Friday, 29 January 2016

Significant Release Of Never-Before-Seen Australian Government UFO Policy.... 

And Get Excited.... Because Some Of It Is Still Classified 

Part 2   


In 1994, the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) policy of accepting and investigating UFO sightings, or “Unusual Aerial Sightings” (UAS) as they called them, was downgraded to virtually no policy at all. But, like all things in modern government, there had to be a paper trail. In September, 2015 I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Department of Defence (DOD) for any material that “went into” this policy downgrade, and I was recently provided with never-before-seen administrative records from that era. I have discussed some of these records in Part 1 of this series, which can be found here:

In this Part 2 of the series, I aim to continue providing imagery and discussion regarding this important release of information. In Part 1, the main item I studied was Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Brett Biddington’s (ret) lengthy draft of background information and suggestions which would soon morph into the 1994 downgrade of their UAS policy. One surprise was the level of security classification on much of this material. I also emphasized that some of it remains classified, and has been redacted (blacked out) so it could be released to me.

So what of RAAF Biddington’s final draft for the Chief of Air Staff? At 7 pages long, it differs somewhat from the first draft that Biddington wrote. Firstly, it has a cover page as one may expect, and is somewhat more formal, as we shall see. Firstly, the front cover page has “COVERING SECRET” stamped squarely in place. The title states “BREIF FOR CAS” – “CAS” is the acronym for Chief of Air Staff. Below this is “UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS POLICY”. And in the bottom left, is the all-important “Brief prepared by WGCDR B. Biddington.” I have imaged this below. 


The next page is has SECRET stamped at the top, as well as “Page 1 of 7” directly underneath. Below that is “DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE” and “(AIR FORCE OFFICE)”. A line of text referring to the existing UAS policy states “Ref: AF 84 3508 Pt l (14)” and is followed by a center-of-page heading “BRIEF FOR CAS” and “UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS – POLICY” underneath. The first sub-section is headed here, not surprisingly titled “BACKGROUND”. The remaining text on this page, originally UNCLASSIFIED states:

“1.       (U) The RAAF has been responsible for collecting and collating material on unusual aerial sightings (UAS) for many years. Policy was last reviewed in 1984 following two separate incidents that attracted wide publicity. One involved strange lights in the sky in Bendigo and the other caused Mirages and F-IIIs to be brought to high states of alert because of a series of low-level Mach3 paints on the Sydney radar. The Bendigo investigation was inconclusive and the Sydney radar was found to have been faulty.

2.         (U) Recently, HQTC sought guidance on UAS policy because of the reduced numbers of out of hours duty personnel at a number of bases. This has prompted a review of policy as it should apply across the RAAF.”

At the end of this Page 1 a new sub-section titled “DISCUSSION”, with a sub-title “Current Policy” completes the page with:

“3.       (U) Current policy on UAS is at FLAG 1. The key element is:”

This page finishes here, and I have imaged it below.


Page 2 continues on this “Current Policy” section with:


“The RAAF accepts reports on UAS and attempts an allocation of reliability. Those which                         suggest a defence or security implication are further investigated and a probable cause                           determined.

Where the RAAF is notified about sightings deemed not to have a 'defence or security implication', the sightings are not investigated and the person making the report may be referred to a civil UFO research organisation.

4.         (R)   There are two basic problems with the current policy:

a.     It is impossible to assess in advance whether a sighting may have defence or security significance.

b.        Resources devoted by RAAF to UAS investigation have dwindled over the years to the point that our stated commitment to investigation is not put into effect.”

A new sub-title, “Community Interest” begins here, and was originally RESTRICTED. It states:

“5.       (R)   There remains a small but committed element of the community which devotes considerable effort and resources to the study of extra-terrestrial phenomena. Also, there is a much wider but mostly latent general community interest in UAS. In the past, the RAAF has been accused of:

a.         withholding documents about particular sightings or incidents, and

b.         neglecting our national security obligations by not taking UAS matters seriously.”

This finishes the page, which I have imaged below. 


The “Community Interest” sub-section continues on Page 3 with:

“Neither accusation has caused the RAAF serious embarrassment or concern. The change of policy in 1984 was notified by Ministerial Press Release and passed with cursory comment.

6          (U)    Since 1984, the number of UAS reported to the RAAF has significantly reduced. This may indicate that civilian organisations are better known and are meeting community requirements. It may also reflect that current policy of referring individuals who wish to report sightings directly to civil UFO research organisations, has been successful.”

A new sub-section begins titled “RAAF Interest”, and, like the draft version, we now see heavy redaction under Section 47E of the FOI Act. The text states:

“7.       (S)  In the past, responsibility for UAS X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X  X X X X X X X X X X The most recent example is thought to have occurred in the late 1970s/early 80s when a RAAF SQDLDR was dispatched at short notice to central Queensland X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X ”

8.         (U)  At a more mundane level, the UAS mechanism has provided information about missing and crashed aircraft.

9.         (U)  The enormous improvements in surveillance technologies in the past 20 years make it possible to predict when large items of space junk are likely to fall to earth and where they are likely to fall; this occurred with SKYLAB in 1983. Civil and military aviation

Thus ends Page 3. Again, I image it below.


Page 4 begins with a continuation of the “RAAF Interest” sub-section with:

“communications in Australia are highly developed and initial indications that an aircraft is in difficulty are increasingly likely to come from within the system and not be dependent on external observation of flaming wreckage and falling debris. Witness observations of such events remain important but not from the UAS perspective.”

At this point, an entire new section begins, and is titled “SUGGESTED POLICY”. All UNCLASSIFIED, this page finishes out with:

“10.     (U)  To account for the changes that have occurred since UAS policy was last reviewed, a new policy is proposed. This policy reads:

For many years the RAAF has been formally responsible for handling Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) at the official level. Consideration of the scientific record suggests that whilst not all UAS have a ready explanation, there is no compelling reason for the RAAF to continue to devote resources to recording, investigating and attempting to explain UAS.

The RAAF no longer accepts reports on UAS and no longer attempts assignment of cause or allocation of reliability. Members of the community who seek to report a UAS to RAAF personnel will be referred to a civil UFO research organisation in the first instance. Known organisations are listed at Annex A to this policy.

Some UAS may relate to events that could have a defence, security, or public safety implication, such as man-made debris falling from space, a burning aircraft or an aircraft making an unauthorised incursion into Australian airspace.”

With that, the page ends. It is imaged below.


Page 5 continues with:

“Where members of the community may have witnessed an event of this type they are encouraged to contact the police, civil aviation authorities or Coastwatch.”

That ends the “SUGGESTED POLICY” section, which immediately gives way to a new section titled “POLICY IMPLEMENTATION”, which is made up of 3 sub-points, all UNCLASSIFIED. It reads:

“11.     (U) The strategy proposed for implementing this policy is based on discussions between Mr Llewellyn, DGPI and DGSS. A Press Release is not favoured by DGPI because it is seen as likely to generate unnecessary publicity. DGSS has suggested that members of the public should not be discouraged from reporting unusual aerial activities, especially in northern Australia, because of the potential value to Coastwatch. The final paragraph of the new policy incorporates this point.

12.       (U)  The proposed publicity strategy is to send a letter to known UFO research organisations, notifying them of the change to policy (draft letter attached). In addition the policy would be promulgated within the RAAF via normal channels.

13.       (U)  A longer term task will be to centralise all sighting records held by RAAF and to place them in the Australian Archives. The privacy implications of placing the records in the Archives will need to be understood before this occurs.”

“POLICY IMPLEMENTATION” finishes there and the all-important “CONCLUSION” section begins. Classified RESTRICTED, it reads:

“14.     (R)  The RAAF's commitment to UAS has declined over the past decade to the point that current policy is not”

The page ends at this point, and I have imaged it below.


Page 6 continues with:

“followed and cannot be sustained. In the past, UAS has provided evidence of human activities of interest to the RAAF X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X   Should unambiguous extra-terrestrial contact with earth occur (which may or may not be associated with UAS), however remote that possibility might be, levels of organisation well beyond the RAAF will be interested and involved. Should the RAAF be required respond, how we do so will be defined not by extant UAS policy but by instructions from Government. It follows that there is no valid reason for the RAAF to retain a formal interest in UAS.”

The very final section on this page, and for the whole main textual part of the document, is “RECOMMENDATION”, and it reads:

“15. A change to current UAS policy is recommended. You are requested to agree:

a.         to the new policy, stated above in para 10, and

b.         to the proposal for publicising the change outlined in para 12.”

There is a redaction for the signatures of Wing Commander Brett Biddington and an Air Commodore S. T. James, DGPP-AF. I am fairly sure that DGPP-AFv  was the abbreviation for the old Director General of Plans and Policy, for Air Force. The document was signed by WGCDR Biddington on the 15th of October, 1993 and by AIRCDRE James the 19th of October, 1993. The page is imaged below.


Page 7 is administrative form for further clearing signatures, and a list of annexes, including “List of known UFO Research Organisations” and a “Draft letter to UFO Research Organisations”. I have imaged it below.


Now that I have presented the final copy of the massive policy change material that the Chief of Air Staff saw and approved, it is worth having a look at the differences between WGCDR Brett Biddington’s draft and the final product. The draft, which can be examined in my Part 1 of this series, is shorter in regards to page numbers. This is because the line spacing and text is more tightly packed. Also, the final product for the Chief of Air Staff came with a front cover. The level of detail that Biddington goes to in the two products is somewhat different, also. Most importantly for us is the text that discusses RAAF interest in Unusual Aerial Sightings, especially around what I believe to be discussion on re-entered space debris and new (at the time) long-range aerospace surveillance.

For example, in relation to an “extra-terrestrial threat” to Australia, the draft version states on Page 2:

“I think that an extra-terrestrial threat to Australian security is not likely to develop without some foreknowledge from astronomical and other surveillance systems.  X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X The means by which such searches might be conducted are numerous and will vary with particular circumstances.”

Compare that to the same topic in the final version, on Page 6:

“Should unambiguous extra-terrestrial contact with earth occur (which may or may not be associated with UAS), however remote that possibility might be, levels of organisation well beyond the RAAF will be interested and involved. Should the RAAF be required respond, how we do so will be defined not by extant UAS policy but by instructions from Government. It follows that there is no valid reason for the RAAF to retain a formal interest in UAS.”

In the draft version the redacted text is, I believe, most likely discussing long-range radar systems (and possibly other aerospace monitoring technologies) that were being evaluated or in initial stages of operation back in the early 1990’s. In the final version, the “extra-terrestrial threat” isn’t mentioned until Page 6. Also in the final version, there is an extra segment in the “RAAF Interest” sub-section which is worth an extra look and comprises lightly of material in the draft, as well as new discussion:

 “The enormous improvements in surveillance technologies in the past 20 years make it possible to predict when large items of space junk are likely to fall to earth and where they are likely to fall; this occurred with SKYLAB in 1983. Civil and military aviation communications in Australia are highly developed and initial indications that an aircraft is in difficulty are increasingly likely to come from within the system and not be dependent on external observation of flaming wreckage and falling debris. Witness observations of such events remain important but not from the UAS perspective.”

Another difference between the two versions of this policy change material, although small, is the reference to the vanishing of pilot Frederick Valentich and logistical concerns. Paragraph 5, Page 2, of the draft version reads:

“At a more mundane level, the UAS mechanism has provided information about missing and crashed aircraft. The disappearance of the pilot Valentich into Bass Straight (flying a Cessna) is a case in point.”

Paragraph 8, Page 3, of the final version reads:

“At a more mundane level, the UAS mechanism has provided information about missing and crashed aircraft.”

I can’t see any meaning to this variance in content. The audience (the Chief of Air Staff), one presumes, expects rapid-fire information with minimum distractions. However, it will be of mild interest to those who have studied the Valentich disappearance. Speaking of the Chief of Air, an additional sentence found in the final version, which may have been tailored especially for him, can be found on Page 2 within the “Community Interest” sub-section:

“Neither accusation has caused the RAAF serious embarrassment or concern.”

Another difference between draft and final versions, which could be easily missed, is within the mention of probable downed space junk. The draft says:

“The most recent example known to me occurred in the late 1970s/early 80s when a RAAF SQDLDR was dispatched at short notice to central Queensland..”

The final version says:

“The most recent example is thought to have occurred in the late 1970s/early 80s when a RAAF SQDLDR was dispatched at short notice to central Queensland”

See that? The passage of text “…example known to me occurred…” and “example is thought to have occurred” is subtly dissimilar. What meaning this has, keeping in mind the audience who was to review this material, is unknown to me. There are many other variances between WGCDR Brett Biddington’s draft policy review and the final product. Significant work would go into detail every single one. Even then, so little meaning can be attributed to many of them that attempting to do so scarcely seems worth the effort some twenty-two years later. In my next, and final, part of this series, I will discuss some of the other pages in the 42 page PDF that makes up this significant release by our Department of Defence. 

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