Sunday, 21 February 2016

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

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

Part 4   


I have been recently reporting on the release of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) policy material which concerned the cancelling of Australia’s official 40 year acceptance and study of UFO reports. My work can be found in three previous parts: Part 1Part 2 and Part 3. At the end of Part 3, I wrote:

“I could continue providing textual transcription and imagery of this significant piece of Australian DoD history, but this series needs to be finalized, and anyone who wants to study the records provided to me merely needs to ask. It is absolutely worth other researchers having a look at this material. I have taken much away from these records, and, if nothing else, it proves that the RAAF can locate and prepare 20 year old records with what appeared to me to be relative ease. Also, in regards to the redactions of text found in this release, on the 17th of January, 2016, I appealed the DoD’s FOI decision makers and asked for the blacked-out text to be released in full. I expect an answer by February’s end.”

And that is where, even considering my appeal for redacted (blacked-out), I believed the matter would probably end. Gut instinct told me, on this occasion, that the Department of Defence (DoD) and its Freedom of Information (FOI) branch, had provided me with what I wanted, and that the sections of redacted text would stay like that until I revisited the issue in years to come.

To my surprise, I was quite wrong.

The DoD have not only released most of the records with far fewer redactions, they’ve done so without cost and at an impressive pace.

First though, some brief background. In 1994 the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) official policy of accepting and investigating UFO sightings, or “Unusual Aerial Sightings” (UAS), was downgraded to almost no policy whatsoever. I knew there would be a paper trail (beyond what was already released years ago) that accompanied this change in RAAF stance. In September, 2015, under the FOI Act, I submitted a request to the DoD for any such material. They issued me 42 pages of never-before-seen administrative records from that time. Now, as stated above, some of the portions they decided to redact, have been released.

On the 16th of Feburary, 2016, I received new copies of the documents I had secured last year, and I’d am happy to highlight the differences between them.  Wg. Cdr. Brett Biddington’s had written a draft discussion paper containing background information and suggestions. It contained background information on the RAAFs limited investigation of UFO’s, suggestions for the future, the implementation of the cancellation, etc. One of the heavily redacted sections of this draft document was Paragraph 4 on Page 2. I have used X’s to indicate redactions. It stated:

“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   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”

Compare that to the substantially more released passage of 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  acting on  X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X to locate pieces of space junk of high intelligence interest. 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 on the lookout for pieces of X X X X X  that failed to achieve its correct trajectory. This work may become relatively more important in future if regional nations move to develop and acquire medium and long range SSMs.”

In my Part 1 of this series I stated that I believed that the redacted material probably related to the RAAF taking advantage of civilian UFO reporting to attempt to find manmade space junk that had re-entered and touched down on the Australian mainland. And it turns out I was right, but that clearly wasn’t the whole story, as we can see some interest in the nabbing of downed or errant “SSMs” (Surface-to-Surface Missiles) from neighboring countries. Despite this need, UAS policy was in the process of being cancelled, so the RAAF were obviously relying on other means to find landed missiles that may startlingly impact within our shores. Maybe I should submit an FOI request to them for an update on that little matter too. Also, the above newly visible text still contains two sections that are blacked out. I suspect that the first passages of still-redacted material may relate time-critical, rapid reaction advice the USA which could aid us in pinpointing where important space junk has come down. The section, small redacted text surely relates to a specific re-entry of a known space launch effort. The two pages that contain the above now–released text are imaged below.



In looking at the above image, there is another section that has been unredacted. Paragraph 7, Page 3, was originally furnished to me like this:

“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  The means by which such searches might be conducted are numerous and will vary with particular circumstances.”

Compare that to the now unredacted version:

“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. It is not possible to determine how space junk of intelligence interest should be handled in future but the requirement to search for particular items in secrecy cannot be entirely ignored. The means by which such searches might be conducted are numerous and will vary with particular circumstances.”

I had, previously, postulated that the redacted text here related to Australia’s then new Jindalee Over-the-Horizon Radar Network (JORN), and, thus, a reference to it being able to track any incoming craft from space – however unlikely. I was wrong, as the now released text clearly shows. The most interesting issue to arise from this now readable passage is that the Australian DoD may still not have an official, probably–classified program that would be enacted should unknown or unexpected space junk land here. It is an issue I have looked at before. Currently, the Attorney Generals Department’s Emergency Management Australia (EMA) maintains the “Australian Contingency Plan for Space Re-entry Debris” (AUSCONPLAN-SPRED) for unforeseen events, especially when the offending debris is suspected be radioactive. Within AUSCONPLAN-SPRED the DoD, including the RAAF, does provide transport and logistical support to Australian Space Debris Emergency Search Teams (ASDEST). I am currently re–visiting that matter, which will be worthy of a full report.

Moving on to Wg. Cdr. Brett Biddington’s final draft, which was routed to the Chief of Air Staff, contains some of the same passages of text as the draft copy. As of my appeal, the final draft is nearly readable. Imaged below is Page 3, which mimics some of the above mentioned text and topics.


Finally, there is one more passage of formally redacted text that the DoD have mostly released. On Page 6 of Biddington’s final draft, we read this:

“….followed and cannot be sustained. In the past, UAS has provided evidence of human activities of interest to the RAAF X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X Should unambiguous extra-terrestrial contact with earth occur (which may or may not be associated with UAS), however remote that possibility might be, levels of organization well beyond the RAAF will be interested and involved. Should the RAAF be required respond, how we do so will be defined not by extant UAS policy but by instructions from Government. It follows that there is no valid reason for the RAAF to retain a formal interest in UAS.”

The unredacted copy says this:

“….followed and cannot be sustained. In the past, UAS has provided evidence of human activities of interest to the RAAF and X X X X X our interest in particular events. Should unambiguous extra-terrestrial contact with earth occur (which may or may not be associated with UAS), however remote that possibility might be, levels of organization well beyond the RAAF will be interested and involved. Should the RAAF be required respond, how we do so will be defined not by extant UAS policy but by instructions from Government. It follows that there is no valid reason for the RAAF to retain a formal interest in UAS.”

See that?  “….interest to the RAAF and X X X X X our interest in particular events..” . They’ve released most of it, but the key word(s) remains hidden. What could such a line really say? I had thought the word “cemented” fits in there, which would translate that RAAF thinking had established that finding intact space junk was significantly important. This is not the first time such a notion has been seen, and can be found very briefly raised in RAAF UAS policy files from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Or, my inputting of the word “cemented” could be entirely wrong, and a different word with different connotations may be sitting under all that infuriating dark ink. I have imaged this page below.


Quite a lot can be taken from this FOI appeals exercise. Firstly, some of you will notice that the few remaining redactions faintly contain the FOI Act’s “s33(a)(ii)” exemption. This translates as “Documents Affecting the Defence of the Commonwealth”. Secondly, the success of this appeals process demonstrates that our DoD is prepared to fairly assess issues when they are raised. More importantly, the release of all this 1994 policy cancellation material indeed shows us that, as the 1980’s became the 1990’s, the RAAF’s weakening UAS investigative function had less to do with actually investigating UFO reports on a case–by–case basis, and more to do with closing down what was an already directionless effort. Also, continuing awareness about unexpected space junk events was obviously expanding to include foreign missile activity encroaching here too. One wonders if these issues made their way into dedicated and active projects or programs distinct from Emergency Management’s AUSCONPLAN-SPRED efforts. Finally, more can be learnt from these papers. There may actually be even more there. What box did these come from? How were they filed? It will be worth me asking Defence FOI some more pointed questions. Because you just never know……

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