[RAF Rudloe Manor, photo by Derek Hawkins]
The papers included here reflect the dramatic surge of interest in the UFO subject that took place during the early and mid-1990s.
This surge was the direct result of increasingly sensational stories emerging from America, following the continuing spread of rumours initiated by New Mexico-based UFO researcher Paul Bennewitz in the 1980s. Key elements of these stories – including the existence of an underground alien base in New Mexico and the US government’s UFO cover up following the Roswell ‘incident’ – were themselves seeded with Bennewitz by people working with the US Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), a story told in some detail in Mirage Men .
By the mid-’90s this lore had itself become the subject of intense popular media coverage, feeding into TV and cinema fictionalisations like the hugely successful Independence Day (1996), the X-Files (from 1993) and Dark Skies (from 1996), and spawning hordes of eager new ufologists looking for ‘the truth’ that they believed was out there.
Based on the PRO’s handy highlights guide, the following incidents look to be of particular interest:
RAF Rudloe Manor, Wiltshire – Britain’s ‘Area 51’
UFOlogists believe this RAF facility was the equivalent of the US “Area 51” in Nevada where some believe wreckage from the Roswell UFO was taken and Black Project aircraft developed. In a 1996 letter to a UFOlogist, MoD admitted Rudloe – the head quarters of the RAF Police’s Flying Complaints Flight (FCF) – had acted until 1992 as the co-ordination point for reports of UFOs received from RAF bases. But it said no research was carried out there and reports were simply forwarded to the MoD’s office (known as Sec(AS)2) at Whitehall that was the focal point for UFO reports -DEFE 24/1978 (p146-47, p168-69, p222-23); DEFE 24/1982 (p311-15); DEFE 24/1993 (p11-15). In 1997 reports were made to MoD that individuals who were convinced MoD were hiding UFO secrets at Rudloe had attempted to break into the base: DEFE 24/1995 (p249-51). MoD responds to a Parliamentary question from Martin Redmond MP on Rudloe Manor at DEFE 24/2004 (p271-71).
RAF aircraft scrambled to investigate unidentified radar targets.
A Parliamentary Question was tabled by Martin Redmond MP in 1996. An RAF briefing reveals there were an average of 200 scrambles every year to intercept Soviet aircraft during the Cold War. But from 1991-95 there were no scrambles to investigateunidentified targets on radar. However aircraft were scrambled to shadow “hijacked aircraft” and to participate in covert exercises against drug-running alongside HM Customs and Excise. Papers can be found at DEFE 24/1983 (p40-48, p53).
David’s commentary on this file is interesting: ‘This document reveals that before 1991 – which saw the collapse of the Soviet Union – RAF aircraft were scrambled on average 200 times every year to investigate unidentified objects seen by UK air defence radars. The vast majority of these were identified as Soviet reconnaissance aircraft probing NATO defences in the North Atlantic. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall the frequency of these scrambles reduced to zero. There were none recorded between September 1991 and the summer of 1996…’
DA-Notices and UFOs
Denial of a claim, attributed to a BBC source and circulated by UFOlogists, that MoD had imposed a Defence Advisory-Notice restricting media reporting of “black triangle” UFOs/experimental aircraft. Papers can be found in DEFE 24/1991 (p15), DEFE 24/1992 (p136, p289-90), DEFE 24/1993 (p188-90) and DEFE 24/2013 (p73 74, p100-101).
The complete files are available from the National Archives
See Dr David Clarke‘s site for more discussion.