by John Greenewald, Jr., The Black Vault
On the evening of April 23, 2019, Politico dropped a story from defense editor Mr. Bryan Bender entitled, “U.S. Navy drafting new guidelines for reporting UFOs.” The headline alone, is bound to get anyone excited that has been following UFOs or the somewhat recent (December 2017) revelation of a “Secret Pentagon UFO Study” known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program or AATIP. Although a lot of details surrounding that specific program remain elusive; the fact remains this era in the field of UFO research remains intriguing and compelling. So this new headline by Politico should do nothing but invoke further intrigue.
However, despite the headline’s use of the acronym “UFO” — the first line in the Politico story re-defines it to how the U.S. Navy phrases it in the new regulation drafts – “unidentified aircraft.” What exactly does that mean, if anything at all?
There have been many rumors for years that UFOs are not called UFOs, but rather, other catchy acronyms and phrases are used to stop people like me from finding programs via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) etc. Since my discovery of Air Force Instruction 10-206 (and the blatant attempt to cover it up) I wrestle with the question on if they would do that. Air Force Instruction 10-206 specifically outlined “UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT” or “UFO” reporting procedures. They did not hide a thing with that phrasing, and those UFO reporting procedures stretched well into the 2000s before it was covered-up/changed (if you are not familiar with that story, read this link; it’s fascinating). I wonder is that document proof they really just don’t care if they use the phrasing of UFOs, as they did with that instruction? Or is the blatant cover-up of that UFO reporting procedure the learning lesson for them to use different phrasing – like “unidentified aircraft?” We can’t definitively answer that for the USAF, but that leads me back to the new drafts being generated by the Navy. In the end, until these draft documents are ever implemented as standard procedure, as I hope they are, we will not know what the precise phrasing is, and we will be forced to rely on the official statement by the Navy. According to Politico, this statement included the following:
“There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years. For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report. As part of this effort, the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A new message to the fleet that will detail the steps for reporting is in draft. In response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety.”
UPDATE: On April 26, 2019, in response to my inquiry from April 24, 2019 to the U.S. Navy Office of Information (CHINFO), I was given an “updated” statement regarding these guidelines. For privacy reasons, I removed the officer’s contact information, as the statement was not to be attributed to them, but rather, Joseph Gradisher, spokesperson for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare. The “updated” statement, reads the following:
“There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years. For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report. As part of this effort, the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities. A message to the fleet details the steps for reporting each incident. In response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety.” — Joseph Gradisher, spokesperson for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare.
Note the blue text. This indicates that the statement given just days prior to me receiving this, which indicated it was a “draft” document (not yet sent) is now done, and sent to the fleet.
The Navy’s statement reinforces something I have lectured about, talked about and have stated many times over for the past 20 years or so. There is a HUGE national security threat behind the UFO phenomena (yes, plural) and to ignore that, whatever the root cause, is a huge danger. It’s also why I hope, deep down, that the entire AATIP saga turns out to truly be a UFO research study and one that continues to this day, as claimed by the former head of the program Mr. Luis Elizondo. Despite the Pentagon claiming it was all cancelled (and contradicting Mr. Elizondo’s claim it was a UFO research program at all), it shows me that the intelligence community did take the phenomena seriously, at least in somewhat recent years. But, alas, those who are logically looking at the entire picture, are cautiously optimistic. And if more than two decades being involved in the field of UFOlogy has taught me anything, is that whenever a claim about UFOs is made (and the Military, Government or former Military and Government personnel are involved) we NEED to be cautious!
So does this headline by Politico (and now many others) about UFO reporting guidelines accurately reflect the U.S. Navy statement?
With that question looming at least in my mind, I aimed to find out. First, I will bring up the fact that within The Black Vault for quite some time, I have had an original copy of what is known as the “Condon Report.” If you know what that is; don’t assume where I am about to go with this. For those who aren’t aware, this document contained the findings of a committee formed at the University of Colorado in 1966, which lasted through 1968, that analyzed hundreds of UFO files from the Air Force’s Project Blue Book. Their determination was expected. They said there was nothing to the UFO phenomenon; they posed no national security threat; and they recommended no further study of them. Why am I bringing this report up, when we are all supposed to be keeping an optimistic outlook on these new “UFO Regulations” by the Navy? Well, because simply it connects the phrase “unidentified aircraft” directly with “flying saucers.” Page 125 of the Condon Report stated:
Despite the terms “flying saucer” and “unidentified flying object” or the acronym “UFO” appearing frequently throughout most official documents regarding Project Blue Book; “unidentified aircraft” not so much. So, the above excerpt connected the two-word phrase “unidentified aircraft” directly to the UFO phenomenon, on an official level. Granted, the “Condon Report” and news today about reporting procedures are separated by about 51 years; but the phrasing and use of “unidentified aircraft” is clearly a bit less mysterious (or newsworthy), which may explain why that is used to convey the same thing, without actually saying it. For those who might think this link is a coincidence, files I received by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on UFOs many years ago, also connect the phrase. That connection goes back even farther from the Condon Report. For example, this 1953 CIA intelligence document, which outlined UFOs in Spain, Greece and North Africa. The CIA’s choice of phrasing for the “subject” line, despite the report itself referencing “flying saucers?” They chose “unidentified aircraft.”
In short, connecting the phrases, is an encouraging find to support that the Navy is truly taking serious — what we all want them to take serious.
Let’s move on to more recent revelations, as I was intrigued by how many took to social networks, blogs etc. in recent days, and have asked/chastised the Air Force for not taking the lead on generating UFO reporting procedures, but rather, the Navy is leading the way. So, I tackled that criticism first. If “unidentified aircraft” is the going terminology for referencing UFOs by the military, I dug in to find out if the Air Force has follow suit (or even taken the lead) when it came to “unidentified aircraft” procedures… or if they really are stuck in the late 1960s, and still touting their “there are no UFOs” mantra.
45th Space Wing Instruction 13-201 – 28 May 2014
I believe quite possibly the most important connection with the Air Force, to this new phrasing, is the Nuclear, Space, Missile, Command and Control, Eastern Range Airspace, 45th Space Wing Instruction 13-201. The 45th Space Wing is part of Space Command (SPACECOM) and is headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, situated between Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach, in Brevard County, Florida.
According to the document:
“This instruction implements AFPD 13-2, Air Traffic Control, Airspace, Airfield and Range Management. It provides guidance and procedures for the safe operation of all airspace operations supporting launch and other scheduled operations on the Eastern Range (ER). It applies to all participating 45 SW units, organizations providing support aircraft, ER agencies and users. A coordinated effort is required by range and flight personnel, range users and participating staff agencies to ensure safety of operations, mission accomplishment, conservation of resources, and to prevent violations of diplomatic agreements. Aircraft providing support will operate IAW pertinent technical orders, parent directives and the provisions of this instruction. All 45 SW staff support agencies will provide any required assistance to ensure safe aircraft operations and will fulfill the provisions of this instruction and the tasking set forth in applicable Operations Directives (OD). Refer recommended changes and questions about this publication to the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) using the AF Form 847, Recommendation for Change of Publication; route AF Forms 847 from the field through the appropriate functional chain of command. Requests for waivers must be submitted to the OPR listed above for consideration and approval. Ensure that all records created as a result of processes prescribed in this publication are maintained in accordance with (IAW) Air Force Manual (AFMAN) 33- 363, Management of Records, and disposed of IAW Air Force Records Information Management Systems (AFRIMS) Records Disposition Schedule (RDS). The use of the name or mark of any specific manufacturer, commercial product, commodity, or service in this publication does not imply endorsement by the Air Force.”
I highlighted in red the important part that connects this publication to the overall tone of the Navy’s recent statement about their guidelines, which is all about safety. Again, it is the national security aspect of the UFO phenomena, that has proven itself time and time again. So, it only seems natural, that in the 45th Space Wing Instruction 13-201, that our “new” phrasing appears. On page 2-3:
2. Supporting Aircraft/Aircrew Operations.
2.1. Aircraft/Aircrews supporting Launch Operations will:
2.1.1. Attend the mission aircrew briefing to review mission support procedures, positions, times, call signs, assigned MODE-3 codes, operating frequencies, weather forecast and special instructions.
2.1.2. Review all Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs).
2.1.3. Prior to entering Restricted Airspace/ER SUA, contact CAPE CONTROL on 133.8 / 264.8 and advise of intentions.
2.1.4. Squawk assigned Mode-3 code when operating in ER assigned airspace.
2.1.5. Provide CAPE CONTROL with departure time, remaining fuel on board (in hours), number of persons on board and aircraft tail number.
2.1.6. Monitor assigned frequencies and maintain radio contact with CAPE CONTROL while operating in ER assigned airspace.
2.1.7. Report any unidentified aircraft within ER assigned airspace to CAPE CONTROL.
2.1.8. Report Return to Base (RTB) at mission completion to CAPE CONTROL.
2.2. Aircraft/Aircrew supporting Daily Operations will:
2.2.1. Coordinate approval and receive Prior Permission Required (PPR) with 1 ROPS/DOUS for operations in ER SUA.
2.2.2. Contact CAPE ADVISORY prior to entering ER SUA.
2.2.3. Maintain radio contact with CAPE ADVISORY while operating in ER SUA.
2.2.4. Report Return to Base (RTB) at mission completion to CAPE ADVISORY.
2.2.5. When Cape Advisory is not operational aircraft shall contact Orlando Approach for entry into and departure from Eastern Range Restricted Areas. Orlando is authorized to monitor aircraft in Eastern Range Restricted Areas that have been prior coordinated and issued a PPR as well as emergency aircraft missions such as Police and Life support flights.
I should point out, this is not an Air Force-wide publication, meaning, it does not apply to all Air Force pilots. But, it does apply to all aircraft and aircraft crews operating in the Eastern Range (ER = Eastern Range), and as you can see from the title page above, compliance with the instruction is “mandatory.” This serves as an example that reports are being generated, or at least should be, by one region where the Air Force operates.
DOWNLOAD 45th Space Wing Instruction 13-201 – 28 May 2014 [20 Pages, 1.2MB]
As of the writing of this article, April 25, 2019, the above document is the only I could find, when it came to the Air Force, which contained the exact phrase of “unidentified aircraft.” However, I feel that does not indicate there are no other publications that may use alternate phrasing, but ultimately say the same thing. So, I dug even deeper.
Aviation Safety Programs, Air Force Instruction 91-225 – 30 April 2015
As I dug to see if similar phrasing (but not exact) existed, I came across Aviation Safety Programs, Air Force Instruction 91-225. According to this document:
“This Instruction assigns responsibilities and provides instructions for AF Aviation Safety Programs (ASP). ASPs are data-driven and proactive programs such as Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance (MFOQA), Aviation Safety Action Programs (ASAP), and Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA).”
Again, note that this document, is all about aviation safety; the root of what this entire conversation is, or should be, about. Jump over to page 5 of this Instruction, and we see yet another protocol for reporting unidentified aircraft. Although the phrasing is a bit different, it appears to mean the exact same thing. Note: LOSA means Line Operations Safety Audit. Page 5 states:
“18.104.22.168. The LOSA process involves the collection of unidentified observations and the development of a consolidated report of trends and conclusions regarding day-to-day operations. This report may identify hazards or trends warranting further investigation. When a Class E High Accident Potential (HAP) investigation is convened to address potential hazards or trends identified through LOSA reports, the resultant findings and recommendations are considered privileged safety information and will be handled IAW AFI 91-204. LOSA observation forms and annotated data are not safety privileged information.”
Unidentified observations; unidentified aircraft; UFOs. It’s all the same, and here yet again, the Air Force outlines aviation safety, and the importance of reporting unidentified objects.
DOWNLOAD Aviation Safety Programs, Air Force Instruction 91-225 – 30 April 2015 [33 Pages, 0.8MB]
Back in 2007, the phrase “unidentified aircraft” actually received an official definition. This was outlined in a March 2007 press release, from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, also referred to as the Alaskan NORAD region. The press release outlined a training exercise in which fighters from both Canada and the United States, jointly trained on intercepting “unidentified aircraft.” The press release reads, in part:
“The Canadian and Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command regions launched a combined team of fighters, tankers and AWACS command and control aircraft this week to practice intercepting unidentified aircraft.
The training is part of a NORAD exercise.
“Often referred to as a Long Range Detection Team, this very specialized grouping of … aircraft is routinely assembled and used to find and track unidentified aircraft that could enter North American airspace,” said Col. David Timm, 611th Air Operations Group commander.
Although the Alaskan and Canadian NORAD Regions routinely train to conduct such missions, this is the first time American F-15s and Canadian CF-18s flew as part of the same LRDT. During the exercise, aircraft took off from both regions, rendezvoused with each other at a designated location, formed a single bi-national intercept team and then practiced a combined intercept on simulated unidentified aircraft.
An unidentified aircraft is defined as any aircraft approaching American or Canadian airspace that is not on an international flight plan or has, without air traffic control authorization, deviated from its original flight plan. Any aircraft considered unidentified is investigated, Timm said.
In addition to training aircrews in bi-national combined intercepts, the exercise provided regional command centers with an opportunity to effectively command and control combined missions.”
The most important part, I highlighted in red. This gives a precise definition for the phrase “unidentified aircraft” and confirms that all of those unidentified contacts are investigated. In addition to them being investigated, it appears the military is training to intercept them in the air. The photo to the left, is an actual photograph from that training exercise. I smell some “FOIA fodder” here.
The Commercial Sector
In addition to military procedures and manuals, I thought we could all safely assume that on the commercial side, supporting documents would exist as well. Interestingly, on 2005, the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency that says their mission is to “provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world” issued a statement about controlling restricted airspace. This was sparked by an “unidentified aircraft” encroaching the air space of The White House. It should be noted the craft was quickly identified after detection as a small commercial aircraft which made a mistake entering the air space (but failed to communicate when instructed to), and the pilot was never charged. But, as the event unfolded and the object did remain unidentified, it sparked panic within the White House and caused a slew of security measures to ensure the safety of everyone within the building. On an interesting side-note, despite the craft ultimately being identified, this encounter was worked in to one of the first television shows I produced on The History Channel called UFO Files: UFOs and the White House. A fun coincidence. Ok back on track… Deputy Administrator Robert Sturgell began with the following about securing air space around places like The White House:
“My name is Robert Sturgell, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and I’m pleased to appear before you today to discuss how air traffic is controlled in restricted airspace and how the government manages and coordinates air defense. FAA has always worked to ensure that our nation’s airspace is managed efficiently, effectively, and, most importantly, safely.“
Again, punching the safety and security of the skies. He goes on to state:
“While the DEN monitors events nationwide, the majority of restricted airspace violations occur in and around the Washington, D.C. area. Although there is restricted airspace throughout the country depending on events that are occurring, nowhere is the airspace more regulated on an ongoing basis than here in Washington. Unidentified aircraft operating in restricted airspace are taken very seriously. FAA is a member of the National Capital Region Coordination Center (NCRCC), a group comprised of representatives of security and military agencies to ensure that, in the event of a threat from an unidentified aircraft, coordinated action can be taken to appropriately address the threat and keep the region safe.
An analysis of what happened on May 11, 2005 will serve as a good example of how FAA interacts with other agencies when an unidentified aircraft approaches Washington, D.C. At 11:28 a.m., FAA and the NCRCC became aware of an aircraft entering restricted airspace from the northeast, approximately 44 miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The FAA’s watch officer for key communications working with the DEN, contacted the Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control (Potomac TRACON), which confirmed to participating NCRCC agencies that the aircraft was not in communication with air traffic control, had not filed a flight plan and that its transponder was transmitting a generic, rather than a unique code, which essentially meant that FAA did not know who the aircraft was. At this point, the aircraft was considered to be a track of interest (TOI). Because the aircraft was flying just within and parallel to the northern boundary of the restricted zone, it was not considered an immediate threat and, while it was monitored closely, no intercept action was taken at this point.”
In the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) or the Aeronautical Information Manual for 2019, which is available direct from FAA.GOV, Chapter 5 outlines specific procedures for intercepting an “unidentified aircraft” — complete with a diagram. The diagram uses the outline of a commercial airliner as the “unidentified aircraft” but of course, the intercept procedures would be applicable to any “unidentified craft” regardless of its shape, size or origin.
The references to “unidentified aircraft” stretch far and wide and go back decades, and I included some of the most important documents above. From military instructions to commercial manuals, “unidentified aircraft” seem to have been an interest to the powers that be, for quite some time, and their interest remains in recent documents.
So what does it all mean? Are these new Navy drafts the revival of a “Project Blue Book like” UFO investigation, wherein reports of flying saucers and tic-tac shaped objects are taken seriously? Or, are these drafts reinforcing something that has been around for decades, and it is simply par-for-the-course (and common sense) that “unidentified aircraft” are taken seriously by the military and the commercial sector. And with the timeline and progression of the above, despite criticism, maybe the Navy is last to come aboard taking this entire topic seriously.
The media loves flashy headlines, and “… guidelines for reporting UFOs” certainly catches the eye in your social network feeds. But is that exactly what we are looking at here? I will remain cautiously optimistic that this is a new era for UFO research and reporting on official levels. How about for you? Is the above enough to prove these are truly UFO reporting guidelines as we want them to be? Or is this a common sense approach to today’s reality of a cluttered air space? Commercial airline flights are on the rise and the more recent use of high-flying drones by private enthusiasts and the adoption of the same technology by corporate giants like Amazon to have a delivery fleet are only making safety concerns more of a threat to our day to day safety.
I hope the above helps to formulate your own conclusion, or at least start to formulate one. As with anything and everything that deals with UFOs and the media – it is always the tip of the iceberg, and quite possibly, not always what it seems.
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