One of the more interesting UFO events from the 1970s involved unknown aircraft making incursions into US Air Force base controlled areas. Most of the information comes from message traffic and other military documents from that time frame and it describes the USAF being concerned about “unknown helicopters” attempting to infiltrate air base security. UFO proponents have interpreted these events as not involving helicopters but intelligently controlled craft of non-human origin.
I am aware that there are some witness statements in UFO archives made years after these events. For the purpose of this article, I will only address the actual official documents because they are likely to be the most accurate and not tainted by witness beliefs or faded memories.
The Loring base encounter
The first base to experience these incursions involved an isolated USAF base near the Canadian border in the northern part of Maine. Thanks to Barry Greenwood, I was able to obtain the specific messages documented in the book “Clear Intent”. The mes- sages are not always clear and some of it is confusing. Still, I was able to reconstruct a rough time line of events:1
October 27, 1975 - A Security patrolman, Staff Sergeant Lewis, observed an aircraft that appeared to be flying low over the nuclear weapons storage facility near the northern perimeter of the base. He observed it until 2015. After informing the tower, radar oper- ators reported tracking a target 10-13 miles East-northeast of the base between 2050 and 2103.
October 28, 1975 - At 1945 EST, the unknown aircraft was again seen by Lewis, and several other security personnel, about 1km north of the weapons storage area. It was observed until 2145 EST. The lights on the aircraft sometimes went out and witnesses reported seeing a flashing strobe and red navigation lights. A Maine National Guard helicopter was sent to intercept but they were unable to locate the aircraft.
October 29, 1975 - At 0050 EST, another sighting was made to the north of the base. The first observer saw it for about a minute. The second observer heard the report by the first observer and then saw the aircraft to the north. He saw it for 5-10 minutes until it disappeared below the tree-line. No radar contact was made. At 0300 EST (0800Z) another sighting was made. Again the helicopter was sent aloft and, again, they were unable to locate the intruder. According to the message, despite seeing both the helicopter and unknown, ground personnel were unable to direct the alert helicopter to intercept the intruder. The helicopter could not see the unknown from their position.
October 31/November 1, 1975 - Between 2314 and 0140 EST (1 November) three sightings were made:
Personnel at a location 4 miles to the northwest of the base saw a “helicopter” with a red rotating beacon apparently hovering over the northwest section of the base at 2314. The aircraft flashed a white light for 4-5 seconds. It disappeared around 2329.
The second event involved two security patrolmen sometime between 0001 and 0015 EST. One at east gate saw a rapidly mov- ing aircraft heading west. They reported hearing the noise of the rotor, saw the tail rotor, and also saw a red rotating light. The second sighting was from the west gate, which saw the same aircraft.
At 0140, several personnel in the tower reported hearing a helicopter but never saw anything visually.
An alert helicopter was also launched that night but they were never able to identify any unknown aircraft when vectored to the locations of these sightings.
It is important to note that the messages have little in the way of details. Directions are missing, for the most part, and there are no witness statements to evaluate. We are left guessing about specifics.
The first thing one has to evaluate is the weather conditions. The message traffic indicates that sky conditions were clear on the nights the observations were made but this is not quite the case. Weather observations from nearby Caribou, Maine2 were:
I think it is important to note that the two nights that the “helicopter” was not observed, the evening of the 29th and 30th, the weather was Mostly Cloudy/Overcast (29th) and Overcast/Light snow showers (30th). This indicates that either the “helicopter” could only fly under clear skies or the “helicopter” was something that was being obscured by the clouds.
This brings us to the possible explanation that the “helicopter” may have been actu- ally astronomical objects being misperceived. The first night’s observations involved sky conditions which were less than ideal. There were clouds in the region, which could result in astronomical objects “disappearing” suddenly. It is important to note that Loring AFB is in an isolated portion of the country where the skies are dark. Even today, the conditions where the weapons storage was are equivalent to my NH dark sky site. Low clouds tend to be black at night until they appear over a lighted area like a city. To a casual observer witnessing stars disappear behind clouds, they can appear to vanish without warning.
So, what could SSGT Lewis have seen that triggered all of this. Lewis reported that the “helicopter” was near the northern perimeter. The message also states “An un- identified A/C had been sighted after dark at an altitude of approximately 100 meters immediately north of the Loring, ME AFB northern perimeter”.3 What is defined as the northern perimeter? If it is the northern limit of the base, it could have been anything from northwest to northeast.4 A clue of what direction the object may have been observed in is the statement by the radar operators that it was to the East-northeast. Did Lewis observe the object to the northeast? It seems possible and there was an interesting astronomical object in that direction.
Around 1920 EST, the planet Mars had risen in the East-northeast. At 1945, Mars was 2-3 degrees over the horizon at an azimuth of about 58 degrees. For observers on the ground, it would appear to be just above the trees and very low. At magnitude -0.86, it would have been brighter than other stars in the sky at the time and its orange hue would make it stand out. It could have been misinterpreted as an aircraft that was approaching the weapons storage area. At this point the clouds might have played a role and obscured Mars. Mars would have disappeared. The radar operators, being asked if there were any targets in the area, might have found one that appeared to be in the same direction. This could have been any kind of airborne object (possibly a large bird) or just a false return due to atmospheric conditions.
One would think that the observers would be familiar with Mars but there are several factors that could have played a role. The first was that EST went into effect on the 26th. Prior to that date, the planet would have risen an hour later. The two nights prior to this event, skies were either overcast or scattered clouds. The change in time could have misled the observers into thinking that this was something different than what they normally saw at this time.
The repetition of the events the next night tends to point towards an astronomical object as well. Why did the “helicopter” appear at the same time, and in the same direction, as the night before?
The “helicopter” appeared to disappear after two hours, The observers then saw the intruder again at 0050. An Airman first class re- ported seeing the object from the weapons security area access point. According to him, it was showing multiple lights (red, green, and white). He lost sight of it after about a minute. Another airmen also reported seeing the intruder for a few minutes prior to it going below the tree line. This observation could have been the bright star Vega, which set in the North-northwest at 0130 EST. At 0050 EST, it was 3 degrees above the horizon.
The last sighting that morning was at 0300. Very little information is available other than it was visible over the weapons storage area from CSC (central security control). The direction implies a Northeastern direction. Venus had risen around 0200 EST and was about 9 degrees above the eastern horizon at 0300 EST. One has to remember, it was believed the “helicopter” was coming from Canada and it could have been believed that the rising Venus was coming from Canada preparing to intrude again. The helicopter was sent up again to intercept and, once again, failed to find the intruder.
The nights of the 29th and 30th were cloudy and no more helicopters were seen. However, on the 31st, the skies did clear and the “helicopter” returned. The first sighting at 2314, was made 4 miles northwest of the base from an old Nike Missile battery called the Blotner site.5 A law enforcement officer saw a UFO hovering over the northern perimeter of the base. From his location, he would have to look towards the southeast to see the UFO in that location. Rising in the southeast was the bright star Sirius. No personnel on base appear to have noticed this “helicopter” even when told where to look. This tends to confirm the “helicopter” was much farther away from the observer and was probably Sirius.
The second event that night was a rapidly moving aircraft that was seen at both the east and west gates of the base by security per- sonnel. One of the observers felt they saw a tail rotor and red rotating beacon. They also heard the sound of the main rotor. It was described as moving “at a high rate of speed”. Despite the fact that this “helicopter” flew over the base from east to west, nobody else seems to have noticed it and the radar missed this “incursion”. It is possible that they may have just seen a bright meteor.
The third event involved unidentified airmen, who heard the sound of a helicopter near the control tower. No visual observations were made. This may have been a case of the airmen hearing a noise and thought it was a helicopter. Without the visual component, it is hard to say if there was any physical object. It is possible they heard the alert helicopter. There seems to be no way to confirm this.
Ithink it is important to note that several of these observations involved the witnesses thinking they heard the noise of a helicopter. Either they heard such a noise or, by the power of suggestion, believed they saw a helicopter. Remember, the security guards were at a heightened state of alert after the first night. They were probably told to be aware of helicopters intruding. When told to look for helicopters, the airmen probably felt that the objects they saw were helicopters and gave them “helicopter-like” characteristics, which would include the perception that they may have heard the noise of a helicopter.
In his book, UFOs: The public deceived, Phil attempted to link a mysterious unmarked helicopter that was flying from Rockwood, Maine as a possible source for the intrusions.6 According to his sources, the helicopter was possibly carrying photographic equip- ment. Klass states that this was documented in a Loring AFB memo that discussed a phone conversation on November 14, 1975, that was released to UFOlogists. I did not find it in the documents I acquired on line and from Barry Greenwood (although I may have missed it). Klass pursued this by talking to residents of the Rockwood area, who gave descriptions of secretive operations by the crew and support team. Assuming his information is correct, there could be a possibility that this helicopter might have been involved but it seems unlikely. Rockwood is roughly 120 miles to the SW of Loring AFB and it seems likely that the helicopter was flying in the general area of Rockwood and not as far away as Loring AFB.
Klass also suggested that the object might be astronomical in nature. As evidence, he presented some news stories from Bangor about civilian patrolmen misidentifying the star Sirius as another one of those “helicopters” in mid-November. I found the Bangor papers mentioned by Klass on line but the stories are not clear as to what the source was except for a professor, who identified the sighting on a subsequent night as Sirius.7 I would not be surprised if Venus or Mars may also have been misidentified. It is interesting topointoutthattheBangorpaperonthe17threportedthatLoringAFBtrackedthatUFOonradar!8 ThisindicatestheLoringradar operators had difficulty differentiating between contacts generated by physical objects and false returns.
Because of the perceived intrusions at Loring AFB, the USAF Strategic Air Command issued an alert to all the northern tier SAC
bases on the evening of 29 October. Security teams were asked to be aware of possible helicopter intrusions into their airspace.
It is no surprise that security personnel, who were now asked to be more attentive, would produce reports of potential intruders.
At 2220 EST , on 30 October 1975, Wursmith AFB reported an unknown aircraft had been seen approaching the base over the
back gate and was seen from the motor pool. The transmitted message stated the observation was made from the back gate
and they saw the unidentified aircraft over the base. Local Radar reported tracking some aircraft and one appeared to be near the Weapons Storage Area (WSA). A tanker in the area reportedly had tracked several unknown aircraft in the area using their radar. However, none of these contacts (the ones identified by the tanker) appeared to be in the vicinity of the weapons storage area.
We don’t have much in the way of information regarding this sighting. We are told it was seen over “the back gate”. Exactly which direction that was is hard to say because there appears to be several possible “back gates”. The one that seems most likely is the one
near the WSA, which was on the northern side of the base. That gate was to the North-northwest.
The specifics of the sighting are hard to follow since the original OPREP-3 form seemed to be contradicted by the actual message that was transmitted. Because OPREP-3s need to be transmitted within a certain time frame, the initial report can sometimes be inaccurate. Therefore, I would consider the message to be the more accurate representation of what transpired. Still, it leaves a lot to be desired as far as specifics go. If the message was correct and the observer was at the back gate looking towards the base we have different directions than somebody seeing the object rise above the back gate. The exact location of the “back gate” is some- thing that is hard to determine but it appears to be near the northwest port of the base. This means they would have been looking in an East-southeast to South-southeast direction. If we are looking for an astronomical source, the bright star Rigel was rising in the East-Southeast and Mars was to the East-Northeast.
The source of the guard’s sighting may have not been astronomical. The message mentions that it is believed that the guard saw a KC-135 tanker flying in the area.12 This aircraft also had some sightings of unknown aircraft.
Because of the visual sighting by the base guard, the base asked for the KC-135 to help identify it. They reported tracking a target on their radar. It was 8-1/2 miles to the northeast of the base, over Lake Michigan, but no visual sighting was related to this contact. Twenty minutes later, the plane reported a visual on two aircraft “in trail” to the northeast of the base heading south at about 150 knots. These “aircraft” appeared to leave the area to the southeast and return to the region of the base. After about 20-25 minutes, the plane lost visual contact as the formation flew off to the southeast.13
Klass noted that the tanker aircraft’s radar was designed for navigation and not tracking other aircraft.14 He suggested that the aircraft supposedly seen by the tanker radar was probably a large ship in the waters of Lake Huron. The visual sightings are un- confirmed and could have been any lights or aircraft in the region. It is important to note that nobody on base saw these visuals approach the base.
It appears that the Wursmith AFB sighting from the ground were probably a misidentification of a star or aircraft. The KC-135 sight- ings, while interesting, probably were just a misidentified radar target and unrelated sightings of other aircraft in the area. The bottom line is there really does not appear to be much to this sighting but further west there were more sightings of suspicious objects near nuclear weapons.
About a week later, Malmstrom AFB in Montana, had a four day period where all sorts of aerial intruders were seen by security
15 personnel on the ground. The NORAD command director’s log recorded the events :
7 Nov 75 (1035Z) Received a call from the 341 st Strategic Air Command Post (SAC CP) saying that the following missile locations reported seeing a large red to orange to yellow object: M-1, L-3, LIMA, and L-6. The general object location would be 10 miles south of Moore, Mon- tana, and 20 miles east of Buffalo, Montana. Commander Deputer [sic] for Operations (DO) informed.
7 Nov 75 (1203Z) SAC advised that the LCF at Harlow, Montana, observed an object which emitted a light which illuminated the site driveway.
7 Nov 75 (1319Z) SAC advised K-1 saw a very bright object to their east is now southeast of them and they are looking at it with 10 x 50 binoculars. Object seems to have lights (several) on it, but no distinct pattern. The orange/gold object overhead also has small lights on it. SAC also advises female civilian reports having seen an object bearing south from her position 6 miles west of Lewiston.
7 Nov 75 (1327Z) L-1 reports that the object to their northeast seems to be issuing a black object from it, tubular in shape. In all this time, surveillance has not been able to detect any sort of track except for known traffic.
7 Nov 75 (1355Z) K-1 and L-1 report that as the sun rises, so do the objects they have visual.
7 Nov 75 (1429Z) From SAC CP: As the sun rose, the UFOs disappeared. Commander and DO notified.
8 Nov 75 (0635Z) - A security camper team at K-4 reported UFO with white lights, one red light 50 yards behind white light. Personnel at K-1 seeing same object.
8 Nov 75 (0645Z) - Height personnel picked up objects 10-13,000 feet, Track J330, EKLB 0648, 18 knots, 9,500 feet. Objects as many as seven, as few as two A/C.
8 Nov 75 (0735Z) - J330 unknown 0753. Stationary/seven knots/12,000. One (varies seven objects). None, no possibility, EKLB 3746, two F-106, GTF, SCR 0754. NCOC notified.
8 Nov 75 (0820Z) - Lost radar contact, fighters broken off at 0825, looking in area of J331 (another height finder contact). 8 Nov 75 (0905Z) - From SAC CP: L-sites had fighters and objects; fighters did not get down to objects.
8 Nov 75 (0915Z) - From SAC CP: From four different points: Observed objects and fighters; when fighters arrived in the area, the lights went out; when fighters departed, the lights came back on; to NCOC.
8 Nov 75 (0953Z) - From SAC CP: L-5 reported object increased in speed - high velocity, raised in altitude and now cannot tell the object from stars. To NCOC.
8 Nov 75 (1105Z) - From SAC CP: E-1 reported a bright white light (site is approximately 60 nautical miles north of Lewistown). NCOC notified.
9 Nov 75 (0305Z) - SAC CP called and advised SAC crews at Sites L-1, L-6 and M-1 observing UFO. Object yellowish bright round light 20 miles north of Harlowton, 2 to 4,000 feet.
9 Nov 75 (0320Z) - SAC CP reports UFO 20 miles southeast of Lewiston, orange white disc object. 24th NORAD Region surveillance check- ing area. Surveillance unable to get height check.
9 Nov 75 (0320Z) - FAA Watch Supervisor reported he had five air carriers vicinity of UFO, United Flight 157 reported seeing meteor, “arc welder’s blue” in color. SAC CP advised, sites still report seeing object stationary.
9 Nov 75 (0348) - SAC CP confirms L-1, sees object, a mobile security team has been directed to get closer and report.
9 Nov 75 (0629Z) - SAC CP advises UFO sighting reported around 0305Z. Cancelled the flight security team from Site L-1, checked area and all secure, no more sightings.
10 Nov 75 (0215Z) - Received a call from SAC CP. Report UFO sighting from site K-1 around Harlowton area. Surveillance checking area with height finder.
10 Nov 75 (0153Z) - Surveillance report unable to locate track that would correlate with UFO sighted by K-1.
There is a lot to swallow in these sightings. The first thing is to check the weather for the four nights in question. These are the observations of Great Falls and Lewiston.
his indicates that the weather was clear enough that astronomical sources might have come into play. Are these observations of astronomical objects? A clue seems to be the statement at 1429Z, on November 7th, “As the sun rose, the UFOs disappeared”18 and at 1355Z, on the same date, “..as the sun rises, so do the objects..”. 19 These comments should be red flags for any UFO investigator that what they are dealing with are astronomical objects.
The argument against astronomical objects is that there were radar contacts. However, this is no guarantee that the radar contacts were the same as the visual sightings. A lot of things generate radar contacts other than actual physical objects. For the purposes of this analysis, I am considering the radar contacts not the same as the visual and they are probably anomalous in nature. One must note that many of the radar contacts were slow traveling indicating the might have been weather related or driven by the wind.
On the morning of 7 November, the first observation at 1035Z (0335 MST) is important. From the sites M-1, L-3, and L-6, which were in the vicinity of Buffalo and Moore Montana. A direction of south of Moore and east of Buffalo indicates that the direction was towards the East or East-southeast. In the east, was the planet Venus at magnitude -4.4! It had risen shortly after 0300 MST. At that magnitude, it is possible for Venus to produce enough light to create shadows and appear to illuminate a driveway.
At 1327Z, L-1 was looking towards the northeast. The bright star Arcturus was in the East and it was probably scintillating giving the impression that something might have been ejected. It is important to note that clouds started to enter the area and may have been the “black object” seen near Arcturus. They also used the word “seems”, which is subjective term indicating that it might have been a simple misperception by the observer.
What this indicates is the first night’s reports were probably due to the planet Venus and, possibly, the star Arcturus.
On 7/8 November, airmen started reporting a UFO around 0635Z (2335 MST on the 7th). Directions are hard to come by in this report. However, the bright star Sirius had risen around 0615Z in the southeastern sky. By 0635, it was in the East-southeast about 2 degrees above the horizon. One indicator that the object was at a low angle of elevation is this statement at 0905Z, where the Lima sites were stating that the jets did not get down to the low altitude of the UFOs they were seeing. At 0905Z, Sirius was at an elevation of about twenty degrees in the South. At 1105Z, E-1 reported seeing a bright light. No other specifics for this but Venus had risen an hour before. Based on the previous night’s sightings, it is very possible that Venus was the culprit for this observation.
The next night (November 8/9) sightings were visible from the Lima and Mike sites again. By 2000 MST, they reported sighting a light north of the town, Harlowtown, which was south of the observers. High in the southern sky was the bright planet Jupiter. Fomalhaut was also visible to the south but it is not a very bright first magnitude star. The subsequent sighting is towards the Southeast of Lewistown. About this time, a United Flight reported seeing a bright meteor. However, this was not the same object as they reported it as being stationary. Mars was above the Eastern horizon. This may have been the source of the stationary “Orange white disc object”.
There was one more set of sightings on the night of the 9/10th November. Both reports were around 1900 MST. All we know is that K-1 reported seeing a UFO. Jupiter was in the Southeast. Considering the fact that most UFOs were being reported in the East and Southeast, it seems probable that Jupiter was the source of the UFO report.
The UFO reports ceased at this point. There may have been several reasons:
They learned that what they were seeing were astronomical objects
Weather began to interfere
New personnel took over the night shifts
The moon, which was waxing, began to wash out the sky. While the objects were the same brightness, the lack of a dark sky made the objects appear less prominent.
There are plenty of clues that what was seen on most of the nights/mornings were probably astronomical objects. Like Loring, the observers could see the planes fly by the UFOs but the pilots did not see them. While there were radar contacts, none of these were confirmed to be the same as the visual sightings and the planes could not locate these targets either.
The final gem in the 1975 SAC flyover wave, is this report:
10 Nov 75 (1125Z) - UFO sighting reported by Minot Air Force Station, a bright star-like object in the west, moving east, about the size of a car. First seen approximately 1015Z. Approximately 1120Z, the object passed over the radar station, 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet high, no noise heard. Three people from the site or local area saw the object. NCOC notified.20
A star-like object moving towards the east is indicative of a bright satellite. The largest satellites in orbit at the time was the aban- doned Skylab and Salyut space stations. While the Salyut station was not in the region, Skylab was. In fact, it made a pass over the central United States around 1125Z.
Using Heavensat and Skylab Two-line elements, I came up with this plot of Skylab’s path across the sky from Minot, North Dakota. It came out of the Earth’s shadow around 1125Z to the South-southeast of Minot AFS and then moved East. Its maximum altitude was about 20 degrees. Ted Molczan, using a database of skylab observations, determined it would have had an approximate magnitude around +2. He also pointed out that this was a rough approximation and he could not rule out the possibility that it might have been brighter, or fainter, than this estimate.18 Most satellite observers are aware that a certain part of the satellite can create glints and bright reflections if the sun strikes their surface in the correct way. Even if it were only magnitude +2, the object was pretty bright in that region of the sky. Venus was the only bright object that was visible to the southeast. All other stars in Skylab’s path were not as bright or only as bright as +2.
We don’t know the locations of the observers who reported this but if they were to the north of the radar site (Minot AFS was south of Minot AFB), Skylab would have appeared to have flown over the radar station at a low altitude. The only problem is the report that the object was in the west at 1015Z. One must recall that the entry is based upon a verbal report and there may be errors. It may have been that a UFO was seen in the west at 1015Z and then another UFO was seen at 1120Z moving east. At 1015Z, the planet Jupiter was beginning to set in the west (setting around 1100Z). The two sightings could have been merged into one.
The highly trained observer argument
Proponents will complain that highly trained individuals could never mistake planets and stars for UFOs but they would be wrong for several reasons. The history of UFO reports has shown that “trained” individuals, like police officers and pilots, can, and do, mistake planets and stars for something exotic. Additionally, calling security personnel “highly trained”, is not entirely accurate. They are highly trained in maintaining security and doing their job related to that. However, they are not “highly trained” in under- standing astronomical objects or identifying lights in the sky at night. In my opinion, these airmen were doing their jobs as best they could because they were reporting potential threats. Unfortunately, their imaginations may have gotten the best of them and they transformed astronomical objects into something sinister/exotic.
There seems to be a good possibility that all of this started with a simple misperception of the planet Mars. Once the security personnel believed that Mars was a helicopter, it did not take much convincing to alert the upper chain of command. As other bases were alerted to “helicopters” possibly making intrusions, their guards started to see any “nocturnal light” as potential threats. Planets, stars, and satellites appear to explain a good portion of these sightings.
Quelle: SUNlite 5/2016