Sightings that include radar detections of UFOs and often visual confirmation as well, typically by pilots. Radar-only cases are often unreliable because of radar’s tendency to pick up spurious echoes from distant objects (“anomalous propagation”) that may then be misinterpreted as UFOs. Dot angels (radar blips that do not correspond to observable objects) can also be caused by birds or insects, auroras, temperature inversions, equipment malfunction, and many other sources. Visual confirmation of an anomalous radar target can often negate these complications. Indeed, in the 21st century, the detection of a UFO by several instrumented devices (infrared, ground and air-based radars, satellite photography) is certainly possible and would get the attention of even the Department of Defense’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office.

Port Huron, Michigan. At 9:40 p.m. on July 29, 1952, an Aircraft and Warning Station in Port Huron, Michigan, tracked an unidentified return on radar for 20 minutes. GCI asked Capt. Edward J. Slowinski flying an F-94B on a practice run to investigate. The pilot saw a bright, flashing, colored light in the location of the blip 29 miles west of Port Huron and followed it for 20 minutes. Slowinski was unable to close on the object.

NICAP case file

Bellefontaine radar-visual track, 1952Bellefontaine, Ohio. At 10:51 a.m. on August 1, 1952, an Air Defense Command radar site on Campbell Hill at Bellefontaine, Ohio, tracked a target 20 miles north-northwest of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, traveling 500 mph against the wind. It vectored two F-86s piloted by Maj. James B. Smith and Lt. Donald J. Hemmer. They made visual contact but climbed to 48,000 feet twice without reaching it. Smith got a weak return on his radar gun sight and shot a gun camera film of a white or silvery sphere estimated at 60,000 feet. They broke off the intercept at 11:13 a.m. about 100 miles west-southwest of Dayton. The film reportedly showed a UFO in the upper right of the frames with noticeable motion to the lower left. Although Blue Book Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt’s assistants Lt. Anderson G. Flues and Lt. Robert Olsson initially declared the case an “unknown,” Ruppelt changed that evaluation a few weeks later after ATIC Technical Analysis Division Chief Col. Donald L. Bower transferred out, explaining it as two separate but coincidental IFOs—a weather balloon and a jet. Ruppelt went to great lengths to debunk the case in his briefings to the Robertson Panel.

NICAP case file

Northwest of Richland, Washington. The pilot and radar observer of an F-94 patrolling from Moses Lake Air Force Base spotted a light over the Hanford nuclear plant near Richland, Washington, while flying at 26,000 feet at 7:15 p.m. on December 10, 1952. They contacted the ground control station, which reported that they knew of no planes in the area and that their ground radar showed nothing. The F-94 closed in on the object, which was large, white, and round and featured a dim reddish light coming from two windows. They lost visual contact then got a lock-on from their ARC-33 airborne radar. As they attempted to close in, the object reversed direction and dove away. They attempted several more times to approach the light and once had to alter course to avoid a collision that seemed imminent. The contact lasted for 15 minutes.

NICAP case file

Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. At 9:58 p.m. on September 13, 1959, a radar target was tracked moving at 2,300 mph at an altitude of 60,000 feet, heading northwest. A total of four radar stations tracked the object.

APRO case file (courtesy of the National UFO Historical Records Center)

Phoenix, Michigan. On August 4, 1965, radar operators at Calumet Air Force Station near Phoenix, Michigan, tracked 7–10 objects in V-formation traveling from southwest to north-northeast at about 9,000 mph over Lake Superior. The same night, radar targets at Duluth, Minnesota, were chased by USAF jets.

NICAP case file

Columbus, Georgia, radar-visual caseColumbus, Georgia. At 5:30 a.m. on March 27, 1966, both Federal Aviation Administration operators at Muscogee County Airport and military operators at Fort Benning reported a radar-visual sighting of a maneuvering, oblong, green-white object over Columbus, Georgia. The object appeared to change shape from cigar to wedge to triangle.

NICAP case file

Union Center, South Dakota. Several objects violated the air space over the Ellsworth AFB H-01 missile launch facility southwest of Union Center, South Dakota, around 9:30 p.m. on June 25, 1966, setting off the vibration sensors. Helicopters attempted to chase the objects, but they flew away quickly to the north-northeast. Other sightings took place over the next week.

National UFO Reporting Center case file

Tehran jet chase, 1976Tehran, Iran. Residents of the northeast portion of the city of Tehran, Iran, watched a multicolored aircraft hovering a few thousand feet in the air at 10:30 p.m. on September 18, 1976. Some of them called the nearby Mehrabad Airport, reaching night supervisor Houssain Pirouzi, who went outside at 11:15 p.m. to look. With his binoculars, he saw a bright object flashing colored lights and changing positions at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Around 12:30 a.m., Pirouzi alerted the Iranian Air Force command post. Deputy Gen. Nader Yousefi also saw the object and scrambled an Air Force F-4 Phantom II interceptor piloted by Capt. Aziz Khani and 1stLt. Hossein Shokri from Shahrokhi Airbase to the west at 1:30 a.m. They closed in on the object, but the jet’s radio and instruments gave out. Only when Khani pulled away did functionality return. Squadron Cmdr. Parviz Jafari took off in a second jet with 1stLt. Jalal Damirian in pursuit at 1:40 a.m. Some 27 miles from the UFO, Jafari picked the object up on radar, the return indicating something the size of a Boeing 707. Visually, it was flashing like a strobe with intense red, green, orange, and blue lights (in a diamond shape) so bright that Jafari could not see its body. He approached within 70 miles, then the object jumped 10° to the right, then twice again the same amount. Suddenly a smaller round object came out of the large object and headed straight toward the interceptor at a high rate of speed. Jafari tried to fire an AIM-9 heat-seeking missile at it, but his weapons control panel malfunctioned, as well as his radio and instruments. Jafari turned to the left to avoid an impact with the small object, which approached to 4 miles distance, then stopped. It returned to the large object, which emitted another smaller object. Jafari was ordered back to the base, but the light followed him. During final approach, another object (a thin rectangle with three lights) appeared at low altitude in front of his plane. Gen. Yousefi then ordered Jafari to approach the light and get a look. When he was within 4 miles, the radio and instrument panel went out again. The light disappeared from view after Jafari landed. Base Commander Gen. Abdulah Azerbarzin claimed the complete investigation records were turned over to the US Air Force, which insisted it only had one memo from USAF Lt. Col. Olin R. Mooy, who sat in on one of the pilot interviews. A US Defense Intelligence Agency evaluation rated the case High (of major significance). The sighting was apparently tracked by a US Defense Support Program satellite.

Bob Pratt’s case file

An example of French military radar ar traffic controllers in action in 1976Contrexéville, France. Panoramic radar at an air force base at Contrexéville, Vosges, France, picked up unknown targets at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m., and 3:30 a.m. on December 14, 1976. Seven air traffic controllers were the witnesses. The radar painted the targets as 10–15 miles apart every 10 seconds, meaning their speed was estimated at 4,200–6,200 mph, a supersonic speed of Mach 5 to 8, at an altitude of 6.5 miles.

Claude Poher, “A Case of Radar Detection of UFOs in France” (2004)