NORAD And The UFO Smokescreen
In Part 6 and Part 7 of my “NORAD and the UFO Smokescreen” series, I discussed the possibility that the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD), as well as other commands and their space components, may have detected and tracked UFO’s outside Earth’s atmosphere. As I have stated before, I use the term “UFO” to describe unknown and unidentifiable bodies which are above-and-beyond natural and manmade objects. I discussed NORAD’s early efforts, starting in the 1950’s, through to the 1990’s and 2000’s, where the US Space Command (SPACECOM), and then the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) partially took over space surveillance from NORAD. Possibly the most important issue I discussed was the detection and tracking of unknown bodies in space, usually termed “Uncorrelated Targets” (UCTs), plus the declassified military doctrine that tasks the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) with evaluating them.
In this entry in the series, I look at the efforts of UFO researchers, from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, to obtain actual UCT data from NORAD, as well as the space component commands of the United States Navy (USN) and United States Air Force (USAF). It should be noted, that UFO researchers were not aware of the term “Uncorrelated Target” (UCT) until 1994, yet had been in use within the US military since at least 1968. Even without using the exact jargon, some significant information was released.
On the 3erd of July, 1978, researcher Robert Todd submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the (USN) Naval Space Command (NAVSPACOM), or, specifically, the Naval Space Surveillance System (NAVSPASUR) Headquarters at Dahlgren, Virginia. His request asked for:
“….all records of, or, relating to Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), unidentified flight activity, unknown objects, or unknown tracks, in possession of the Naval Space Surveillance System.”.
As discussed previously, NORAD, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was in control of the “Space Detection and Tracking System” (SPADATS). ‘SPADATS data streams were, at that time, coming partly from the NAVSPASUR network. This was only one of a number of avenues Todd took to obtain data relating to unknown or unidentified objects in space. It should be noted that the term “Uncorrelated Target” (UCT) was probably unknown to researchers at this time, otherwise Todd would have utilised that term. Either way, his FOI request was specific enough that those handling it didn’t attempt to knock it back due to imprecise terminology. This appear to be the first time a UFO researcher employed the FOI Act to secure space tracking data to look for potential UFO activity in space. Below is a copy of this very early effort.
On the 11th of July, 1978, Captain B. F. Czaja, the Commanding Officer of NAVSPASUR Headquarters, formulated a reply to Todd, stating, in part:
“The Naval Space Surveillance System is under the operational control of the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD). All space objects detected and observed by the system are reported to NORAD. NORAD regulations require this command to forward all requests for data to its Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Your letter therefore has been forwarded requesting NORAD Headquarters to take action. You may expect to hear from them shortly.”
This reply explicitly states that NORAD had control over NAVSPASUR’s systems and incoming data. On top of that, NORAD apparently also had issued regulations regarding the dissemination of any unknown space object data. Specifically, “NORAD regulations require this command to forward all requests for data to its Headquarters in Colorado Springs…”. This is very convenient for all involved.
Todd’s FOI request was indeed forwarded to NORAD, or rather the USAF’s Aerospace Defence Command (ADCOM), who often handled FOI requests on NORAD’s behalf. On the 11th of August, 1978, ADCOM’s Director of Administration, (ADCOM/DAD) Colonel Terrence C. James, replied to Todd’s request in a lengthy two page letter. I have highlighted significant segments of the letter:
“Your letter of 3 July 1978 was received by this headquarters on 17th July 1978. In response to your request, NORAD has no record of or relating to Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), unidentified flight activity, or other unknowns being tracked by the Naval Space Surveillance System (NAVSPASUR).”
This statement is misleading. One of NAVSPASUR’s missions is to detect and track unknown objects, as we shall see. NORAD is, in turn, a consumer of that data. So the statement “NORAD has no record of… … unknowns being tracked by the Naval Space Surveillance System (NAVSPASUR)” was either extremely poorly thought out, or, intentionally deceptive. The letter goes on to conversely state that:
“…approximately 25,000 observations are sent to the NORAD Space Defense Center each day from the sensor system… …Observations which do not directly correlate with a catalogued satellite are referred to as uncorrelated observations.”
“Approximately 10,000,000 uncorrelated observations have been accumulated over the past twenty years, of which about 875,000 total uncorrelated observations are from the Naval Space Surveillance System.”
“As you probably know, we are required under the Freedom of Information Act to release upon request from the public any “reasonably described” material in our possession that qualifies as a record and is not exempt from disclosure. However, the record must exist at the time of request. It is estimated that 340 hours of computer time and 400 manhours in addition to eight boxes of computer paper would be required to create the record of uncorrelated objects detected by NAVSPASUR.”
Here we see, for the first time, the term “uncorrelated” in regards to unknown space objects. As I have discussed previously, the term “uncorrelated” is used first when an uncatalogued space object is tracked by ground based sensors. It is either termed an “Uncorrelated Observation”, as we see in the above correspondence, or “Unknown Observation”, which we have seen in other documentation. Both terms are abbreviated to “UO”. If routine attempts to identify the UO fail, it is quickly “tagged” as an “uncorrelated target” (UCT) and further attempts are made to identify it. Whatever the terminology being used, this letter is openly stating that huge numbers of unknown objects in space were being detected and tracked. Generally, it appears that NORAD and the component space commands, like NAVSPACOM, were looking for objects that were in orbit, or, missiles that appear to be threatening the North American continent. However, without any UO data, or studies of such data, researchers couldn’t be sure. The two page letter from ADCOM/DAD to Robert Todd is imaged below.
Robert Todd wasn’t dissuaded by the scope of this response, and boldly replied on the 21th of August, 1978, asking:
“Would you please provide an estimate (in dollars) regarding what would be needed to obtain copies of the 10,000,000 uncorrelated observations made by the NORAD Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS)?
What kind of information is retained on these observations? Does the information include detail on the objects’ speed, course, altitude, size and maneuvers (if any)?
Would ADCOM be willing to undertake a project to make these uncorrelated observations available if assurances were given that all expenses incurred by ADCOM would be reimbursed? Am I correct in assuming that ADCOM would insist on payment prior to processing such a request?”
This, I believe, is one of the most ambitious requests for information that I have ever seen. ADCOM’s Directorate of Administration (ADCOM/DAD) must surely have been surprised by Todd’s direct and determined questions. This letter is imaged below.
On the 28th of September, 1978, ADCOM’s Deputy Director of Administration, Colonel Robert N. Meredith, replied to Robert Todd with one of the most well-known, and eye-opening, pieces of FOI correspondence in the history of UFO research. This is the first time this letter has ever been widely published. It stated:
“1. In response to your letter of 21 August 1978, the following information is provided:
a. To create a record of the approximately 10,000,000 uncorrelated observations accumulated over the past twenty years would cost approximately $155,455.
b. The data retained on observations include such parameters as: sensor making the observation, time of observation, elevation from the sensor, and slant range from the sensor. Depending on the sensor, other data may be included, but a single correlated or uncorrelated observation from any sensor would never have information on the objects size or maneuvers.
2. We are unable to undertake the project to create a record for you because of the operational impact such a project would have on computer requirements.”
Needless to say, a cost of $155,455 was well beyond the means of a civilian researcher like Todd, and, unsurprisingly, he dropped his FOI action on the matter. Of interest, it appears that ADCOM, in its letter to Todd, was dishonest when they stated NAVSPASUR “...would never have information on the objects size or maneuvers”. In the Nov 26th, 1962, edition of “Aviation Week” there is an article describing the early NAVSPASUR system. It states that the huge radar fence system does measure satellite “size”. This was with the capability of the technology sixteen years before ADCOM’s letter to Todd. The article states:
“...the setting of the automatic gain control... ...indicates received signal strength. This enables operators to estimate the size of the satellite, taking into account the satellite's altitude and distance from the station.”
The above detailed ADCOM letter to Todd is imaged below.
The Good Doctor, And Some Surprising Releases
Twelve years passed before another UFO researcher tried to obtain unknown space object data from the US military. Dr. Henry Azadehdel, better known as Dr. Armen Victorian, submitted an FOI request to NAVSPASUR on the 5th of April, 1990, for “unknown observations” detected by the NAVSPASUR network. Previously, when Robert Todd had attempted to obtain the same data, the FOI request was forward to NORAD to handle. But this time, NAVSPASUR directly handled Dr. Armen Victorian’s, and furnished him with a sample of two months’ worth of “unknown NAVSPASUR observations” data. In a May 2, 1990 reply, USN Commander R. C. King, Executive Officer of NAVSPASUR’s Dahlgren, Virginia Headquarters, stated, in part:
“The mission of NAVSPASUR is: to maintain a constant surveillance of space and provide satellite data as directed by the Chief of Naval Operations and higher authority to fulfil Navy and national requirements. NAVSPASUR is comprised of equipments performing three operational functions. First, data acquisitions of satellites if performed by a complex of three transmitting and six receiving stations located on a great circle across the southern United States. Next satellite detection and correlation with predictions is performed by digital computers at the NAVSPASUR Headquarters in Dahlgren, Virginia. Lastly, data storage, retrieval, and updating of orbiting elements of past, present, and future paths of all known orbiting objects are performed by the computer center at NAVSPACSUR Headquarters.”
Curiously, Commander R. C. King’s letter goes on, somewhat with context, to state:
“The address is:
Cheyenne Mountain Complex
Peterson AFB, Co. 80914-5000”
ATTN: Lt. Dupourque”
As we know, the United States Space Command (USSPACECOM), or just SPACECOM, was responsible, by the late 1980’s, for the integration of space object detection data which streamed in from NAVSPASUR and the USAF’s equivalent system, SPACETRACK. Simply put, NORAD’s old 1960’s and 1970’s-era “Space Detection and Tracking System” (SPADATS) had been replaced by SPACECOM’s Space Defence Operations Center (SPADOC). SPADOC was partially run by the 1st Command and Control Squadron (1CACS). In the mid 1990’s, SPADOC was absorbed into SPACECOM’s Space Surveillance Center (SSC). In regards to the above letter, Why Dr. Armen Victorian was given a specific SPACECOM postal address is unclear, especially considering NAVSPASUR had attached six pages of “unknown NAVSPASUR observations” dating from the 2nd of March, 1990 to 1 May, 1990. Below is a copy of the reply letter.
More importantly, published for the first time, I have imaged below a sample of the six page enclosure furnished to Victorian. This is actual “unknown observation” data, or, now properly and publicly as “UCTs”. What it comprises of is tabulated data showing, “Date” and “Time” in the first two columns, then “Latitude” and “Longitude” in the next two columns. The fifth column is listed as “Right Ascension of Objects”, and the sixth column is “Height”. The seventh column refers to “Stations Participating”. The final two columns do not have headings, so we don’t know what they refer to.
Reams of numbers like this, of course, do not tell us anything about the UFO phenomenon. All we can deduct from this is that the NAVSPASUR sites are consistently detecting bodies not in their databases. Having said that, UFO research often starts with something basic or raw. We don’t know if Victorian attempted further requests for more focused information, but undoubtedly it would have been worth asking NAVSPASUR for any, say, records related to the analysis of especially unusual space observations. Victorian’s whereabouts are unknown, as is his great body of work.
Also in 1990, Dr. Victorian was engaging the USAF’s Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). In a July 12th, 1990, FOI request, Victorian asked AFSPC for information relating to unknown space object detection and tracking. Specifically, it appears that he was looking for any releasable records regarding AFSPC’s “Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System” (GEODSS). GEODSS is a system of five space tracking sites under the control of AFSPC, which still survive today as part of the Space Surveillance Network (SSN). TRW Defence and Space System Group, in its “GEODSS: HEAVENLY CHRONICLER” handbook, published in April, 1980, describes a GEODSS site as:
“…a complex system of wide-field telescopes, extremely sensitive television cameras and radiometers coupled with modern signal processors and digital computers, and some very sophisticated software... …The system can detect objects 10,000 times dimmer than the naked eye can see.”.
Far more recent material on the GEODSS network is available, but this early example of publicly disclosed information is the only type of thing Dr. Victorian had to go on at the time when corresponding with AFSPC. Whatever his sources, he apparently requested numerous records in the one FOI request, and each record was handled somewhat separately. In a 21st August, 1990 reply from Sharon A. Law, Acting Chief, Records Management Division, Directorate of Information Management, AFSPC, it was stated, in part:
“This replies to that portion of your July 12, 1990 Freedom of Information Act request pertaining to Information (Scientific) on Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, capable of detecting 23,000 miles or so into space.”
With that, Victorian was released a copy of a training handbook titled “Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, Phase 1 Training Handbook” and a copy of an AFSPC 3rd Space Support Wing (3SSW), “Fact Sheet” on the GEODSS system. Victorian mailed a copy of all this material to researcher Barry Greenwood, including the above mentioned FOI letter, which I have imaged below. Also, Victorian included a handwritten message for Greenwood, which reads:
“I have written to them on the missing pages + figures. Last time I spoke to Bob Kirk, he told me, they have to review those pages to see whether they can release. However, I found this pamphlet quite revealing. The technology involved is science fiction capability. Regards, Henry, 30-8-90”
Indeed, the “Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, Phase 1 Training Handbook” furnished to Dr. Victorian is missing six pages out of forty-two. Maybe it was never realsed. Imaged here is the front page of the handbook.
Neither the “Ground Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, Phase 1 Training Handbook” or the AFSPC 3rd Space Support Wing (3SSW), GEODSS “Fact Sheet” describes anything specifically related to “our” kind of UFOs. GEODSS is designed to initially detect and subsequently track orbiting, manmade space objects, or, objects that resemble missiles which threaten the United States and her allies. When a true unknown object is seen, it is “tagged” as a “UO”, and urgent assessments regarding its vital movement parameters. If it can’t be matched to a known object that has recently moved or been lost, it is labelled, as I have discussed at length, a “UCT”. UCT’s are considered as a top priority within NORAD and STRATCOM, and are evaluated accordingly. This process is vital for the defence of the United States. Of course, there is every possibility that a UFO – something that totally fails to match anything like an orbiting body or an incoming missile payload – could be detected and tracked by multiple GEODSS sites, as well as the other sites that make up the SSN.
In Part 9 of this series, I will continue discussing the hitherto unseen efforts by UFO researchers in years gone by, as well as introduce some related topics which will finally lead into the work that is being currently achieved by myself, and colleague David Charmichael, today.