MoD shows 'close encounter' files
Military sightings of UFOs, an "alien abduction" in London and an unidentified aircraft shadowing a Lancaster Bomber feature among thousands of close-encounter documents released by the National Archives.
The extra-terrestrial files reveal how the phenomenon was discussed at the highest level of government and security services worldwide, including at the United Nations (UN), the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and was even the subject of a debate in the House of Lords.
The previously-classified records show that in January 1979 - during the peak of the Winter of Discontent - in addition to discussions on trade union strikes, the House of Lords held a debate of the subject of UFOs - the only full debate on UFOs ever held in British Parliament.
The files reveal that in December 1977 the government used its influence to talk down a call by Grenada president, Sir Eric Gairy, for a UN agency to conduct research into UFO sightings. Gairy eventually withdrew his proposal but continued his campaign for a full UN debate on UFOs - calling on the UN General Assembly to make 1978 "the year of the UFO".
One of the 35 newly-released files shows 15 unidentified aircraft were detected on radar approaching the UK between January and July 2001 in the months leading up to 9/11. The MoD received just one UFO report (with no radar corroboration) on September 11 itself.
Other highlights include claims the Home Office had emergency procedures for dealing with landed and crashed satellites and UFOs; US policy files on UFOs, including CIA papers discussing the use of UFO reports for "psychological warfare"; an alleged UFO sighting by crew of HMS Manchester off the coast of Norway and how the logbook recording the incident could not be recovered.
Also included in the documents was a man who believed he may have been abducted by aliens after seeing an unusual aircraft one evening and experiencing a period of missing time; and one report describing a War of the Worlds incident in 1967 that, for a few hours at least, was treated as a potentially real "alien invasion" of the UK.
Dr David Clarke, author of the book The UFO Files and senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "Before the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, we had to wait 30 years or more before we could see files on UFOs. Following its introduction, questions on UFOs ranked in the top-three most popular FOI requests received by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
"I was one of the MoD's most 'persistent correspondents' and eventually persuaded MoD and other government departments to release their information on this perplexing and controversial subject. You can see from the files that I wasn't the only one interested in the subject, with the phenomenon discussed at the highest level of government right across the globe."
The release is the largest disclosure of documents so far by The National Archives. The files contain over 8,500 pages of UFO sightings and reports, colour photographs and drawings, RAF investigations, unusual radar detections, parliamentary briefings and - for the first time - documents on the government's policy on UFOs.