Saturday, 15 August 2015

Department of Defence "Unusual Aerial Sightings" Policy Cancellation? Not So Fast...


Up until two years ago, Australia’s Department of Defence (DOD) maintained one scant policy regarding UFO sightings, or, as they term it, “Unusual Aerial Sightings” (UAS). It was titled “Defence Instructions (General) ADMIN 55-1, Unusual Aerial Sightings Policy” and, with minor changes in 1996 and 2000, had existed as a Defence Instruction (General) since 1994. I found out, inadvertently through other UFO research, that this policy was cancelled in May, 2013. In January 2015, I initiated a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the DOD asking for all records that “went in to” cancelling this already near useless “policy”. I published two pieces on this sad and sorry matter in April and May. They can be seen here:
But was this really the last hoorah? Aside from the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) “Contacts of Interest” (COI) – the term given to unknown or unresponsive radar tracks picked up by various radar surveillance units of the 41 Wing – there are seemingly no channels within the DOD, at least not that I have yet found, that accept UFO sightings, study them, respond to witnesses, compile data, formulate reports and the like. It really does seem that the cancellation of “Defence Instructions (General) ADMIN 55-1, Unusual Aerial Sightings Policy” was the final say. No more policy paperwork. Cancelled. Indefinitely.

Except, one thing. There is still a “policy” after all. In fact there is quite a few.

In the 58 pages of documentation I received when I asked for all records related to the 2013 cancellation, I noted two passages of text which alluded to a possible continuation of the old policy in the form of SOP’s at RAAF bases. In military jargon, SOP stands for “Standard Operating Procedure”. On the 8th of July, 2015, I submitted an FOI request to the DOD asking what became of this proposal. On the 10th of August, at surprisingly no cost, I received a series of documents which were responsive to my request.

The first “file” is title “RAAF BASE AMBERLY STANDING INSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION 05-01 DUTY MEMBER ANNEX E” and at two pages contains a front cover, and a second page about the RAAF’s stance, at least at Amberley Air Force Base in Queensland, on reports or enquiries regarding “Unusual Aerial Sightings”. It is part of a larger “Standing Instruction” promulgated by the RAAF at the base. The text is extremely similar to the old, full Defence Instruction of the last two decades, and it states, in full:


1.         In past the RAAF was responsible for handling a1l queries for Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) at an official level until J996 when the function ceased to operate. Scientific records suggested there was no compelling reason for the RAAF to continue to devote resources to recording and investigating of UAS.


2.         The ADF does not accept reports on UAS. If the DM receives a phone call for a sighting, they are to refer the caller to local police authorities. The ADF does not have an affiliation with any existing civil UFO organisations.

3.         Some UAS relate to events that have a defence, security or public safety implication which include man-made debris falling from space or burning aircraft. If members of the community have witnessed an occurrence of this type they are to contact the police or the civilian aviation authorities. Any identified aerial activity which appears to have an obvious
defence implication, will be investigated.

Media Organisations.

4.         There are occasions when media organisations will seek information regarding a sighting or policy issues UAS. The DM is to obtain the media contact numbers and inform the ABXO on XXXXXXXXX  The ABXO may then have the DM contact Defence Public Relations on XXXXXXXXX and pass on the media contact information or ABXO will advise DM to stand-down on the issue.

Below is an image of the above mentioned page.

 The above nonsense is so similar to the previous statements of the last 20 years, it is hard to tell the difference now between any of them. The only sliver of information that interests me is the statement “Any identified aerial activity which appears to have an obvious defence implication, will be investigated.”. I mean, what constitutes an “obvious defence implication” and who makes such calls? Even though they are talking about “identified” aerial activity, I will be still looking into this matter in due course. Also, as a matter of interest, I clarified that “ABXO”, mentioned in the final paragraph, is merely short for Air Base Executive Officer.

The next “file” I received is, at one page, titled “RAAF RICHMOND DUTY MEMBER INSTRUCTIONS-NUMBER 43: UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS”. The content is part of Richmond Air Force Base’s Duty Member Instructions, a larger document related to low-level base activity, basic logistics, etc. It has the usual, well-worn declarations like: “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 not all UAS have a ready explanation; there is no compelling reason for the RMF to continue to devote resources to recording, investigating and attempting to explain UAS.” 

However, it does list a few UFO groups in NSW, with full contact details. These are listed simply in-case the Duty Member at RAAF Richmond receive a moderately serious enquiry or sighting report, the caller can be fobbed off to UFO groups. Have a look for yourself below. 

The next document I received is titled “RAAF Base Edinburgh Duty Member Instruction 064: Unusual Aerial Sightings” and is hales from none other than the 24 Squadron at Edinburgh Air Force Base in South Australia. At one page, it contains similar statements to the above Amberley document. The one reasonably big difference is the passage regarding media organisations:

“5.       There are occasions when the media might seek information regarding the ADF policy on UAS. Inquiries of this nature should be directed to the Defence Public Affairs Operations Centre at Air Force Headquarters on 0262653343.”

Below is an image of the Edinburgh Air Force Base document.

The final document, a two page file, from Williamtown Air Force Base, and, again, part of a larger base Instruction, is titled “RAAF Base Williamtown Duty Member Instruction (ADMIN) 05-06”. The first page is entirely redacted (blacked out), and the second page isn’t much better. However, before anyone gets excited about some mini-cover-up, the redaction is in place “in accordance with section 22 of the FOI Act, on the grounds that the deleted material is irrelevant.” Anyway, the section of interest to us is exactly the same brief dryness seen over and over again:

3. Unusual Aerial Sighting. The ADF does not accept reports on unusual aerial sightings (UAS). The DM is to direct any such calls from the public to their local Police authority. Any UAS that may have a Defence, security or public safety implication, such as man made debris falling from space or burning aircraft, are also to be referred to the local Police or Civil Aviation Authorities. If the DM is contacted by media organisations regarding UAS, they are to redirect them IAW the DM Media Contacts instruction.

Below is an image of this page.

The final word on this is that clearly the DOD feel they have to have some sort of response to public or media enquiries, but, as we have seen, those responses are nothing more than passages of text within wider base-level Administrative Instructions. The RAAF are not interested in UFO’s unless the highly unlikely scenario of say a distressed, burning aircraft or massive re-entry of space junk occurs. Having said that, as I have published previously, the RAAF’s 41 Wing handles primary radar detection and tracking of “Contacts of Interest”, which is a whole different ball game kept, understandably, for restricted eyes only. One wonders if they have plotted anything really unusual on their systems as has happened elsewhere around the globe. For now though, they aren’t talking to the likes of us about it.

1 comment:

  1. So do any local officials take the reports? In the United States local and state police write up reports like a complaint. The US Coast Guard also responses to reports that comes its way.