The United States Air Force's UFO(ish) Reporting Rules For 2017; The Air Force Service Watch Cell; "Unauthorized Air Vehicles"; And The Old "Vital Intelligence Sightings" Back From The Dead
It’s been nearly two years since the existence of a hitherto unknown UFO investigation effort, known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), was revealed to the world. The program was housed within America’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Office of the Secretary of Defence (OSD), and apparently ran from 2007 to 2012. Some of the cases studied by AATIP have involved the United States Navy’s (USN) massive aircraft carriers and the formidable combat aircraft attached to them. Further, it appears that the Navy has been caught flat footed regarding the reporting of UFO’s and unidentifiable aircraft, and changes to operational doctrine are apparently underway.
On the 23rd of April, 2019, media outlet Politico carried an article titled “US Navy Drafting New Guidelines For Reporting UFOs”. Written by reporter Bryan Bender, the piece builds on an official statement made by the Navy’s vital Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (OPNAV N2/N6). Various issues are discussed including the apparently sudden need for modernized “unidentified aircraft” reporting guidelines for “pilots and other personnel”, and the fact that Congressional briefings by Navy “intelligence officials” on unidentifiable air hazards have taken place. The Politico article, and the formal OPNAV N2/N6 statement which it cites, was analysed by Australian researcher and colleague Keith Basterfield, here.
Of note, to me at least, was a curious admission within the OPNAV N2/N6 statement, and it concerned none other than the United States Air Force (USAF). Ostensibly, the “Navy and the USAF take these reports very seriously” and “investigate each and every report”. If they are talking about mundane unidentified aircraft engagements, then this statement isn’t especially interesting. If, however, they are talking about encounters with odd craft, or unusual phenomena, then it’s quite another. Considering that this entire story links itself to recent events regarding UFO’s, and even quotes Christopher Mellon, a former DoD official and UFO proponent, one is bound to assume we are dealing with the latter. And if this assumption is correct, the notion that the “Navy and the USAF” take such reports “very seriously” and “investigate each and every” one of them flies in the face of what we have been told about “our” sort of UFOs for decades.
It would be all very confusing to a person new to the subject. Does the Navy have guidelines for reporting mundane unidentified aircraft but not anything more mysterious? Are they drafting completely new doctrine, or has it been drafted already? Are they just amending the old? Will they jointly promulgate new “unidentified aircraft” reporting doctrine with the US Marine Corps (USMC)? Will the USAF have any input? Assuming we are talking about UFO’s in the classic sense, did the OPNAV N2/N6 make a mistake in even mentioning the USAF in first place? The USAF, as I will highlight, usually claim they do not maintain UFO reporting doctrine.
Firstly, the Navy does have a selection of reporting channels that can be used for UFO–like events. Indeed, two of these channels have been used for such incidents in the past, and there are two more which could be used now. While I will explore these examples of Navy reporting doctrine in future reports, I aim to discuss the USAF for the time being. Indeed, the USAF promulgates numerous pieces of current doctrine which demand the reporting of unknown or unidentified objects or craft. Further, there are examples of military–wide, or “joint”, doctrine, of which the USAF is included, that allow, or at least did in the 2000’s, for the reporting of such aerial events. In fact, one “joint” publication discusses UFO’s and aerial phenomena in significant detail, as we shall see. I have previously written about that item here.
For the purposes of this report, I’ll focus on two types of unidentifiable object reporting that are published by none other than the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF), and were current as of November, 2017!
The first is titled “Unauthorized Air Vehicle / Military Installation Airspace Violation / Intrusion”, and the second is titled “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports”. Both are sub–categories of a special class of military report known as an “OPREP–3 Serious Incident / Serious Event”. I have written extensively about UFO’s and the OPREP–3 reporting channel in a yet–to–be–finished monograph titled “‘OPREP–3” – A Classified US Military Reporting Channel For UFO Incidents?”. Already published, however, are the first nine entries, which start at Part 1, and continue to Part 9. Briefly, the OPREP–3’s system is used by authorised military personnel to report urgent, serious or ongoing situations or dire events up the chain–of–command. Numerous publications, such as the old “Joint Reporting Structure Event and Incident Reports”, which was promulgated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) in December, 1993, states that the OPREP–3 reporting system “…is used by military units at any level of command to report significant events and incidents to the highest levels of command.”. Another publication, titled “Air Force Instruction 10–206 Operational Reporting” (AFI 10–206), which was disseminated by the Secretary of the Air Force (SECAF) in October, 2008, states that military command posts use OPREP–3’s to “…immediately notify commanders of any significant event or incident that rises to the level of DoD, AF, or MAJCOM interests..”. Evidently, the OPREP–3 system is reserved for concerning and fluid situations which need urgent attention at ever higher levels of command.
On a day–to–day basis, I work very closely with a little–known English researcher by the name of David Carmichael. On a near daily basis, Carmichael and I co–ordinate countless Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with one another. At any one time we have so many pending requests farmed out that neither of us can keep track of them. Needless to say, the vast majority of FOI action bears no fruit, or, end with entirely redacted documents which will remain classified for years or decades to come. Sometimes, nonetheless, there are success stories.
Carmichael and I have long–known that most USAF generated OPREP–3 reports pass through a cell at the Pentagon called the Air Force Service Watch Cell (AFSWC), as well as the National Military Command Center (NMCC). As far as the latter is concerned, some years ago we both asked the NMCC for records of any OPREP–3’s containing UFO or UFO–like reports, and we were both given “no records” responses. Neither of us, though, had asked the AFSWC for similar records, or any doctrine that governs them. Further, we were also aware that numerous categories and sub–categories of OPREP–3’s existed, and cover everything from the loss of a nuclear warhead to a suspicious power outage at a military base. This information has long been laid out in a document known as an “OPREP–3 Reports Matrix”, but we hadn’t gotten around to asking for a current copy.
On the 16th of May, 2017, Carmichael submitted an FOIA request to Headquarters, USAF, for “…the most recent copy, or one that is deemed releasable, of the CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix…”. Over nine months later, on the 26th of February, 2018, Carmichael finally received a reply from the Secretary of the Air Force’s (SAF) Tracy A. Broady. It stated, in part:
“In response to your FOIA Request for the ‘CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix’, the Air Force, Air, Space & Information Operations (AF/A3) Air Force Service Watch Cell, determined the attached documents to be responsive to your request.”
And with that, a copy of “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix” was released. Why it takes more than nine months for the USAF to release this very simple, unclassified record remains beyond Carmichael and myself. Still, it could be worse. They could have lost his FOI request like they have done with others we’ve submitted in good faith. I have imaged Tracy A. Broady’s letter below.
Running at 13 pages, and apparently current as of the 6th of November, 2017, the document contains a series of tables that lay out myriad events or incidences which must be reported via the OPREP–3 system. It is promulgated as an unpublished attachment to the current version of “Air Force Instruction 10–206, Operational Reporting” (AFI 10–206), and presently covers all manner of items, from “space launch mishaps” to “aircraft evacuations”. Each type of incident is coded, titled, and described, and in some cases other pertinent instructions, like special handling procedures, are laid out. As stated, the “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix” contains a pair of report sub–categories which could certainly be used for reporting UFO’s. Found on Page 9, they are titled “Unauthorized Air Vehicle / Military Installation Airspace Violation / Intrusion” and “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports”. I have imaged the page below.
The first is coded “9B” and carries the title “Unauthorized Air Vehicle / Military Installation Airspace Violation / Intrusion”. In the “DESCRIPTION” block, the following text is provided:
“Any confirmed unauthorized civilian small unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), gyrocopter, or similar craft positioned over any DoD mission activity (facilities, assets, installations, ships, convoys, etc.). The report will include at a minimum: description of aerial object or device, color, identifying markings, actual size, manufacturer, type (rotary, quad–copter, fixed wing, etc.), distance from observer, payload (camera or other device), and any actions taken, to include interactions with local/national/international law enforcement. Also, as applicable, any event (i.e., exercise, inspection, logistics movement, pre–flight and post–flight operations, etc.) that was in progress at the time of the reported observation.
Note: Units will send initial report to AFSWC within 1 hour of confirmed UA sighting and final report (if applicable) within 3 hours after the event/incident.”
On face value, this is an official acknowledgement that a growing inventory of unmanned aerial devices could, and probably are, encroaching into the airspace of USAF installations. This is undeniably a very serious issue. Indeed, “Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) and “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” (UAV) pose a threat to flying and flight safety. Moreover, such devices could be used to conduct photographic surveillance, or brazenly eavesdrop on sensitive communications systems.
Despite the obvious purpose behind this sub–category of OPREP–3 report, there is a distinct possibility that more mysterious events have been hurriedly submitted. Its worth noting that the final sentence contained in the “DESCRIPTION” section instructs units to “…send initial report to AFSWC within 1 hour of confirmed UA sighting and final report (if applicable) within 3 hours after the event/incident…”. This confirms that the Air Force Service Watch Cell (AFSWC) remains the recipient of these OPREP–3’s, which, evidently, comprise of an “initial report” and, in some cases, a “final report”. Also, there is a curious acronym given which, presumably, covers all unmanned aerial craft, and it simply reads “UA”. Likely, the “U” translates as “Unidentified”, but what the “A” translates as isn’t clear. Again, the “Unauthorized Air Vehicle / Military Installation Airspace Violation / Intrusion” sub–class of OPREP–3 is by no means a significant UFO reporting channel for, well, “our” sort of UFO’s. Having said that, I’d be rather curious to see what exactly has been reported. Quite possibly we will soon know. FOI action is underway and will be elaborated on as soon as possible.
The second sub–catogory of OPREP–3 is coded “9F” and carries the title “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports”. In the “Description” block, the following text is given:
“a. Any/all unidentifiable, suspicious, or hostile traffic (land, aerospace, or sea) which, because of its nature, course, or actions, may constitute a threat to the security of the US or Canada. Includes reports received from airborne platforms.
b. Receipt of significant intelligence received through other than Intel channels.”
This item was a somewhat surprise discovery, but it shouldn’t have been. Some readers will be aware that America’s military apparatus has previously published a series of “Communications Instructions for Reporting of Vital Intelligence Sightings” (CIRVIS). Traditionally, CIRVIS requirements demanded the timely reporting of “Unidentified Flying Objects”, or “UFO’s”, by members of the armed forces. CIRVIS procedures initially appeared a 1954 publication titled “Joint Army Navy Air Force Protocol 146(A)” (JANAP 146(A)) which had been ordered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). JANAP 146 and its CIRVIS procedures continued to be promulgated until the early 1990’s, and was, by then, up to the “E” version, or JANAP 146(E). As always, “Unidentified Flying Objects” were listed right there alongside, but distinct from, “Unidentified Aircraft”, “Missiles”, “Submarines”, etc.
In the mid–1990’s, much of the elderly JANAP 146(E) doctrine was substituted or broken up, and CIRVIS procedures were moved, at least where the USAF was concerned, to a new piece of doctrine titled “Air Force Manual 10–206, Operational Reporting” (AFM 10–206). This occurred in September, 1995, by order of the Secretary of the Air Force (SAF). In March, 2000, AFM 10–206 was revised and re–published, with CIRVIS procedures still intact, and “Unidentified Flying Objects” still a cause for concern, and still reportable. Manager of “The Black Vault”, a vast online archive of declassified government records, John Greenewald stumbled upon this piece of doctrine while studying CIRVIS procedures. A newer version of the publication was disseminated on the 15th of October, 2008 and was upgraded to an Instruction, rather than a Manual. The title was, thus, “Air Force Instruction 10–206 Operational Reporting” (AFI 10–206) and, again CIRVIS reporting is laid out as clearly as ever. Then, a yet newer version of AFI 10–206, dated 6th September, 2011 was published, but was massively reduced in scope and size. These amendments included the removal of CIRVIS procedures. This unexplained removal of CIRVIS, and its function as a UFO reporting channel, may have even come about due to the actions of researcher and journalist Lee Speigel. At the time, Speigel had been asking questions of the Pentagon about CIRVIS UFO reporting, and days later the new version of AFI 10–206 was released minus the chapter on CIRVIS. On the other hand, CIRVIS may have been removed a year earlier. We just don’t know.
As stated, CIRVIS stood for “Communications Instructions for Reporting of Vital Intelligence Sightings”. Here, the three key words that deal with what must be reported are “Vital Intelligence Sightings”. This phrase is identical to part of the “9F” sub–category “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports” in our new “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix”. In other words, CIRVIS–type reporting has apparently been moved from its own unique chapter in AFI 10–206 to the “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix”. The description laid out in the matrix is also very similar to the topics laid out in the old CIRVIS procedures. It even mentions Canada, exactly like CIRVIS procedures used to. Again, “9F” and it’s “Vital Intelligence Sightings” demand any and all “unidentifiable” and “suspicious” traffic be conveyed in an OPREP–3 report. This isn’t low–level stuff. Finally, it is notable that “reports received from airborne platforms” come under the same umbrella. That means USAF pilots.
Just like the CIRVIS reporting of old, any reports submitted in accordance with this sub–category will generate, at minimum, some rather interesting reading. Whether it’s a pair of stray Russian bombers, or a disturbance under the water in a conflict zone, or a genuine UFO sighting, the CSAF is asking for it, and the AFSWC deals with it. If an analysis or investigation takes place, all the better. Also, the “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports” item asks for “significant intelligence received through other than Intel channels” too. This phrase is vague, but when it appears right alongside the well–worn UFO(ish) “Vital Intelligence Sightings” one is bound to ask if similar reports are coming in “through other than Intel channels” too.
Again, the very fact that unidentifiable aerospace sighting reporting is found in an OPREP–3 reporting matrix table is significant. It’s worth mentioning that the AFI 10–206 lays out the USAF’s “Air Force Operational Reporting System” (AFOREPS). It is within AFOREPS that we find the OPREP–3 reporting system laid out. Before the existence of AFI 10–206 and its predecessors, AFOREPS was laid out in other doctrine all the way back to the late 1960’s. In fact, AFOREPS and UFO’s were officially mentioned together as far back as October, 1969. Partly authorising the termination of “Project Blue Book”, the USAF’s long–running UFO investigation effort, was a Brigadier General Carrol H. Bolender. At the time, Brig. Gen. Bolender was Deputy Director of Development, for the Deputy Chief of Staff, Research and Development, Headquarters, USAF. The document in question was the infamous “Bolender Memo”, or “Bolender Air Staff Study”. Authorising the termination of the USAF’s long–running UFO investigation effort “Project Blue Book”, the Bolender study, at just three pages, admitted that UFO’s were a “national security” issue. Further, it stated that the AFOREPS system should be used for UFO reporting. Specifically, Brig. Gen. Bolender stated that “reports of unidentified flying objects” which could “affect national security” were already being made “in accordance with JANAP 146 or Air Force Manual 55–11”. Researchers were aware of JANAP 146 and its CIRVIS reporting system, but the reference to an “Air Force Manual 55–11” (AFM 55–11) was new. The full title was “Air Force Manual 55–11, Operations, Air Force Operational Reporting (AFOREPS)”, and the version Brig. Gen. Bolender was presumably referring to was effective from the 1st of July, 1968. Contained within are several classes of operational reporting, and the OPREP–3 system is one of them.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words, and just a few years later, in 1975, the OPREP–3 system was used urgently and repeatedly during a three–week wave of intrusive unidentifiable object sightings over USAF bases. Frequently referred to as the “1975 Over Flights”, the events started at the end of October and comprised of consistent, confirmed and often low–flying craft which intruded on nuclear–armed Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases across the Canadian border. Loring AFB, Wurtsmith AFB and Maelstrom AFB, as well as others, were affected. The visual sightings, which were sometimes established on primary radar simultaneously, involved hundreds of servicemen, and generated nearly one–thousand pages of records. These were released under FOI to the likes of researchers Barry Greenwood, Robert Todd and Lawrence Fawcett. During the UFO intrusions, OPREP–3 BEELINE and OPREP–3 PINNACLE reports were sent from the bases to a bewildering list of addressees including the National Military Command Center (NMCC), the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJSC), the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (SJCS), the State Department, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the White House, the USAF’s Major Command Coordination Center (MCCC), the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) at Fort Ritchie, and 8th Air Force Headquarters. The USAF admitted the events were never solved.
As for the new “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix” and its “Unauthorized Air Vehicle / Military Installation Airspace Violation / Intrusion” and “Vital Intelligence Sightings / Intel Reports”, these, as I have said, are not specific to “UFO’s” in the traditional sense of the term. The former is clearly aimed at manmade devices which intrude upon USAF installations. And the latter, it could be easily and fairly argued, is dedicated to sightings of unexpected missile and aircraft activity, unidentified submarine movements and other national security sightings. To be sure, the US military, on top of its instrumented monitoring systems, needs to know if pilots or other members of the armed forces are seeing objects of a national security nature. Having said that, there is every chance truly mysterious UFO events have been reported to the AFSWC and the NMCC, as well as a bevy of additional recipients including the Major Commands (MAJCOM), in accordance with this doctrine. We know that the OPREP–3 system is used for “serious” events of “immediate” concern. Sightings “received from airborne platforms” are included, and that means USAF flight crews.
Maybe one day we will find out exactly what has been reported in the last few years. On the 16th of November, 2018, I submitted an FOI request to Headquarters, USAF, for:
“…electronic or hardcopy copy records of OPREP–3 reports submitted (from the field, base commanders, etc) to/through the Air Force Service Watch Cell (AFSWC). This cell may now be known simply as “Air Force Watch”, but either way it is the locale where incoming OPREP’s come in. Specifically, I am asking for OPREP–3 reports which have been categorised by the “CSAF OPREP–3 Reports Matrix” as either “9B; Unauthorized Air Vehicle/Military Installation Airspace Violation/Intrusion”, or “9F; Vital Intelligence Sightings/Intel Reports”. Further, some OPREP–3 reports may not have been submitted using/within the above categories, and, thus, I ask that all OPREP–3 reports at the AFSWC are searched for the below keywords, and derivatives of: “unknown aircraft”, “unidentified aircraft”, “UFO”, “unusual aircraft”, “low flying aircraft”, “phenomenon”, “phenomena”, “unidentified flying object”, “aerial vehicles”, etc. Finally, I would also ask that any records you generate, such as screen shots of database searches, internal emails, etc related/associated with this FOI request be furnished to me…”.
Time will tell.