Tuesday, 22 December 2015

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

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

Part 1   


After months of too’ing and fro’ing, I have successfully had the Australian Department of Defence (DOD) declassify and release never-before-seen UFO policy material, and a significant fraction of it is very interesting, to say the least.

But, first, I would like to do what researcher Bill Chalker calls “due diligence” and clarify a few things… Way back in 1984, The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) downgraded its investigative responsibilities in regards to UFO sightings. No longer did the RAAF’s Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) base-level officers have to investigate all UFO sightings submitted by the general public. This wasn’t a huge blow, as RAAF officers were not compelled or trained to investigate properly anyway. However, continuing RAAF policy stated that any UFO sighting, or “Unusual Aerial Sighting” (UAS), which appeared to show a defence or security threat would still be investigated. A Department of Defence press release on 2nd May, 1984 stated, in part:

“The RAAF in future will investigate fully only those Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) which suggest a defence or national security implication. The Minister for Defence, Mr Gordon Scholes, said today that while the RAAF would continue to be the first point of contact, UAS reports not considered to have a defence or security implication would not be further investigated.”

Fast forward 10 years, to 1994, and the RAAF’s UAS Policy was downgraded further, to virtually nothing. “Enclosure 1 to Air Force file AF 84 3508 Pt 1 – RAAF POLICY: UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS” clearly laid out, once and for all, that the RAAF would not accept or investigate any reports of UFOs events. On January 4th, 1994, RAAF Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Brett Biddington stated, on behalf of the Chief of Staff, Air:

“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.”

I have always wondered about this “scientific record”? Likewise, I have often been puzzled why more isn’t known about this period of dying RAAF involvement with UAS. In November, 2013 I asked RAAF officer Group Captain Brett Biddington (ret) about this interesting period. The results of that short interview can be seen on Keith Basterfield’s blog site here:


But what about an official paper trail? The DOD doesn’t conclude a policy without some sort of administrative action and tasking. There is always paperwork. On the 23erd September, 2015 I submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for:

“copies of any and all material that was created or used to draft this policy conclusion… …including any briefs; draft copies; memoranda; minutes of meetings; references to secondary material used in decision making processes; loose minutes; interagency correspondence; etc.”

On the 21st of December, 2015, I received a 42 page PDF from the Defence FOI desk which certainly contains a never-before-seen administrative records from 1993 that helped formulate the RAAF’s shift away from any UFO investigation. The first item of interest is a facsimile transmission, dated 26th August, 1993, from Wg. Cdr. Brett Biddington at the Directorate of Air Force Policy, Intelligence, Russell Offices, Canberra to either Sqd. Ldr. Wright or Mr Barnett, RAAF Intelligence Office, Melbourne. The “SUBJECT” of the transmission is a handwritten note stating “Draft UAS Policy”. Immediately below is a section called “INSTRUCTIONS/MESSAGE”, under which this brief note is made:

“Chris, Draft UAS policy + background info as discussed. Hope this helps as an interim measure. I sense no real problem exists in A block  –  minor  changes only are expected, Regards….”

Below is an image of this transmission.


Enclosed with this facsimile is Wg. Cdr. Biddington’s first, lengthy drafting of background information and suggestions which would soon morph into the minimalist 1994 UAS Policy. The first surprise is the security classification stamped top and bottom of every page. Traditionally, Australia’s Defence community assigned one of five levels of sensitivity to records: UNCLASSIFIED, CONFIDENTIAL, RESTRICTED, SECRET and TOP SECRET. The material presented here is stamped SECRET which is, despite what people think, actually very rare for Australian UFO records. And, as we shall see, some of this release still remains SECRET, or, rather, has been redacted, even now in 2015! Still, most of Wg. Cdr. Biddington’s efforts have been released. I will present each page, and focus on some quite notable highlights. It should be noted that each paragraph starts off with a letter indicating what security classification was assigned to that particular section. (U) indicates it is UNCLASSIFIED, (C) indicates CONFIDENTIAL, (R) indicates RESTRICTED and (S) indicates SECRET. Page 1 begins with a paragraph of administrative and clerical text, which gives way to a more interesting second paragraph, which was formally classified CONFIDENTIAL:

“2. (C) The nub of current policy is that RAAF only investigates UAS deemed to have defence or national security significance (whatever that means). I do not know when the RAAF last conducted a thorough UAS investigation. It was probably in 1983 when I was involved with the sightings in the Bendigo area and, in a separate incident, when Mirages and F-111s were brought to high states of alert because of level Mach 3 paint on the Sydney radar. These were the incidents that caused former policy to be reviewed and the current policy to be determined.”

Paragraph 3, which was classified RESTRICTED, states:

“3. (R)  There remains significant interest in the community in UAS and the potential exists for the RAAF to be accused of:

a.         withholding documents about particular sightings incidences, or

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

At the very bottom of the page, paragraph 4, which was classified SECRET, is where things get really interesting. In fact, we can only see half the text in this paragraph, both on this page and onto the next, because the DOD has redacted (blacked-out) it under Section 47E of the FOI Act! More on this later. Here is the text we can read. X X X X X’s signify such missing text:

“4.  (S)  In the past, responsibility for UAS has allowed X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Below is the page in question.


 The next page of Brett Biddington’s draft material continues in this rather extraordinary manner:

“X X X X X X X 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 known to me 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 X X X X X X 

How fascinating. A full four lines of text are redacted. I will look at what the contents of this hidden material may be in due course. Continuing on, paragraphs 5 and 6, which mention the vanishing of pilot Frederick Valentich, raises a curious point about a logistical benefits of official study of UAS:

“5.  (U)  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.”

“6.   (R)  For these reasons I do not think the RAAF can or should completely abrogate its responsibilities regarding UAS.”

Paragraph 7, classified SECRET, is very cryptic and may warrant much further study:

“7.   (S)  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.”

Paragraph 8, UNCLASSIFIED, reads:

“8.   (U)  RAAF resources available to handle UAS reports and investigations are going to become increasingly limited. Policy and procedures need to reflect this reality whilst preserving our essential interests. Reference to the Project Blue Book study of the 1950’s and 60’s is no longer considered relevant or necessary.”

Beyond this, a whole new section, titled “Suggested Policy”, begins:

“9.   (U)  Suggested policy is:

The RAAF is that part of the Department of Defence that is formally responsible for handling UAS at the official level. Careful 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 understand or 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 should be referred to a civil UFO research organisation in the first instance. Known organisations are listed at Annex A to this policy.”

The page ends there. The image is below.


Continuing on with the “Suggested Policy” section, the next page reads:

“Some UAS may relate to events that could have a defence, security, or public safety implication, such as man-made debris falling from space or a burning aircraft. Developments in procedures, communications and surveillance technologies are such that these sorts of events are considered unlikely to occur without there being some indication to appropriate areas in Defence and to other civil authorities.

Where members of the community feel they may have witnessed an event of this type ie of human origin, they are encouraged to contact local authorities such as the police or else civil and military aviation authorities, including the RAAF.

The RAAF has accumulated a series of UAS reports dating back to the 1960s. The records that still exist are located centrally in Air Force Office (AFPOL INT). These may be accessed by researchers subject to them agreeing to respect the privacy of individuals who made the reports.”

Beyond this, another section begins. Titled “Policy Implementation” and spread over two paragraphs, it reads:

“10.   (U)   The suggested strategy for implementing this policy is:

a.       approve policy at appropriate level (DCAS?);

b.         centralise all extant sighting records in AFO (AFPOL INT);

c.         write to UFO organisations, notifying them of the change; and

d.         prepare and promulgate a press release outlining the new arrangements.

11. (U) A longer term task will be to place all sighting records in the Australian Archives at which point the final paragraph of the proposed policy will require change. The privacy implications of placing the records in the Archives will need to be understood before this occurs.”

At the end of this page, the second last section of the draft ensures. Titled “Conclusion” and classified RESTRICTED, it reads:

“12.  (R) UAS matters can lead quickly to adverse publicity. It's a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ situation. The mere announcement of a change in policy is likely to provoke some (limited) reaction. Carefully managed this can be minimised at the same time that essential, enduring interests are protected.”

Below is the page.


Finally, the last page of Brett Biddington’s draft contains the inevitable “Recommendation” section. Oddly, there may be a typing error here, as he numbers it “12” when it should be, judging by the numbering of paragraphs on the previous page, numbered “13”. Whatever the format, it merely states:

“12.  (U)  It is recommended that:

a.         the new policy as stated above (para 9) be endorsed, and

b.         the implementation strategy (para 10) be endorsed.

B. Biddington
WGCDR
AFPOL3
EXT  52422
            Aug 93

This scant page is imaged below.


Note on the above last page there is also the listing of an annex titled “Current UAS policy, dated Arp 84” which of course refers to what was then the current UAS policy apparently in need of the complete overhaul that Biddington was prescribing. We’ve seen some of the 1984 UAS material, so I will discuss it only briefly, and further along. For now, what of the above material? The security classification level gave me degree of surprise, but I take the common sense angle: In any lengthy DOD publication, some paragraphs will be classified differently than others, and, indeed, the above material ranged from UNCLASSIFIED to SECRET. But, overall, the publication in its entirety has to be classified at the level of the highest classified paragraph. I have seen bulky US Air Force squadron histories classified SECRET merely because a few lines were classified at that level; but in reality the vast majority of the publication does not warrant this level of restriction. In the case of Brett Biddington’s draft UAS material, it is expected that any such Directorate of Air Force Policy, especially coming out of the Intelligence section, or “AFPOL3”, would have some sensitivities.

That is, if we still lived in 1993….

The redactions that we are interested in here were done under Section 47E of the FOI Act. In one section of the DOD’s final letter to me, it was stated that:

“…disclosure of the information under section 47E would prejudice Defence’s ability to obtain similar information in the future and would compromise the ability of the RAAF to complete its mandated role, namely defending Australia and its national interests from the air.”

Moreover, another paragraph stated, in regards to the person making the final decision about the documents being redacted:

“GPCAPT Wallis is satisfied that the expected effect of disclosing to you material identified exempt under section 47E(d) could have a substantial adverse effect on the proper and efficient conduct of the operations of Defence, in that once the information was made publically available it could divulge areas of capability interest.”

So what do we think they may say under that black ink?

Take a look at parapgraph 4, which, again, states:

“4.  (S)  In the past, responsibility for UAS has allowed X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X 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 known to me 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 X X X X X X

This tells me that the RAAF has been able to use civilian UAS reporting to find, or attempt to find, manmade space junk that has re-entered and crash landed – something absolutely inevitable in a nation large as Australia. Various US Air Force collection memoranda and policy justifications have stated that downed space junk, especially of Soviet or otherwise Eastern Bloc origins are of considerable value. A November, 1961 USAF HQ Intelligence memoranda laid out that crashed space junk was considered “items of great technical intelligence interest” and that some of the duties of specialised intelligence teams were to “expeditiously retrieve downed Soviet Bloc equipment”. The text in our Biddington draft document mentions a RAAF officer having to dispatch to central Queensland, and I presume it is regarding one of the numerous instances when spherical cryogenic fuel containers came down there. There is a possibility the redacted text is referring to something more exciting, like an incident we have no idea about, or an especially large or technically noteworthy piece of space hardware.

A look again at another section of the document that has significant redaction:

“7.   (S)  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.”

I believe this may refer to Australia’s ability to engage in long-range surveillance – either simply atmospheric, or out into space. The RAAF’s Jindalee Over-the-Horizon Radar Network (JORN) was, at the time of this policy change, being developed and, interestingly, Brett Biddington was involved in the implementation of the huge JORN program. It is quite possible that the above redacted material relates to detection of unearthly craft, on the very off chance they should come! If not JORN, then maybe the blacked-out text refers to Australia’s use of US space tracking systems? Or novel height finding radars quietly in use by our armed forces?

So far, I have only had this FOI release in front of me for two days. I am continuing to study it, and, at 42 pages, there is much more yet here. In Part 2 of this series I will focus on the final copy of Brett Biddington’s material, and some other oddities in the release. This is a somewhat major piece of history – that is if you are interested in the official handling of the UFO issue by Australia’s government. Finally, I mentioned above that the draft document contained an annex titled “Current UAS policy, dated Arp 84”. To build or downsize a current policy, the official doing the work must have to hand that paperwork, and, though we have seen much of the earlier 1984 material before, I think it worth a quick look. After the heading RAAF POLICY ON UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS (UAS), the text goes like this:

“1.       Project Blue Book conducted by the USAF between 1953-65 resulted in the ‘Condon Report’ which was published in 1968. The report concluded that, ‘nothing has come from the study of UFO's in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us, leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFO's probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby’. Experience in the RAAF since the early 1950's supports the Condon Report conclusion.

2.         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. Air Force Office (DAFIS) is to assess the report after Command investigation. Reports considered not to have defence or security implications are not investigated further, are filed at Formation Headquarters and reference to civil UFO research organizations may be offered to the observer.”

Below is this page.



5 comments:

  1. Well done Paul. A nice Xmas present! All the best of the season to you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good job, Paul. Interesting data.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very good. Keep your research going,they're out there.

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  4. I actually watched the RAAF chasing two UFO's in 1983. The UFO's made them look silly, they played with those Jets like a cat plays with a mouse, but in the end they just left in a great hurry heading north. Their speed was so fast that they completely disappeared in a matter of seconds, about two at the most.
    The jets limped back to base rather red faced I should imagine.

    ReplyDelete