Dateline: 21st June 2013

The End of the MOD's UFO files revealed

The ongoing release of the reports that the Ministry of Defence's collated regarding UFO sightings has come to end today with the release of the final tranche of reports covering the period prior to the closure of the UFO desk in 2009.

Officials within the civil service suggested to then Defence Minister Bob Ainsworth that 50 years of collating and reporting UFO cases had failed to reveal anything of defence significance and that the resources spent investigating reports would be better spent elsewhere. Ainsworth agreed and formally closed the position that year.

The release of the documents has cast new light on several classic UFO cases, but also shown how little invested in the subject the MOD really were. There was no formal unified format for reports to be filed and little evidence of attempts to 'connect the dots' between cases to seek patterns - beyond the obvious analyses that showed that many UFO cases have a terrible paucity of detail to go on, or are so weird and personal as to defy conventional analysis in any case.

While one-time post holder Nick Pope has carved a niche as a UFO expert - often called upon to comment on sightings and UFO cases in the news - precious little has come to light to demonstrate that "Britain's X-Files" (as they are inevitably referred to in the popular press) were anything more than a box-ticking exercise from a fitfully engaged government department.

As such, the reports are a source of disappointment to conspiracy theorists who for many years followed their counterparts in the US in believing that the government and military were taking a keen clandestine interest in UFO and the UFOlogical community - or were even actively engaged in a cover-up of the truth behind UFO encounters.

By the time the desk was closed, the Ministry had formulated a carefully-worded form letter that was sent routinely to anyone who reported a UFO, which spells out fairly categorically the position the Ministry took:

It may be helpful if I explain that the Ministry of Defence examines any reports of 'unidentified flying objects' it receives solely to establish whether what was seen might have some defence significance; namely, whether there is any evidence that the United Kingdom's airspace might have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity.

Unless there is evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom from an external source, and to date to UFO report has revealed such evidence, we do not attempt to identify the precise nature of each sighting reported to us. We believe that rational explanations, such as aircraft lights or natural phenomena, could be found for them if resouces were diverted for this purpose, but it is not the function of the MoD to provide this kind of service. It would be an inappropriate use of defence resources to do so.

The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of 'UFO/flying saucer' matters of the question of the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial life forms, about which is remains totally open-minded. I should add that to date the MoD knows of no evidence which substantiates the existence of these alleged phenomena.

Whatever the attitude of the Ministry and the general air of disinterest and confusion that the files demonstrate, there are many nuggets of interest to anyone with an interest in UFOlogy. Among the pages of the various reports are contemporary records of many fascinating cases from Rendlesham Forest to the Broadhaven Triangle and beyond.

The full files are available in PDF format at the National Archives' UFO section and a cool-looking iPad/iPhone App is available with the data from reports organised via geography and time.
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