By Trish Choate
Monday, January 28, 2008-WASHINGTON — Put the alien theories on hold and get the men in black a cup of coffee. You know how they like it.
Instead of beings from outer space visiting Big Country skies, the Air Force could be secretly working out the kinks in the next U-2 spy plane or B-2 stealth bomber in the skies over the Big Country.
U.S. military pilots might have been at the helm of Unidentified Flying Objects decked out with secret technology, accounting for reports from Erath, Brown and Comanche counties the past two months.
After all, the military possesses experimental technologies the public might not know about until decades after development.
“For national security reasons, of course, they’re disinclined to tell us about it,” Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society and editor of Skeptic magazine, said.
Besides Shermer, an author of more than 20 books on secret and stealth technology, a think-tank expert and a former “Skunk Works” chief weighed in.
Among the possibilities: The government is conducting a campaign of disinformation, spreading UFO stories to cover up the truth, which is out there.
Or eyewitnesses surprised by fast-moving spheres and a gigantic “mother ship” simply saw jets from a nearby military base.
That includes the UFO sighting Jan. 8 around Stephenville, Texas, the day the Air Force said it had jets on a training mission in the area.
Either way, Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, isn’t involved in black — classified — aircraft programs.
“We strictly deal with B-1s and C-130s here,” 1st Lt. William Powell, Dyess spokesman, said. “If it didn’t come from this base, which it didn’t, then I wouldn’t know what kind of aircraft was flying in that area on that date.”
John Pike, a defense and intelligence expert, said he believes the government has thrown up a smokescreen before, like with Area 51 in Nevada, to discredit witnesses.
“If they get people seeing lights all the time, and they don’t know what it is, one way of making the whole thing seem silly is to have people recall flying saucers,” Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, said. “And that way the whole story just kind of goes away.”
Area 51 has played a role in modern American mythology about everything from secret military technologies to alien spacecraft. Beliefs vary as to the truth about the southern Nevada location.
Back in the 1950s, the Air Force exploited the UFO scenario to divert attention from the U-2 being tested at a secret base in Nevada, said Bill Sweetman, who’s written extensively on stealth and black technology.
The U-2 was the only aircraft that could fly at such a high altitude for as long as it could, Sweetman, editor of Defense Technology International magazine, said.
“Airline pilots who didn’t know that a secret airplane was out there would see this object way up above them, and they would report it as a UFO,” he said.
Those sightings led to “Project Bluebook,” efforts to make people think they’d seen a natural phenomenon or something unexplainable — not a secret airplane, Sweetman said.
He didn’t want to hazard a guess about whether West Texans have spotted secret aircraft, but he was doubtful.
“Why would you fly it near a populated area at all?” he said.
And it’s impossible to speculate whether the Big Country UFOs were a sign of a secret program, said retired Air Force Col. Tom Ehrhardt, a former Pentagon chief of the “Skunk Works” or the Strategy, Concepts and Doctrine Division.
“That particular location for it seems improbable because, usually, we have more secure sites to do that sort of thing in than there,” said Ehrhardt, now of the nonprofit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
Sites such as Area 51, he said.
“But you never want to say this isn’t one of those because I don’t have that knowledge,” Ehrhardt said.
Theories to the contrary, the UFO story hasn’t gone away yet.
“Our initial analysis is that we have at least two very promising pieces of evidence,” Ken Cherry, state director for the nonprofit Mutual UFO Network, said.
Video and still images show spheres in incredible maneuvers at high speed in the Big Country, Cherry said. Others have told MUFON of “a mother ship” a mile long and a half mile wide. Eyewitnesses are ranchers, farmers, oilfield workers, shop owners, defense workers and others who talk of activity as far back as 30 years ago in the area, he said.
But could fast-moving spheres simply be the afterburners of 10 F-16s? In an about face, the military said 10 F-16s from the 301st Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base were on a training mission Jan. 8 in an area including Erath County. Maj. Karl Lewis, a fighter wing spokesman, said it was just a mistake when he first told reporters the base had no planes in the sky that day.
“I did my best to correct it as soon as possible,” Lewis said.
But the story has wings.
Washington regional correspondent Trish Choate can be reached at (202) 408-2709 or choatet(at)shns.com.
source and references:
Archived UFO Articles and News Items, 2008
UFO Casebook Home Page