Thursday, October 28, 2021

"The US Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force actions or reporting are outside of Defence's remit," Australian Defence states

Updated 2 November 2021 to include Hansard record on the Senate Estimates discussion on UAPs.

Further updated to include the background on why the question came up.

"Remit" in this story context means: "The task or area of activity officially assigned to an individual or organisation". 

Hmm ... one needs deep historical context and more contemporary deep dives of research and investigation in order to attach much significance to these passing statements:

Australia’s ABC News reported today (28 October 2021) reported the following story:

Defence won't follow Pentagon to launch an investigation into UFO sightings or Unexplained Aerial Phenomena 

By defence correspondent Andrew Greene Posted Thu 28 Oct 2021 at 6:13am 

Key points: 

A declassified US report found analysts lacked sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects seen by military pilots 

Australia's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, joked in Senate estimates that it was the first time she had witnessed a parliamentary examination on UFOs 

In June, the Defence Department said it "does not have a protocol" that covers recording or reporting of UFO sightings 

The Royal Australian Air Force chief says Australia has no plans to follow the Pentagon by formally investigating UFOs, insisting his pilots have not reported any recent sightings of unexplained objects in the sky. 

At a Senate estimates hearing, RAAF Chief Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld was quizzed about a declassified US report into the topic released in June by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

The report, submitted to US Congress, found 

defence and intelligence analysts lacked sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects observed by military pilots, including whether they are advanced earthly technologies, atmospherics or of an extra-terrestrial nature. 

Under questioning from Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, the RAAF chief confirmed he was not "formally aware" of the report's findings but had noticed it in the media. 

Air Marshal Hupfeld told the committee he had not seen any reports of "unidentified aerial phenomena" — or UAPs — in Australian airspace. 

"I'm not familiar with, nor have seen any reports or information regarding UAPs in an Australian airspace context, and there's no air force-led task force that looks into this phenomenon," he said. 

The RAAF chief was then quizzed on whether Australia's Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN) could detect UAPs. 

"It's not possible for me to determine whether the JORN would see something like an unusual airborne phenomenon, without knowing the construction materials and other performance parameters of such an object, if indeed it was an object," he said. 

Photo & Caption from the above quoted ABC story: Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld has been the Chief of Air Force since 2019.(ABC: Cameron Best)

Foreign Minister Marise Payne later joked that it was the first time she had witnessed a parliamentary examination on the topic of UFOs. 

"I can say with some confidence that, after over two decades of participating in the Senate estimates process, this is the first occasion on which, in any capacity, I have had the opportunity to observe a conversation and a question-and- answer session on such an issue. 

"So, thank you for bringing it to our attention," she told Senator Whish-Wilson at the end of the RAAF chief's evidence. 

In June, the Defence Department told the ABC it "does not have a protocol that covers recording or reporting of unidentified aerial phenomena/unidentified flying object sightings". 

"The US Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force actions or reporting are outside of Defence's remit," a spokesperson told the ABC.

Here is a link to ABC’s AM programme on 28 October, 2021, which includes audio of the main comments:


Here is a video link to the exchange that led to the news item:

Thanks to Philippe Ailleris for posting me the link.

Transcripts of the Senate Estimates meeting completed by November 1, 2021. The relevant exchange now on the parliamentary Hansard record is included here:

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I'm not sure exactly who to ask to respond to these questions, because they may well not have been asked before. I was wondering if I could have someone senior from the Air Forceparticularly a pilot, if that's possible.

CHAIR: Who knows how to fly a plane!

Senator Payne: We'll do our best to find you a pilot from the Air Force. I'll call the Chief of Air Force; there's a plan!

Senator WHISH-WILSON: The Chief of Air Force would be great, if that's possible.

Senator Payne: He's a pilot; I've seen him fly.

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I am a pilot. I used to fly aeroplanesnot currently now. I think I've got the information you might need, pending your question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I know we have close ties with the US. We share intelligence. My questions relate to the release of the report on 25 June 2021 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,Preliminary assessment: unidentified aerial phenomena. This is an issue that has been raised in Congress; the Department of Defense has submitted a report. It's become a significant matter of public interest. I suppose my first question is: are you aware of that report?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not formally aware of the report. I think there was an article in the newspapers and commentary about that at some stage. But I'm not quite sure of the content of the report.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Okay. Just as a matter of interest, what questions did you think I was going to ask?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I thought you were going to ask questions about aircraft, but it sounds like you're going to ask questions about UFOs.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: We'd be very interested to hear your views on this. Yes, it has been reported in the media extensively both here and internationally. I'll just read you a few statements or the executive summary from that report. It basically talks about UAPs as being something that the US Department of Defense is taking seriously, and that the Pentagon has a taskforce assigned to better understand the data interpretation of recent sightings. The report says: 'UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.' Then it goes on to talk about the 144 cases that the Pentagon looked at. Only one was clearly explainable; the others remain unexplained. It says that, after carefully considering the information, the taskforce reported that UAPs largely witnessed firsthand by military aviators were 'collected from systems that were considered to be reliable.' It went on: 'Most reports described UAP as objects that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.'

Could I ask whether the Australian Air Force or the Australian military also have a taskforce looking at UAPs? Is this something that you're familiar with at all in your brief?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not familiar with nor have I seen any reports or information regarding UAPs in an Australian airspace context. There's no Air Force led taskforce that looks into this phenomena.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: We don't do any monitoring of this at all?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: There have been no reports that I'm aware of, Senator.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: No informal reports from pilots or across other military activities?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: None from any aircrew or aviation organisation that I'm aware of. The only experience that I have in this was over 40 years ago when some reports were made and we launched Mirage aircraft. The phenomena turned out to be errors on the radar screens in our normal civil air-traffic control system, but no physical objects were detected.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Does the characterisation of the DOD, in relation to their report, of both intent and advanced technology concern you? Basically, they're saying they can't explain what these things are, but they would like to better understand them.

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I can't answer for another sovereign nation. That is a matter for the US and the Pentagon and the Department of Defense in the US.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Would it be possible for you to see if, across the other services, there has been any kind of reporting system in relation to this in Australia?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: Certainly, I can take that on notice. But I feel confident that, as the airspace control authority within Australia, if there had been any detections or items such as this, I would have been aware of them. But I can take that on notice to double-check.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Okay. Typically, would something like Jindalee be able to pick-up fast-moving objects, or is it more designed to look at ships and

Air Marshal Hupfeld: Senator, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network is designed to detect aircraft and some ships. I won't go into the details of the nature of that detection, as we would then be getting into very classified areas. It's not possible for me to determine whether the JORN would see something like an unusual airborne phenomenon without knowing the construction, materials and other performance parameters of such an object, if, indeed, it was an object.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: As a pilot, have you seen any of the video footage that's been released by the US military? It's unclassified and it's been reported on by either the New York Times or the Washington Post. EvenThe Conversation here in Australia, which, as you know, is quite a respectable, conservative media outlet, has written a report. They're not saying they agree that these things may be more than aberrations, but they are saying, 'Finally, there's a mature conversation now happening around UAPs and we're trying to better understand them.'

Air Marshal Hupfeld: Through professional curiosity, I did look at some of the videos that were attached to those media reports. They were interesting but not compelling to me. I don't believe everything that I read in the media.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: No, nor do I. It's certainly something we learn in Canberra. It's just interesting. Do you think it would be possible for pilots to spoof that kind of thing?

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not sure what you mean by 'spoof'. Are you talking about the
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Obviously the video has come from US Air Force pilots. I think there are 80

different sources, and the DOD and Pentagon are taking this seriously.

Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not really able to comment on that. There are too many variables to even form a view.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Thank you for that. If you could just take that on notice, that would be excellent.

Senator Payne: I can say with some confidence that after over two decades of participating in the Senate estimates process this is the first occasion on which in any capacity I have had the opportunity to observe a conversation and a question-and-answer session on such an issue. So thank you so much for bringing it to our attention.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: My pleasure, Senator Payne. I do notice our key ally is taking this very seriously.

Senator Payne: I heard you.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: It is now emerging as a matter of public interest. So I'm glad you appreciate that.

Senator Payne: I listened with great interest. I'm glad we could find you a pilot.

(End of Hansard extract)

For a bit of background perspective, I’ll quote from an interview I did with Robbie Graham back in 2018, which was published on my blog back on September 27, 2018:

and published in a 2019 special issue of New Dawn.


Robbie asked me:

What is the Australian government’s official stance on UFOs? When was the last time it issued a statement on the subject?


My 2018 response:

While I would argue that Australia’s “official stance on UFOs” (that there was largely nothing to it all) was fully expressed back in 1984, it was restated and expanded upon in 1994 and again in 1996 and even later still. See my chapter in the UFO History Group’s monumental study, “UFOs and Government” (2012). My friend Paul Dean describes the drawn out Australian “swan song” in 2015 and 2016 posts on this theme:

“In the 1994, and further in 1996, the Australian Defence Department increasingly and officially washed their hands of the UFO/UAP matter. This came after some 44 years of official Defence handling of the issue, with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the old Department of Air (DOA) begrudgingly doing the lion’s share of the investigative work – if you can call it ‘investigative work’ that is. See, judging by the thousands of declassified and released pages held now at the National Archives of Australia (NAA), its crystal clear that those in RAAF and Aviation officialdom did a sub-standard job of chronological filing, policy development, and last, but definitely not least, actual investigation. Veteran researcher Bill Chalker stated to me in my first phone conversation with him 6 years ago, that his opinion of the government’s handling of the matter, after looking through the files, was ‘an entirely lost opportunity’ for a proper ‘scientific appraisal’ of the UFO matter. He was right then, and he is right now.”

I describe my own take on this:

“Despite cases like the 1973 North West Cape event, the 1983 Melton/Rockbank incident and the 1987 SAS Learmouth report, during December 1993, the RAAF formerly concluded its long love-hate relationship with UFOs, or ‘Unusual Aerial Sightings’ (UAS) as they preferred to call them. The Department of Defence ‘swansong’ was dryly expressed in Enclosure 1 to Air Force file AF 84 3508 Part 1 folio 18 – RAAF POLICY: UNUSUAL AERIAL SIGHTINGS.”

In correspondence dated January 4, 1994, civilian UFO groups around Australia were informed by now Wing Commander Brett Biddington, on behalf of the Chief of Air Staff, that “The number of reports made to the RAAF in the past decade had declined significantly, which may indicate that organisation such as yours are better known and are meeting the community’s requirements.”


The “new” policy, which was an inevitable outgrowth of the downgrading of the RAAF’s role back in 1984, stated:

“For many years the RAAF has been formally responsible for handling Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) at the official level. Consideration of the scientific record suggests that, whilst not all UAS have a ready explanation, there is no compelling reason for the RAAF to continue to devote resources to recording, investigating and attempting to explain UAS. 


The RAAF no longer accepts reports on UAS and no longer attempts assignment of cause or allocation of reliability. Members of the community who seek to report a UAS to RAAF personnel will be referred to a civil UFO research organisation in the first instance…


Some UAS may relate to events that could have a defence, security, or public safety implication, such as man-made debris falling from space or a burning aircraft. Where members of the community may have witnessed an event of this type they are encouraged to contact the police or civil aviation authorities.”

Given the rich history of political and military machinations that quite often effectively prevented opportunities for real science, the policy statement alluding to “the scientific record” is particularly perplexing. As a scientist who has examined in detail the RAAF “record” I can state with some certainty that their record was not particularly scientific and was largely defined by two criteria—national security and political expediency. This appeal to “the scientific record” is particularly puzzling as the RAAF regularly highlighted that national security not scientific investigation was their main focus. For example, in a 6 December 1968 memo from DAFI to HQSC in 554/1/30 Part 2, DAFI mentions, “As you are probably aware the Department of Air (later (DOD (Air Office)) is concerned solely with any possible threat to Australian security and does not go into detailed scientific investigation of UFO reports.”


Keith Basterfield reported Melbourne researcher Paul Dean’s recent interview with Brett Biddington who had since retired from the Air Force, who stated, “I wrote the 1994 policy and had a hand in the 1996 policy as well. After the Melbourne sightings I conducted an informal (in the sense I did not document it) literature review of UAS. I also sought help from civilian UFO organisations which claimed knowledge and understanding of the domain. I could find nothing on record that was defensible or sustainable. This is the reference to the “scientific record.”

I had spoken with Brett Biddington back in 2008. He indicated he had left the Air Force as “the most senior Air Force intelligence person in Australia during the 1990s.” He saw himself as still “the RAAF UFO/UAS expert” and regularly got RAAF enquiries. He regarded the “UAS regime” as a response to the Cold War and a way of finding data on “space debri.” He felt he encountered paucity of data in every respect, with “the veracity of the entire system in doubt.” He felt the UAS data had limited historical relevance. The RAAF’s response was always about the doubtful and limited veracity of UAS reports and the grief they caused for the RAAF. He told me that he never saw any case that grabbed his attention, not even the Melton case.

While I would agree that much of the data collected and assessed by the RAAF’s UFO/UAS programme was of limited merit, I also feel strongly that the lack of scientific investigations revealed numerous lost opportunities to do real science. Many impressive cases came to the attention of the RAAF, but rarely were they given the investigation they deserved—both a focus on national security where appropriate, and a scientific investigation. The scientific approach was not part of the RAAF’s investigations in any really significant way, hence the irony of a claim of “a consideration of the scientific record” informing the decision to end the RAAF’s reluctant and erratic embrace with the UFO problem. I wondered why the 1994 and 1996 policies were developed as the RAAF involvement had long since faded to a very low ebb and was always problematic. The UFO problem was always unwieldy and unmanageable for the RAAF. Controversy rather than resolution was a frequent feature. At times it seemed the RAAF were barely doing even a token effort. The RAAF largely resolved any dilemmas they had with intractable or unexplained cases by either burying them with unlikely explanations or simply ignoring the implications of often robust and unexplained events.


I have interviewed highly placed scientists within the Australian intelligence and defence community such as nuclear physicist Harry Turner who headed up the nuclear section of the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence within the Joint Intelligence Organisation and led a fight for a “UFO science” response within the Australian intelligence and military science community. The chief Defence scientist Dr John Farrands also had a deep interest in the UFO subject. He shared information, his perspectives and told me he had even contemplated writing a book on the subject, but would instead wait for mine. Sadly he passed away about a week after my book The OZ Files—The Australian UFO Story was published, so I never got the opportunity to see what he thought of it.


If the Department of Defence had a sense of an efficient “burial” of “the UFO problem,” someone had forgotten to inform the alleged corpse. The UFO phenomenon has never really passed away, but you would be forgiven for believing it has had many resurrections. Remarkable events continue to occur, providing a challenging testament for the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon.


Robbie: Does the Australian Ministry of Defence have an official UFO investigations unit?

My reply:

While the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) historically had the central responsibility for investigating UFOs (or UAS—Unusual Aerial Sightings—as they preferred to call them), the drawn out nature of the Australian government’s disengagement from the UFO subject has led to a somewhat fragmented and ad hoc current picture. Paul Dean has elaborated on this, indicating:

“There are currently two Australian government agencies who are equipped to, and indeed do, accept UFO reports from civil aviation flight crews. They are the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and Air services Australia (ASA). Of course, they do more than deal with infrequent UFO reports, and, in fact, are responsible for airspace management, the functionality of airports, pilot licensing, air safety, navigational systems, etc. Australia’s Department of Defence (DoD) also accepts and processes UFO reports, but their system is quite different from those of the ATSB and ASA. The DoD’s Directorate of Defence Aviation and Air Force Safety (DDAAFS) accepts reported military UFO cases via a form called an Air Safety Occurrence Report (ASOR). ASOR’s are processed through the Defence Aviation Hazard Reporting and Tracking System (DAHRTS), and are studied within the Closed Loop Hazard/ASOR Review and Tracking System. DDAAFS military UFO reports have proven very hard to obtain. But ATSB and ASA reports have been somewhat easier.”


Robbie: Has the Australian government shown more or less transparency on the UFO subject than the US and British governments?

My reply: 

The Australian government’s approach was more of a middle ground, but defined in a somewhat ad hoc way by the principle of “the ties that bind,” namely Australia’s relationship with its major defence partners—the US and the UK. While Australia routinely followed the lead from the much larger scale UFO investigations of the US Air Force, the government also took stock of the approach of the UK, which only in more recent years had become more open with their UFO files.


My own direct access of the Australian government UFO files was generally pretty open. During 1982 to 1984 I was able to examine a continuity of DAFI UFO files from 1955 to 1982, and since then filled in many of the gaps before and after those years. Through those investigations I was able to make contact with a lot of official players, particularly Defence scientist Harry Turner. Keith Basterfield, through an Australian disclosure programme, extensively supplemented and complemented my earlier investigations of official government files.


There is way more to discuss on this brief exchange at the Senate Estimates meeting. History will express the fallout of the comments.  

Back on October 31st I highlighted a link on my Facebook page to the Tasmanian Greens Senator's interview with Brian Carlton on Triple M Hobart 107.3 radio on 28 October in which Senator Peter Whish-Wilson gave an explanation as to why he asked the UAP question in Senate Estimates, paraphrasing:

"Over 20 years ago (presumably prior to 2000? - B.C.) a friend of mine, who I grew up with, he went into the Special Forces.  He went to Iraq & he went to East Timor.  He told me over 20 years ago, he was on a exercise.  He didn't tell me exactly where it was of course, on a boat.  Early in the morning they were basically followed by a metallic Tic Tac - an object.  He told me about this years ago - he and his mates didn't do anything about it because they were embarrassed. I was back in Western Australia in July, a month after the Pentagon report release and I caught up with him for a beer.  He said, you remember when I told you about this.  I said yes I do, it was out of character for you, because he was a no nonsense kind of fellow.  He said, Well, its out there now, people are talking about it it.  There are a lot of people in the services who have seen similar things."

Lets hope the new push to more openness might persuade this man and his many service colleagues to come forward with details of their experiences.  Many have come out over the decades, but it is an indictment on the toxic culture of ridicule and silence, that people have been constrained to reveal their experiences.


Post a Comment

<< Home