Flying Saucer Working Party (UK, 1950–1951)
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense, alarmed by reports of seemingly advanced unidentified aircraft, followed the US military’s example by conducting its own study on UFOs in 1950. A research group was formed based on the recommendation of the chemist Henry Tizard, and was involved in similar work to “Project Sign”. After less than a year, the directorate, named the “Flying Saucer Working Party” (FSWP), concluded that most observations were either cases of mistaken identity, optical illusions, psychological delusions, or hoaxes, and recommended that no further investigation on the phenomena should be undertaken. In 1952, the directorate informed Prime Minister Winston Churchill, after his inquiry about UFOs, that they had found no evidence of extraterrestrial spacecraft. The FSWP files were classified for fifty years and were released to the British public in 2001.
Project Magnet, Project Second Story (Canada, 1950–1954)
Project Magnet, led by senior radio engineer Wilbert B. Smith from the Department of Transport, had the goal of studying magnetic phenomena, specifically geomagnetism, as a potential propulsion method for vehicles. Smith believed UFOs were using this method to achieve flight. The final report of the project, however, contained no mention of geomagnetism. It discussed twenty-five UFO sightings reported during 1952, and concluded with the notion that “extraterrestrial space vehicles” are probable.
Along with the Smith group, a parallel committee dedicated solely to dealing with “flying saucer” reports was formed. This committee, called Project Second Story, was sponsored by the Defence Research Board, with its main purpose being to collect, catalog, and correlate data from UFO sighting reports. The committee appeared to have dissolved after five meetings, as the group deemed the collected material unsuitable for scientific analysis.
Project Blue Book (US, 1951–1969)
As a continuation of Project Sign and Project Grudge in 1951, the USAF launched Project Blue Book, led by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt. Under Ruppelt, the collection and investigation of UFO sightings became more systematic. The project issued a series of status reports, which were declassified in September 1960 and made available in 1968. Project Blue Book was terminated in December 1969, following the report of the Condon Committee. Until then, 12,618 incidents had been investigated, the grand majority of which explained by conventional means. 701 cases, around 6%, remained “unidentified”. Officially, the USAF concluded from the project that the phenomena investigated were of no concern to national security, and that there was no evidence the sightings categorized as “unidentified” were caused by extraterrestrial aircraft.
Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 (US, 1952–1954)
Ruppelt contracted a team of scientists from the Battelle Memorial Institute to evaluate 3200 early sightings gathered by Project Blue Book. They conducted analysis, primarily statistical, on the subject for almost two years. The study concluded that the more complete the data was and the better the report, the more likely it was that the report was classified as “unidentified”. Those reports classified as “unidentified” numbered 21.5% of the total (33% of the highest quality reports) and required unanimous agreement among the four project scientists, whereas “identifieds” required agreement by only two of four analysts. A statistical analysis of six characteristics, such as speed and sighting duration, found statistically significant differences in at least four of the six categories between identifieds and unidentifieds. However, the report emphasized the subjectivity of the data, and stated that the conclusions drawn from the study were not based on facts, but on the subjective observations and estimations of the individual. Furthermore, the report summary and conclusion stated that “unknowns” were not likely something beyond the era’s technology, and almost certainly not “flying saucers”.
Robertson Panel (US, 1953)
Before the final Battelle report was published, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had developed an interest in UFOs as a national security issue, and set up a committee to examine existing UFO data. The panel, headed by mathematician and physicist Howard P. Robertson, met from January 14 to 17, 1953. It concluded unanimously that the UFO sightings posed no direct threat to national security, but did find that a continued emphasis on UFO reporting might threaten government functions by causing the channels of communication to clog with irrelevant reports and by inducing mass hysteria. Also, the panel worried that nations hostile to the US might use the UFO phenomena to disrupt air defenses. To meet these problems, the panel stated that a policy of public education on the lack of evidence behind UFOs was needed, to be done through the mass media and schools, among others. It also recommended monitoring private UFO groups for subversive activities.
The recommendations of the Roberson Panel were partly implemented through a series of special military regulations. The December 1953 Joint-Army-Navy-Air Force Publication 146 (JANAP 146) made publication of UFO sightings a crime under the Espionage Act. The Air Force Regulation 200-2 (AFR 200-2) revision of 1954 made all UFO sightings reported to the USAF classified. AFR 200-2 revision of February 1958 allowed the military to deliver to the FBI names of those who were “illegally or deceptively” bringing UFOs to public attention.
Condon Committee (US, 1966–1968)
After the recommendations of the Robertson Panel, the USAF wanted to end its involvement in UFOs, and pass Project Blue Book to another agency. In October 1966, the USAF contracted the University of Colorado, under the leadership of physicist Edward U. Condon, for $325,000 to conduct more scientific investigations of selected UFO sightings and to make recommendations about the project’s future.
The committee looked at ninety-one UFO sightings, of which 30% was unidentifiable. The report concluded that there was no “direct evidence” that UFOs were extraterrestrial spacecraft, that UFO research from the past twenty-one years had not contributed anything to scientific knowledge, and that further study was not justified. As a direct result of the Condon report, Project Blue Book was closed in December 1969. Many ufologists, however, were not satisfied with the Condon report, and considered it a cover-up.
RAND Corporation paper (US, 1968)
The RAND Corporation produced a short internal document titled “UFOs: What to Do?”, published in November 1968. The paper gave a historical summary of the UFO phenomenon, talked briefly about issues concerning extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel, presented a few case studies and discussed the phenomenological content of a UFO sighting, reviewed hypotheses, and concluded with a recommendation to organize a central UFO report-receiving agency and conducting more research on the phenomenon.
Project Identification (US, 1973–1980)
In 1973, a wave of UFO sightings in southeast Missouri prompted Harley D. Rutledge, physics professor at the University of Missouri, to conduct an extensive field investigation of the phenomenon. The findings were published in the book Project Identification: the first scientific field study of UFO phenomena. Although taking a specific interest in describing unidentified aerial phenomena, as opposed to identifying them, the book references the presumed intelligence of the sighted objects. Rutledge’s study results were not published in any peer-reviewed journal or other scientific venue or format.
Studies by GEPAN, SERPA & GEIPAN (France, 1977–present)
In 1977, the French Space Agency CNES Director General set up a unit to record UFO sighting reports. The unit was initially known as Groupe d’Etudes des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés (GEPAN), changed in 1988 to Service d’expertise de rentrée atmosphérique Phenom (SERPA) and in 2005 to Groupe d’études et d’informations sur les phénomènes aérospatiaux non identifiés (GEIPAN).
GEIPAN found a mundane explanation for the vast majority of recorded cases, but in 2007, after 30 years of investigation, 1,600 cases, approximately 28% of total cases, remained unexplained “despite precise witness accounts and good-quality evidence recovered from the scene” and are categorized as “Type D”.
In April 2010, GEIPAN statistics stated that 23% of all cases were of Type D. However, Jean-Jacques Velasco, the head of SEPRA from 1983 to 2004, wrote a book in 2004 noting that 13.5% of the 5,800 cases studied by SEPRA were dismissed without any rational explanation, and stated that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin.
United Nations (1977–1979)
Thanks to the lobbying of Eric Gairy, the Prime Minister of Grenada, the United Nations General Assembly addressed the UFO issue in the late 1970s. On July 14, 1978, a panel, with Gordon Cooper, J. Allen Hynek, and Jacques Vallée among its members, held a hearing to inform the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim about the matter. As a consequence of this meeting, the UN adopted decisions A/DEC/32/424 and A/DEC/33/426, which called for the “establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, co-ordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena”.
Project Hessdalen / Project EMBLA (Norway, 1983–present / Italy 1999–2004)
Since 1981, in an area near Hessdalen in Norway, unidentified flying objects have been commonly observed. This so-called Hessdalen phenomenon has twice been the subject of scientific field studies: Project Hessdalen (1983–1985, 1995–) secured technical assistance from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, the University of Oslo, and the University of Bergen, while Project EMBLA (1999–2004) was a team of Italian scientists led by Ph.D. Massimo Teodorani from the Istituto di Radioastronomia di Bologna.
Both studies confirmed the presence of the phenomenon and were able to record it with cameras and various technical equipment such as radar, laser, and infrared. The origin and nature of the lights remains unclear. Researchers from Project EMBLA speculated the possibility that atmospheric plasma had been the origin of the phenomenon.
Project Condign (UK, 1996–2000)
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) published in 2006 the “Scientific & Technical Memorandum 55/2/00a” of a four-volume, 460-page report entitled Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region, based on a study by DI55 (a section of the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence of the Defence Intelligence Staff) codenamed Project Condign. It discusses the British UFO reports received between 1959 and 1997.
The report affirms that UFOs are an existing phenomenon, but points out that they present no threat to national defense. The report further states that there is no evidence that UFO sightings are caused by incursions of intelligent origin, or that any UFO consists of solid objects which might create a collision hazard. Although the study admits to being unable to explain all analyzed UFO sightings with certainty, it recommends that section DI55 ceases monitoring UFO reports, as they do not provide information useful for Defence Intelligence. The report concludes that a small percentage of sightings that can not be easily explained are caused by atmospheric plasma phenomenon similar to ball lightning; Magnetic and other energy fields produced by these “buoyant plasma formations” are responsible for the appearance of so-called “Black Triangles” as well as having hallucinogenic effects on the human mind, inducing experiences of Close Encounters.
Sturrock Panel Report (US, 1997)
From Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, 1997 a workshop examining selected UFO incidents took place in Tarrytown, New York. The meeting was initiated by Peter A. Sturrock, who had reviewed the Condon report and found it dissatisfying. The international review panel consisted of nine physical scientists, who responded to eight investigators of UFO reports, who were asked to present their strongest data. The final report of the workshop was published under the title “Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports” in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1998. The study concluded that the studied cases presented no unequivocal evidence for the presence of unknown physical phenomena or for extraterrestrial intelligence, but argued that a continued study of UFO cases might be scientifically valuable.
COMETA Report (France, 1999)
COMETA (Comité d’Études Approfondies, “Committee for in-depth studies”) is a private French group, which is mainly composed of high-ranking individuals from the French Ministry of Defence. In 1999 the group published a ninety-page report entitled “Les OVNI et la défense: à quoi doit-on se préparer?” (“UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For?”). The report analyzed various UFO cases and concluded that UFOs are real, complex flying objects, and that the extraterrestrial hypothesis has a high probability of being the correct explanation for the UFO phenomenon. The study recommended that the French government should adjust to the reality of the phenomenon and conduct further research. Skeptic Claude Maugé criticized COMETA for research incompetency, and claimed that the report tried to present itself as an official French document, when in fact it was published by a private group.
“Disclosure Project” Press Conference (US, 2001)
On May 9, 2001, twenty government workers from military and civilian organizations spoke about their experiences regarding UFOs and UFO confidentiality at the National Press Club in Washington D.C..
The press conference was initiated by Steven M. Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project, which has the goal of disclosing alleged government UFO secrecy. The purpose of the press conference was to build public pressure through the media to obtain a hearing before the United States Congress on the issue. Although major American media outlets reported on the conference, the interest quickly died down, and no hearing came forth.
Fife Symington Press Conference (US, 2007)
On November 12, 2007, a press conference, moderated by former Governor of Arizona Fife Symington, was held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Nineteen former pilots and military and civilian officials spoke about their experiences with UFOs, demanding that the U.S. government engage in a new investigation of the phenomenon.