Monday, 24 October 2016

"OPREP-3" - A Classified US Military Reporting 

Channel For UFO Incidents?

Part 6


Previously, in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, I highlighted a number of occasions, during the 1970’s, where the US military’s OPREP–3 reporting system has been used to alert top–level military commands and components of provocative UFO activity near military bases. In Part 4, I highlighted a category of OPREP–3 reporting which was specifically designed for the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and Aerospace Defence Command (ADCOM), to report general unknown radar tracks, and, “Unidentified Flying Objects – UFOs”. In Part 5, I moved on from the actual OPREP–3 reporting of UFOs, and into the fallout that some of these post–Project Blue Book UFO events caused within the US military and intelligence community. In summary, what started out as a brief appraisal of the OPREP–3 reporting system, specifically in relation to apparent UFO incidents, has morphed into a wider study of declassified documents which deal with UFO case investigation, evaluation and high level concern long after the US government relieved itself, publicly, of the UFO headache.

In this Part 6, I will continue my study, this time focusing on records released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) in relation to a series of possible UFO events over Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. These events, which occurred in November, 1975, followed similar aerial intrusions over Wurthsmith AFB, Michigan, Loring AFB, Maine, and Falconbridge AFS in Ontario, Canada. Minot AFB in North Dakota, and other bases were likewise affected by unidentified activity during the same period. Most of these bases were assigned to the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Strategic Air Command (SAC), and, had nuclear weapons. This unusual chapter in UFO history only came to light after researchers Barry Greenwood, Robert Todd, Lawrence Fawcett and Todd Zechel used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain pertinent records from military agencies and commands.

On the 24th of December, 1979, researcher Robert Todd submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Office of the Organisation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OJCS) asking to be provided with any records which contained references to “unidentified flying objects”, “unknown objects” and “UFOs”. Todd also asked for possible weather analysis records which related to reported UFO events. It may be important to note that Todd didn’t ask that the entire OJCS and all its components be searched. Rather, he restricted his request to records held only by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and, the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which was, and still is, part of the JCS Operations Directorate. Also, Todd stated that he was already in possession of some JCS and NMCC records, obtained previously by researcher Barry Greenwood, and that he wanted the same material released, plus a new search conducted for anything missed.

On the 18th of January, 1980, Charles W. Hinkle, the Director, Freedom of Information and Security Review, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence, replied to Todd, stating:

“The Office of the Organisation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OJCS) is prepared to provide the 123 NMCC memorandums for the record upon receipt of payment for search and reproduction. Three of the memorandums will be sanitized to delete currently classified information that reveals military tactical capabilities.”

While still extraordinary, the figure of “123 Memorandums for the Record” was somewhat inaccurate. Firstly, Todd did eventually receive 123 documents, but many were near–identical duplicate copies of one another. Secondly, some of the documents were not technically “Memorandums for the Record”, but were actually NMCC “Deputy Director of Operations Talker” messages, or, “DDO Talkers”. Whatever the specifics, Todd had acquired about forty unique NMCC records involving “UFO incidents”, “UFO analysis”, “UFO sightings” and “unusual phenomena”. Also contained in Charles W. Hinkle’s reply letter to Todd was the statement:

“With reference to your request for copies of requests for temperature inversion analysis, and message responses to such inquiries, the OJCS advises that no documents have been found that would be responsive.”

This final statement was wholly incorrect. The NMCC, in fact, did have “temperature inversion analysis” records, and, they specifically related to “sightings of unusual phenomena” and “UFOs”, as we shall see in due course. Charles W. Hinkle’s reply letter to Todd is imaged below.

Dated the 8th of November, 1975, and signed by the NMCC’s DDO, Brig. Gen. Wilman D. Barnes, is a two page “Memorandum For The Record” which concerns persistent radar and visual sightings around Malmstrom AFB. The events were still occurring at the time the NMCC memorandum was authored. It is important to note that Malmstrom was the home of the 341st Missile Wing which controlled silo–based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) equipped with nuclear warheads. The memorandum reads:

“Subject: Unidentified Sightings

1. 0308 EST FONECON from NORAD Command Director: at 0253 EST Malmstrom AFB Montana received seven radar cuts on the height–finder radar at altitudes between 9,500’ and 15,500’. Simultaneously, ground witnesses observed lights in the sky and the sounds of jet engines similar to jet fighters. Cross–tell with FAA revealed no jet aircraft within 100NM of the sightings. Radar tracked the objects over Lewistown, Montana at a speed of seven (7) knots. Two F–106 interceptors from the 24th NORAD Region were scrambled at 0254 EST and became airborne at 0257 EST. At the time of the initial voice report personnel at Malmstrom AFB and SAC sites K1, K3, L3 and L6 were reporting lights in the sky accompanied by jet engine noise.

2. 0344 EST FONECON, same source:

Objects could not be intercepted. Fighters had to maintain a minimum 12,000’ because of mountainous terrain. Sightings had turned west, increased speed to 150 knots. Two tracks were apparent on height–finder radars 10–12 NM apart. SAC Site K3 reported sightings between 300’ and 1,000’ while site L–4 reported sightings 5NM NW of their position. Sightings disappeared from radar at position 4650N/10920W at a tracked speed of three (3) knots.

3. At 0440 EST, NMCC initiated contact with the NORAD Command director who reported the following:

0405 EST: Malmstrom receiving intermittent tracks on both search and height–finder radars. SAC site C–1, 10NM SE of Stanford, Montana, reported visual sightings of unknown objects.

0430 EST: Personnel at 4 SAC sites reported observing inter–cepting F–106’s arrive in area; sighted objects turn off their lights upon arrival of interceptors, and back on upon their departure.

0440 EST: SAC site C–1 still had a visual sighting on objects.

4. NORAD stated that Northern Lights will sometimes cause phenomena such as this on height–finder radars, but their check with weather services revealed no possibility of Northern Lights.

5. NMCC notified Washington FAA at 0445 EST of the incidents described above. They had not received any information prior to this time.

6. 0522 EST FONECON with NORAD Command Director: At 0405 EST SAC Site L–5 observed one object accelerate and climb rapidly to a point in altitude where it became indistinguishable from the stars. NORAD will carry this incident as a FADE remaining UNKNOWN at 0320 EST. since after that time only visual sightings occurred.”

While it is not my aim to study the events themselves, it is worth discussing a few key points regarding the above listed incidents, in addition to studying the document itself. From the outset, we see involvement from NORAD’s Command Director, who provided the NMCC with a chronological timeline of events as reported by Malmstrom AFB between 3:08am EST until 5:22am. As for the unusual occurrences themselves, we see, on one hand, that “…ground witnesses observed lights in the sky and the sounds of jet engines similar to jet fighters…” while height finding radar was “simultaneously” receiving returns. Logic would suggest that a stray combat jet was in the vicinity of Malmstrom AFB. However, the text immediately goes on to state that “…Cross–tell with FAA revealed no jet aircraft within 100NM of the sightings. Radar tracked the objects over Lewistown, Montana at a speed of seven (7) knots.”. High performance aircraft do not loll about at seven knots, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could provide no insight into the sightings.

As strange lights in the sky persisted, a pair of F–106 interceptors, assigned to the 24th NORAD Region, were scrambled at 2:54am EST with the purpose of making contact with whatever, if anything, was flying around. The highly capable F–106 interceptors failed to locate anything. Mountainous terrain apparently made for difficult search–and–intercept conditions, and, one could argue that there may have been, in fact, nothing there to find in the first place. When two independent radar systems, however, are involved, things get a bit more alarming. At 4:05am EST, Malmstrom AFB was “…receiving intermittent tracks on both search and height–finder radars…”, while, seemingly at the same time, “…SAC site C–1… …reported visual sightings of unknown objects.”. At 0430am EST, “…Personnel at 4 SAC sites reported observing inter–cepting F–106’s arrive in area; sighted objects turn off their lights upon arrival of interceptors, and back on upon their departure.”. Other key points include the fact that NORAD ruled out northern lights, and, the NMCC “notified Washington FAA… …of the incidents”. Finally, the NORAD Command Director logged the duel radar hit at 4:05am incident as a faded “unknown”. The two page memorandum is imaged below.

During the 1970’s, the NMCC produced short, internal messages known as “DDO Talkers”. “DDO” refers to the NMCC’s “Deputy Director of Operations”. A “DDO Talker” message can be followed by a “DDO Update”. An 8th of November “DDO Update” message, regarding the unusual events over Malmstrom AFB, reads:


(U) From 080253 EST Nov 75 to 080420 EST Nov 75, Malmstrom AFB MT and four SAC sites reported a series of visual and radar contacts with unidentified flying objects. Several reports from the same locations included jet engine sounds associated with the observed bright lights. Two interceptors scrambled from the 24th NORAD Region failed to make contact with the UFO’s.

(U) The UFO sightings occurred on an extremely clear night. Visibility was 45 miles. Although northern lights will cause phenomena similar to the received reports, weather services indicated no possibility of the northern lights during the period in question. (SOURCE: NMCC MFR 080600 EST NOV 75.”

The subject–line phrase “UFO SIGHTING” demonstrates a willingness to use the much shunned term “UFO”, and, a willingness to do so within the highest levels of military command. Moreover, the passage of text reading “…a series of visual and radar contacts with unidentified flying objects…” leaves no doubt that command level authorities believed they were dealing with something tangible and unidentifiable, which, especially when confirmed on radar systems, contextualises and defines a true UFO event. Additionally, even if mundane explanations could account for all this, it is abundantly clear that national security was foremost in the minds of those involved. Clearly, command level staff, assigned to SAC and NORAD, assumed dealing with unknown entities above one of the world’s largest launch–ready nuclear missile fields, and this speaks volumes. Needless to say, none of these events were ever solved. The above mentioned “DDO Update” is imaged here.

Another “DDO Update” message regarding the unusual events above Malmstrom AFB, dated the 9th of November, 1975 reads:


A follow–up with NORAD at 090430 EST provided no additional information. (LTG Smith had indicated his continuing interest in fonecon with DDO OT#4 on 8 November”

Again, the term “UFO” is readily utilised in the subject–line. Also of interest is the reference to a “LTG Smith” who had indicated his “continuing interest” in the situation. “LTG Smith” probably refers to Gen. William Y. Smith, USAF, who, in 1975, was the Assistant to the Chairman of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs (OJCS) of Staff. Here we see, in black and white, a Lieutenant General, the second highest rank in the USAF, giving attention to a what–is–described as a UFO event. This “DDO Update” is imaged below.

Two days later, on the 11th of November, 1975, another “DDO Update” message was produced by the NMCC DDO. It reads:


(U) CJCS, at 10 Nov Morning briefing, indicated that when UFO sightings are reported, the NMCC should ask for temperature gradients in the area (i.e., for possible aloft inversions). The CJCS also questioned the advisability of scrambling aircraft against reported UFOs.”

This could not be clearer. The subject–line reads “CJCS COMMENTS RE UFO INCIDENT”. As we know, “CJCS” refers to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The CJCS is “…is the principal military adviser to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of Defence…” as described by “10 U.S. Code § 151 – Joint Chiefs of Staff: Composition; Functions”. At the time, the CJCS was Gen. George S. Brown, USAF. Not only was he was briefed about alarming UFO activity at the 10th of November, 1975, morning meeting, he was also adding to the decision making process. Firstly, Gen. Brown indicated that the NMCC should embark on weather analysis “when UFO sightings are reported”, and, secondly, he “questioned the advisability” of scrambling combat jets “against reported UFOs”. This provocative NMCC “DDO Update” is imaged below.

Gen. Brown’s recommendations were quickly implemented. Produced on the 13th of October, 1975, is an NMCC “Memorandum For The Record” with the subject–line “Requests for Temperature Inversion Analysis”. Signed by the NMCC’s DDO, Brig. Gen. C. D. Roberts, it reads:

“Subject: Requests for Temperature Inversion Analysis

1. LTC Schmidt, representing Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC), visited the NMCC at 131500 EST to discuss arrangements to implement the procurement of weather information desired by CJCS, which is the subject of DDO Environmental Services memo of 13 November 1975. The following agreements with LTC Schmidt were reached:

a. The West Hem Desk Officer will act as the control officer for temperature inversion analysis requests initiated by the NMCC. These requests will be made in conjunction with sightings of unusual phenomenon along the northern US border.

b. Each telephone request will be serialized, i.e., (TIA #1 etc.) and directed to the duty officer at AFGWC, autovon 8661661 or 271–2586. AFGWC will provide the requested analyses by telephone followed up by a priority message.

c. A record of the serialized requests/responses will be maintained by the West Hem Desk Officer.”

Here we see that the USAF’s Global Weather Central (AFGWC) agency was tasked with supplying the NMCC with localised weather data during “…sightings of unusual phenomenon along the northern US border…”. Specifically, the USAF–controlled “West Hemisphere Desk” (WEST HEM DESK), which functionally supported the NMCC in the 1970’s, was to request temperature inversion analysis (TIA) product from AFGWC, and furnish it to NMCC operations staff immediately. This memorandum is imaged below.

Following on from this memorandum, is a “DDO Update” message, dated the 13th of November, 1975, which reads:


(U) In future UFO sightings, the WEST HEM Desk Officer will initiate telephone requests to the Senior Duty Officer at the Air Force Global Weather Central (AFGWC) for a temperature inversion analysis in the vicinity of unusual sightings. The telephone response by AFGWC will be followed with a priority message. (SOURCE: NMCC MFR 132025 EST NOV 75)”

So now its “UFO ANALYSIS” for the subject line! This “DDO Update” is simply an outgoing message implementing Brig. Gen. C. D. ’Roberts aforementioned memorandum. It makes clear that temperature inversion analysis will be conducted by AFGWC through the West Hem desk for the NMCC when “unusual sightings” occur. There is no doubt now that the unknown aerial activity at Malmstrom AFB, and other bases, was being taken seriously by the NMCC for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As always, this document is imaged below.

          It is probably important to note that the released records which discuss weather analysis were not originally released to Robert Todd when his FOI request was finalised on the 18th of January. It was actually three months later, on the 20th of April, 1980, that Barry Greenwood managed to have the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence admit to ownership of the documents. As I have mentioned, Charles W. Hinkle, the Director, Freedom of Information and Security Review, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence, had told Todd that “…With reference to your request for copies of requests for temperature inversion analysis… …no documents have been found that would be responsive…”. Either the OJCS was being dishonest with Todd, or, they simply didn’t locate some of the records which obviously did exist. Either way, this brings into question just how many other UFO–related JCS and NMCC documents may have been deliberately withheld, or, legitimately missed. Furthermore, as mentioned, Todd, nor anyone else, asked the entire Organisation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (OJCS) and all its components be searched for UFO related records. Only the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and its National Military Command Center (NMCC) were stipulated in FOI requests, so it is entirely possible that other material was being held.

To conclude, this series has morphed into the analysis of wider US military UFO investigation, analysis and obviously high level concern. The USAF’s long running UFO study program, Project Blue Book, was, with the assistance of Dr. Edward U. Condon’s flawed Colorado University “UFO Study”, shut down in 1970. Hence, no agency or desk in the US military would be accepting UFO reports, and there most certainly would not be any investigation. A 1993 version of the USAF’s “Fact Sheet” on UFOs, with the title “Unidentified Flying Objects And Air Force Project Blue Book: Fact Sheet”, states that “Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force…” Clearly, this is hogwash. The 1975 over flights, and the fallout they created, is at odds with the official line. Even if all these events had mundane explanations, those involved evidently thought they dealing with something very unusual. The ceaseless use of the term “UFO” and “unidentified flying object”, along with terms such as “analysis”, is very hard to reconcile with mere helicopter flights and a few bright stars. In the end, of course, the full resources of a dozen USAF components and major commands, plus a long list of other agencies, never came to any conclusion. Contained in Part 7 of this series will be yet more documentation, much of which has never been seen. 

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