted as supernatural experiences of encounters with aliens.
The inquiry examined seven “near misses” involving RAF aircraft and “unexplained aerial phenomenon”.
The unnamed author concluded that “the possibility exists that a fatal accident might have occurred in the past” as a result of aircrew avoiding a UFO.
The study recommended that pilots should make “no attempt. to out manoeuvre a UAP during interception”.