Published: 1:01 PM 6/21/2013
By ANGUS HOWARTH
The Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk in 2009 because it served “no defence purpose” and was taking staff away from “more valuable defence-related activities,” newly released files showed today.
The latest tranche of declassified MoD UFO files showed the decision was taken to close the desk and its UFO “hotline” in a year when sightings reported to the department had trebled, but that, in more than 50 years, none had indicated the existence of “any military threat to the UK.”
The 25 files, released today by the National Archives, include 4,400 pages and cover the work carried out in the final two years of the MoD’s UFO desk, from late 2007 until November 2009.
They include accounts of alleged abductions and contact with aliens and UFO sightings near UK landmarks, as well as documentation of the decision to close the UFO desk.
The decision was taken to close the desk and bring to an end the “UFO hotline” by officials who deemed it had no “defence benefit,” and that resources devoted to it were taking staff away from “more valuable defence-related activities.”
In a briefing for then defence minister Bob Ainsworth in November 2009, Carl Mantell, of the RAF’s air command, suggested the MoD should try to significantly reduce the UFO task, “which is consuming increasing resource, but produces no valuable defence output”.
He told Mr. Ainsworth that, in more than 50 years, “no UFO sighting reported to [MoD] has ever revealed anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military threat to the UK.”
The memo said there was “no defence benefit” in the recording, collating, analysis or investigation of the sightings.
Officials predicted a backlash from “Ufologists” to the decision to close the UFO desk, and also noted that they had “deliberately avoided formal approaches to other governments on the issue”, amid fears of “conspiracy.”
The files also revealed campaigns by Ufologists for the government to investigate sightings more thoroughly, with letters sent to senior ministers, former prime minister Gordon Brown, and even the Queen.
After the closure, air traffic control centres and local police forces were advised to no longer refer UFO sightings to the MoD.
Dry David Clarke, author of the book The UFO Files, said: “These files spell out clearly why the MoD decided – after 60 years – it no longer needed to keep tabs on sightings, even those made by ‘credible’ people such as police officers and pilots. People at home can read them and draw their own conclusions about whether ‘the truth’ is in these files or still out there.”