Australian UFO Researcher
Bill Chalker


Bill Chalker
(Copyright © B. Chalker - 1996)

The author is a leading Australian UFO researcher and a contributing editor to the International UFO Reporter. An industrial chemist with an honours science degree from the University of New England he has worked in quality assurance and laboratory management. His book, The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story, was published in 1996. He coordinates the NSW based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) and can be contacted at:

P.O. Box 42,
West Pennant Hills,
NSW, 2125
Telephone: (02) 9484 4680

*Sub Rosa: refers to "under the rose", meaning "in secret".


On a narrow west coast peninsula, over one thousand kilometres to the north of the main centres of population in Western Australia, stands an enigmatic monument to the military ethic. It is a remote spot even for a country as vast and thinly populated as Australia. A vast array of antennas and towers stand out in stark contrast to the harsh natural beauty of the surrounding terrain. The facility is divided into 3 principal sites - Areas A, B and C.

Area A lies on the northernmost tip of the peninsula. Rising to a dizzying height of 387 metres is Tower Zero -- the central structure of a vast array. Another 12 towers stand in two concentric rings around it. The towers support "large spiderwebs of wire" -- the Very Low Frequency (VLF) antenna array covering one thousand acres -- the largest in the world. A few kilometres to the south is Area B. It consists of the installation's headquarters and the High Frequency transmitter site.  Area C - the main receiver site of this secretive facility - is located 60 km further to the south.

Collectively the 3 sites function as a window into an extraordinary world that few of us are privy to. I refer to the vast and often mind boggling world of military intelligence. The site is officially called US Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt. It is more popularly known as North West Cape. In the vast scheme of facilities that make up the worldwide US intelligence gathering network, North West Cape, until recently, played an important and acutely sensitive role.

It was never very far from the drama and controversy that pivoted around the fears of possible nuclear war between the superpowers.

In his 1980 book, A Suitable Piece of Real Estate, Dr. Desmond Ball, senior research fellow in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, wrote,  "NW presently one of the most important links in the US global defence network." Its main function was "to provide communication for the US Navy's most powerful deterrent force - the nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine."

Dr. Ball further stated, "The National Security Agency (NSA) is the principal US intelligence agency operating in Australia;...Compared tp the CIA in Australia, the NSA has a much larger presence, is more important, more secret, and closer to Australia's own intelligence organisations." It is responsible for all "the various activities associated with Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) - electronic intelligence, communications intelligence, radar intelligence, electronic counter intelligence and signal security."

The National Security Agency is one of the biggest and most secretive organisations in today's mind boggling world of intelligence. The NSA operates at the NW Cape base, through its Naval Security Group component. The base acted as a ground station for the Big Bird "spy in the sky" satellites. The North West Cape base, along with other US bases around Australia (such as Pine Gap and Nurrungar), have long been a matter of acute political sensitivity, specifically related to the assertion that such sites would be prime nuclear targets during a major outbreak of hostilies between the superpowers.

While that threat appears to have diminished in recent years, due to the collapse of the old Soviet empire, back during October, 1973, we staggered towards the edge of nuclear brinkmanship. NW Cape dragged Australia into the global arena as a naive and compromised sidelines player. Perhaps never were we so close to the brink than during those harrowing days of the Yom Kippur Middle East war.

Richard Nixon, a US president beseiged by the domestic spectre of Watergate, plunged into the Middle East crisis. It had the bonus of temporarily deflecting attention away from his domestic excesses. The threat of nuclear annihilation is always a handy little diversion from the domestic triviality of "dirty tricks." On October 11, 1973, five days after the Middle East War broke out, North West Cape along with other US bases in Australia were put on full alert.

According to Richard Hall, in his book The Secret State (1978), this alert status was to escalate dramatically due to "an NSA misreading of Arabic in a Syrian message to the USSR which led Kissinger and Nixon to believe that Soviet troops might be sent to the Middle East." This fiasco climaxed early on the morning of 25 October, 1973, in Washington. A full nuclear alert went out to all US forces. North West Cape was used to communicate the alert to both conventional and nuclear forces in this region.

The acute security alert status "Def Con 3" was reached. Local time at North West Cape was around early evening. Something else intruded into the crisis charged atmosphere over North West Cape that evening.

At about 1915 hours, on that fateful Thursday, October 25th, 1973, Lt. Commander M_____ (USN) observed "a large black, airborne object" at a distance of approximately 8 kilometres to the west at an altitude estimated at 600 metres. Lt. Cmdr. M_____ was driving south from the naval communication station towards the support township of Exmouth, along Murat Road. The officer indicated in a written statement that,   "After about 20-25 seconds the craft accelerated at unbelievable speed and disappeared to the north."

The officer's account further states:

7. Hovering at first, then accelerating beyond belief.

9. No noise or exhaust.

11. Have never experienced anything like it.

At the base, Fire Captain (USN) Bill L____ also saw the extraordinary craft. He provided the following statement:

At 1920 hrs, I was called by the POW to close the Officers club. I proceded towards the club in the Fire Dept. pick-up 488, when my attention was drawn to a large black object, which at first I took to be a small cloud formation, due west of Area 'B' [in the vicinity of Mount Athol - B.C.].

Whilst travelling towards the Officers club I couldn't help but be attracted by this object's appearance. On alighting from pick-up 488, I stood for several minutes and watched this black sphere hovering.

The sky was clear & pale green-blue. No clouds were about whatsoever. The object was completely stationary except for a halo around the centre, which appeared to be either revolving or pulsating. After watching it for approx. 4 minutes, it suddenly took off at tremendous speed & disappeared in a northerly direction, in a few seconds.

I consider this object to have been approx. 10 metres in diameter, hovering at 300 metres over the hills due west of the base. It was black, maybe due to looking in the drection of the setting sun. No lights appeared on it at any time.

This is an extraordinary incident. When I first saw the report on it back in 1975 I was surprised, due to its contents, that, firstly, it had been entered onto standard RAAF Department of Defence UAS sighting report forms, and, secondly, that it had been made available to a researcher who had requested copies of some reports for statistical analyses being undertaken for my research group.

With the hindsight of the knowledge of its broader implications, which I am about to reveal, it leaves me just short of incredulous that people outside the world of military intelligence were made privy to it. I have already noted in passing the part the National Security Agency (NSA) plays in the shadowy world of intelligence and its significant presence at North West Cape. It occupies a position of extraordinary significance.

Therefore it was fascinating to observe the bizarre sideshow played out when a civilian UFO group tried to determine if the NSA had any files on UFOs.

UFO researcher, Robert Todd, received a blunt response in 1976, namely that "the NSA does not have any interest in UFOs in any manner". The civilian group Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) persisted in its enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act. During 1978, in litigation against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) it was determined that they had 18 documents on UFOs that orginated from the NSA!

Access to these documents was denied on the basis that they were exempt from disclosure on the grounds of national security. CAUS took the NSA to court determining along the way that it held a further 79 UFO related documents, which were similarly prevented from release on national security grounds!

Two documents were eventually released in January, 1980, namely "UFO's _______________ [balance of title deleted - B.C.]" and "UFO Hypothesis and Survival Questions." It was subsequently determined that both documents were written by the same NSA analyst. They remain our first and only insight into NSA thinking about UFOs. For their part, the NSA stressed that neither document represented official policy and were unpublished draft documents retained only for "historical reference purposes." Both documents are especially relevant in our contemplation of the possible significance of theNorth West Cape UFO incident.

The first NSA document was undated and heavily censored, however we find references to "Dr. Jacques Vallee famed communications science expert" and the intriguing term "surprise material".

Vallee was described as having studied "thousands of cases where human beings have observed unusual phenomena. He has found that the human response to such observation is predictable and graphically depictable. Whether the person's psychological structure is being assaulted by the unusual and shocking brutality of a murder or the strangeness of a UFO sighting, the effect is the same....

The degree of strangeness of the phenomena dictates how many people the mind is willing and able to tell the event to. A mildly unusual or shocking event will be told to many people. A very shocking event of high strangeness will be told to few people or pratically none at all. Occasionally the event is so shockingly unusual that it isn't even reported to the person's conscious mind but is buried in the unconscious of the person where it is only accessible to hypnosis...

" Jacques Vallee is of course well known as a UFO researcher and the concepts described in the classified NSA document are detailed in his 1975 book The Invisible College.

The heavily censored NSA document also introduces us to the concept of "surprise material". UFOs, a phenomenon publically ridiculed and rejected by science, had been placed by the NSA analyst in the same category as major historical threatening events. The appendix section of this extraordinary document includes two pages of historical examples of "Blindness to Surprise Material Causing Defect" (eg. Pearl Harbour, the Maginot Line, and the Normandy Invasion).

It is important to note that UFOs, in this classified NSA document, are being treated as similar to major threatening events, and not as a trivial aberration!

The second NSA document, written in 1968, bears the provocative title "UFO Hypothesis and Survival Questions" and contained the following intriguing points:

It is the purpose of this monograph to consider briefly some of the human survival implications suggested by the various principal hypotheses concerning the nature of the phenomena loosely categorized as UFO.

1. All UFOs Are Hoaxes... If UFOs, contrary to all indications and expectations, are indeed hoaxes - hoaxes of a world-wide dimension - hoaxes of increasing frequency, then a human mental aberration of alarming proportions would appear to be developing. Such an aberration would seem to have serious implications for nations equipped with nuclear toys - and should require immediate and careful study by scientists.

2. All UFOs are Hallucinations... In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, if UFOs did turn out to be largely illusionary the psychological implications for man would certainly bring into strong question his ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. The negative effect on man's ability to survive in an increasingly complex world would be considerable - making it imperative that such a growing impairment of the human capacity for rational judgment be subject immediate and thorough scientific study so that the illness could be controlled before it reaches epidemic proportions...

3. All UFOs Are Natural Phenomena. If this hypothesis is correct, the capacity of air warning systems to correctly diagnose an attack situation is open to serious question...

4. Some UFOs Are Secret Earth Projects ... Undoubtedly all UFOs should be carefully scrutinized to ferret out such enemy (or "friendly") projects. Otherwise a nation faces the very strong possibility of being intimidated by a new secret "doomsday" weapon.

5. UFOs Are Related to Intra-terrestrial Intelligence. According to some eminent scientists closely associated with the study of this phenomenon, this hypothesis cannot be disregarded. (The well documented sightings over Washington DC in 1952 strongly support this view.) This hypothesis has a number of far-reaching human survival implications:

If they discover you, it is an old but hardly invalid rule of thumb, they are your technological superiors...The "inferior" is usually subject to physical conquest..."

6. Comment: Although this paper has hardly exhausted the possible hypotheses related to the UFO phenomena, those mentioned above are the principal ones presently put forward. All of them have serious survival implications. The final answer to this mystery will probably include more than one of the above hypotheses...

It would seem a little more of this survival attitude is called for in dealing with the UFO problem... Perhaps the UFO question might even make man undertake studies which could enable him to construct a society which is more conducive to devloping a completely human being, healthy in all respects of mind and body and, most important, able to recognise and adapt to real environmental situations."

We are told that these 2 NSA documents, written by the same NSA analyst

draft documents (which) were never published, formally issued, acted upon. or responded to by any government official or agency. Moreover, they are not NSA/CSS [Central Security Service - B.C.] reports and in no way reflect an official NSA/CSS position concerning UFOs. They are subject to the provisions of the FOIA only because they have been retained by this agency for historical reference purposes.

It puzzled me that despite the apparent fact that the NSA shreds something of the order of 40 tonnes of documents per day, why had not these 2 documents and all the other NSA documents found the same fate? Although they were apparently retained for "historical reference purposes" only, one is tempted to argue they were preserved because of their significance.

Howard Blum, a former award winning journalist for The New York Times, identifies the author of the "surprise material" and "UFO Hypothesis and Survival Questions" documents as Lambros D. Callimahos. Callimahos was an= almost legendary figure within the National Security Agency and the field of cryptology. He founded the Dundee Society - a secret society within the NSA, which proselytised from within that UFOs had probably already visited Earth.

According to Blum, the NSA has since 1972 been "secretly monitoring and often assessing worldwide allegations of UFO activity." The 1973 DEFCON 3 SIGINT episode in Australia was an extraordinary example.

During 1982, a US District Court ruled that the NSA did not have to accede to a Freedom of Information Act request to supply a civilian group - Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) - with hundreds of UFO documents in its possession. The ruling stated that the release of the documents "could seriously jeopardise the work of the agency and the security of the United States.

" With regard to the balance between public interest about UFOs and the NSA's need for secrecy, the court further ruled that "public interest in disclosure is far outweighed by the sensitive nature of the materials and the obvious effect on national security their release may well entail." The court judge only had access to a 21 page in-camera affidavit presented by NSA's Office of Policy chief.

He was never made privy to the original document covered by the affidavit, which itself was classified "TOP SECRET ______" - "TOP SECRET UMBRA", I assume - meaning that the information was of the highest SIGINT sensitivity. UFO researchers were only allowed to see a heavily censored version of the affidavit, indeed out of the 582 lines present, 412 were either totally or partially blacked out.

The classified NSA affidavit did state that the UFO material was related to intercepted communications of foreign governments or SIGINT operations and therefore were properly classified. A date appears in the heavily censored report:

NSA - originated reports -

Thirty-eight documents are the direct product of NSA SIGINT operations and one document describes classified SIGINT activities. These documents can be further described as follows:

"b. One record is a 1973 report which__________________________________________

The rest of the 5 line paragraph is censored. Given the SIGINT based coincidence with the UFO presence over North West Cape during a nuclear alert on October 25th, 1973, it seems reasonable to suspect that the censored paragraph refers to this event. The final telling point was that the Australian= Whitlam Labour government was not even promptly informed of the DEFCON 3 nuclear status, emanating from Australian soil.

This led Whitlam to say the US bases in Australia were no longer sacrosanct, a position that had him completely at odds with the US intelligence community. All this and a provocative UFO report in the middle of it!


The RAAF were not prepared for 1978. When the year had ended some 30 incidences remained classed as "unknowns" giving a % unknowns of 25.4%.  The year before although lower in actual numbers of as reports also yielded a similar figure, namely 24.0%. Previous years had been as low as 3.0% and had been at 2.1% and in 1972 up till then had been at an all time high of 12.6%.

It is therefore not surprising that the Department of Defence ceased publishing the annual Summaries with the appearance of Summary No.9 for the year 1977.

The disappearance of Frederick Valentich while flying a Cessna across Bass Strait on October 21st,1978, dominated the year.   1978 was still an extraordinary year based on the holdings in the official RAAF files.

Some of the highlights were an extraordinary phenomenon seen in a cane field east of Mandurana, Queensland, for 3 hours on December 6th; a UFO sighting by crew on HMAS Adroit on April 11th; an apparent "electromagnetic" case north of Goulburn, NSW, on October 22nd, which left the car speed indicator broken; a "daylight disc" seen near Laverton Air Force base on December 27th; a very close encounter between a "mini-bus" like UFO and a taxi driver in Wavell Heights, Aspley, Queensland, on October 10th, 1978 ; and a large disc shaped UFO with "portholes", one of which allegedly had a shadow or silhouette behind it, at Heathcoate Road, near Menai, NSW, on October 29th.

By way of example, on April 11th, 1978, crew of HMAS Adroit operating out of Darwin, observed at 1123171K in position 1205 south 12954 East, a UFO bearing 285 degrees and appearing to "rise and hover and sink to the horizon several times before finally disappearing beyond the horizon. This object appeared very large and bathed with bright red lights and at one stage appeared to close (on) the ship...

The light also appeared at one stage to flicker on and off. This phenomenon lasted several minutes..."  The Royal Australian Naval officer reporting the sighting stated, "There is no possibility that (this) sighting was the moon setting and I believe (it) to have (been) caused by a UFO." The event is officially listed as "unknown".

It was the extraordinary disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich over Bass Strait on October 21st, 1978, that thrust the subject of UFOs into the news headlines around the world. The Valentich mystery has endured as an insoluble enigma. The crux of the mystery is just what happened to the young pilot and his 182 Cessna light aircraft - VH - DSJ (Delta Sierra Juliet) - during that October evening.

The circumstances behind the total disappearance of both pilot and plane have since been elevated into one of the premier mysteries of aviation and for many one of the most intriguing elements of the UFO phenomenon. The fact that the mystery has lasted so long is a direct result of the incredible aspects at the heart of the affair.

Twenty year-old Frederick Valentich, 47 minutes into what should have been a routine 69 minute flight from Moorabin, Victoria, to King Island, reported in a radio conversation with Melbourne Flight Service Unit controller, Steve Robey, of seeing an unidentified "aircraft" near him.

Apart from a very early attempt to suggest that Frederick Valentich may have been flying upside down, totally disorientated, with lighthouse lights producing his perception of an "unidentified aircraft", the Australian Department of Aviation has never officially addressed the question of what Valentich may have been observing prior to his disappearance.

I tried to extract from the Department their opinion.

At first the then Assistant Secretary (Air Safety Investigation), Mr. G.V. Hughes, advised me that he was not clear as to what was meant by my expression, "...the stimulus of Valentich's apparent UFO observation..."

"However, a great deal of consideration has been given to what Mr. Valentich might have been looking at when he described his observations. A considerable number of suggestions have been put forward by persons inside and outside this Department. All have been examined. The Department is not aware of any other official body having undertaken such an investigation into this occurrence," Mr. Hughes wrote.

However, when it came to an official investigation of a possible UFO connection, a veritable bureaucratic "Catch-22" loomed large. Mr. Hughes advised me, "As you correctly state ..., the RAAF is responsible for the investigation of reports concerning 'UFO' sightings, and liaison was established with the RAAF on these aspects of the investigation. The decision as to whether or not the 'UFO' report is to be investigated rests with the RAAF and not with this Department."

At the time I was fortunately in a position to get a clearer picture of the RAAF role in the Valentich case. I had been given unprecedented direct access to the RAAF files. During my detailed explorations of the files in a number of visits to the Department of Defence in Canberra, I did not come across any documentation on the Valentich affair. The RAAF Intelligence Liaison Officer - DAFI told me that the RAAF did not investigate the affair because they were not asked to by the Department of Aviation!

The RAAF saw it as more appropriately in the domain of an "air accident/air safety" enquiry. The Intelligence officer also volunteered that his personal opinion was that pilot diorientation was involved.

In November, 1982, I was finally given official permission to examine the Department of Aviation UFO files, but was specifically denied access to the Valentich files on the grounds that they were Air Accident Investigation files and not UFO files. Mr. Hughes of Air Safety elaborated:

"the file concerning this occurrence is no more or less restricted than any other accident investigation file. As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil Aviation, we subscribe to the Standards and Recommended Practices contained in Annex 13 to the Convention, in respect of aircraft accident investigation, specifically, when it is considered that the disclosure of records, for the purposes other than accident prevention, might have an adverse effect on the availability of information in that or any future investigation, such records are considered privileged."

While in Melbourne examining the Aviation Department's UFO files, I was able to have a lengthy discussion on the Valentich affair with Mr. A. Woodward, the signatory on the official Aircraft Accident Investigation Summary Report, dated May 27th, 1982. He largely reiterated the official department line, emphasising that they were treating the matter as only an "air accident" investigation.

He dwelt on a long list of prosaic explanations ranging from disorientation, suicide, to the unlikely prospect of the plane being struck by a meteorite, but conceded that the affair was still unresolved. It appears that the RAAF's enthusiasm for the UFO controversy diminished sharply after 1977 and 1978. The whole problem was getting unwieldy and unmanageable. Controversy rather than resolution was at every turn. At this time getting any sort of information out of the RAAF was difficult.

Letters were either not answered or replies skirted the substance of enquiries.

A letter I wrote in April, 1980, drew the following internal exchanges:

"11/4 A/ADRR -
Re reply, I believe there is a policy of not providing information on UFOs - Is this true?"

"A/ADPR (Press) :
Could you please get a policy sorted out with DAFI in [sic? - B.C.] whether we should continue to answer such enquiries? I think we are obliged to, particularly when FoI comes in [a reference to the Australian Freedom of Information Act- B.C.], but I think you were going to discuss the matter with [unclear-B.C.] at one stage."

I still presume we are still in the UFO business. If so, could I have a suitable reply to pass on to Mr. Chalker, please (14.4.80)."

As it turned out a reply was not forthcoming for a further 5 months.


Alien Honeycomb - the first solid evidence for UFOs" by John Pinkney and Leonard Ryzman was published during 1980. It professed to tell the story of a UFO explosion near Greenbank, Queensland, which led the authors to recovering some of the debri. They claimed it contained "unknown elements and configurations". The book reveal no details about chemical analyses and the authors resisted any attempt at confirmatory, independent analysis.

They were only prepared to have their material examined by the United Nations. The story that allegedly connects the debris to a UFO is fragmentary and dubious. In fact not enough information was given to verify a clear correlation. Subsequent investigation indicated the original discovery of the material by locals was covered by the Brisbane Telegraph on November 13th, 1970. The authors tried to link the debris with a sighting of a "flare" like "UFO" back in about 1966.

Pinkney and Ryzman indicated that most of the material was retrieved by RAAF officers, and then clandestinely despatched to Pentagon testing laboratories. They presented absolutely no evidence to back that statement up. The only reference to "Alien Honeycomb" I found in the RAAF files were internal memoranda from 1980. DEFAIR CANBERRA wrote to HQOC - SOINT on August 1st, 1980, regarding "Confirmation of Data in Book 'Alien Honeycomb'":

The text of the book is sufficiently vague to make tracing information from service records a very tiring and difficult task. A check of files held at Air Force Office has proven negative.

Unfortunately, a 'no comment' or 'no information' response from the RAAF is only going to encourage this type of journalisim. Accordingly, it is requested that HQOC initiate a check of records (including those of HQ AMB) [Amberley - B.C.] for data which could relate to this matter.

A telex dated September 5, 1980, and categorised as "unclassified/routine", from HQOC to DEFAIR Canberra, stated:

Further to ref A the following is retrans of info received from HQ AMB. Quote:

1. Summaries of unidentified aerial sightings prepared by Dept of Air between mid 1968 and mid 1969 have been checked for mention of the case. No mention of that particular sighting appears in the summaries.

2. This is unusual because it is our understanding that the summaries were comprehensive and not edited lists of reported sightings.

3. Unless requested by command the HQ does not propose to take this matter further.

I didn't see any evidence of a dark, pervasive coverup there.   Other RAAF files refer to retrieval of mundane debris, but none refer to the Greenbank "alien honeycomb". More likely the key to this affair is languishing, not in a UFO or UAS file, but in aircraft accident files.

As an industrial chemist and someone who was promoting serious research into possible physical evidence for UFOs, I was interested in finding out more when the book first appeared. The authors did not assist independent research into their material.

Based on visual assessments I had concluded the material was AEROWEB high strength honeycomb, some of which is made from fibreglass - a clearly human-sourced material. Soon other researchers,such as Paul Hebron, of UFO Research (Queensland), had acquired samples of the material from the site in question. A researcher working for sceptic Dick Smith received some of the "alien honeycomb" from the same person who provided the authors with their material.

A clear relationship was established between this material and the material held by Pinkney and Ryzman. Dick Smith financed an analysis through Unisearch laboratories, and not surprisingly confirmed that the "alien honeycomb" was not so alien - it was fibreglass! So much for "the first solid evidence of UFOs." More compelling examples of unusual debris or material related to UFO events have been documented. However in this case it was clear that the material had nothing to do with UFOs.


The next major wave of sightings occurred in the middle of 1983. There was a spate of essentially nocturnal lights, supported in some cases by photos, around Bendigo and Ballarat, Victoria, during May. A spate of activity including some apparent close encounters, occurred in NSW, during June and early July, against a back drop of probably spurious radar returns at Sydney airport.

The RAAF initiated, with perhaps tongue in cheek, what their UFO files called "Operation Close Encounter", which lead to RAAF aircraft being on standby, to pursue any verified correlated returns. They finally concluded the returns were probably spurious. The lack of a coherent threat solidified the official position that much of their involvement in the UFO controversy fell well outside the RAAF's military/security domain.

The UFO wave of 1983 saw the RAAF being remarkably public in their role of examining UFO sightings, indeed at a level virtually unprecedented in the history of the Australian controversy. An uncharitable interpretation of these developments is that the RAAF wanted to be seen to be doing it's "job".

During June and July, 1983, there was a rash of puzzling radar "paints" from Sydney Airport (Mascot). More than 30 unidentified radar returns were recorded. None were correlated with any visual sightings. When word leaked out, widespread media attention occured.


A bizarre night time game of "tag" and "pursuit" lasting several hours, and involving police, occurred at Melton, Victoria, on July 22nd, 1983.

This event caused great consternation in official circles, principally because during the evening's events the Army signal unit was alerted that their security had been breached. Constable Raymond Ellens was in a police divisional van with Constable Peter Ferguson, involved in the on and off pursuit of the strange intruders. Constable Ellens stated in his official report:

At about 5.00 am we again sighted the object to the east of our position. Sunshine 311 were still in attendance. We observed the object travelling directly towards our position. Between the object and our position was the Australian Army Rockbank Receiving Station. The object appeared to be travelling slowly directly towards the antenna array.

At this time the object appeared to be below the height of the antenna and if it continued on its path a collision would have occurred. The object then turned about and started to arc again to the north. After a few minutes we again lost sight of the object over the far horizon.

Sergeant Barry Harman of Melton police station witnessed the strange craft in close proximity to the station:

"Both Inspector Hickman and myself then ran onto the roadway of Palmerston street in front of the Melton Police Station, and immediately I looked into the direction of the Regional shopping centre and observed the object.

"My immediate observation was that of two large round lights, very similar to the lights of a motor car, approximately 40 cm in diameter and approx. 3 - 5 metres apart, approaching the police station at a very low altitude of approx. 100 to 150 metres. This object appeared to be maintaining an even altitude and speed and direction towards the police station....

As the object passed by, I gain the impression of the shape of the object to be similiar to an inflatable life raft approximately 12 metres in length, with rounded sides, and a shallow body of approximately 2 metres in depth. A red flashing light, not rotating, was situated in about the centre of the undercarriage.

There was no visible wings or tail similiar to an aircraft, nor was there any sound similiar to an aircraft or helicopter. The only sound audible was that of a very quiet wind noise...."

Constable Ferguson gave this description:

"The object then proceeded from over Melton in an easterly direction directly towards our position. As the object got closer and eventually passed directly over head we shinned the spotlight onto its underside and observed it to be of gun metal grey in colour and to have the appearance of a very large rubber raft with two lights inset in the front and two white lights on the rear and a red flashing light in the centre.

The underside appeared to be slightly curved and the side .. panels (were slightly) curved also. The object was approximately 30 feet in length and was approximately 20 wide. The object made a low pitched humming sound and appeared to be travelling at about 70 to 80 kph. The object was approximately 200 feet above us and was illuminated by the spotlight."

The evenings events were well witnessed. Earlier the object had briefly appeared on Tullamarine radar. The officers had also sighted the object on the ground near a paddock at the rear of the Toolern Vale Stud. Constables Ellens and Ferguson inspected the paddocks in the area but could find nothing.

Here we have a complex multiple witnessed affair involving possibly two seperate objects, one of a structured lattice appearance and the other, the "inflatable" craft described above. I spoke with some of the officers soon after the incident and was impressed with the seemingly bizarre nature of the affair. John Auchettl, then with VUFORS, went out to Melton the next day. There was extensive interest and presence from army, transport and police officials. John undertook a detailed investigation.

He still regards it as a very unusual and strange event, particularly because of the apparent "backing up" of the UFO when a collision seemed imminent with the Rockbank aerial array, the slow speed involved while it seemed to be chasing the police at times and the curious aspect of the UFO seeming to "crash land" at one point and seemingly disappear into the ground. John indicated that this was not (in army parlance) a "dead ground" effect, it was as if the object had been "absorbed" into the ground. And yet we have clear and unambigious evidence of real object, tracked briefly on radar.

The intelligence world was in an uproar because the Rockbank site was an Australian Signal Intelligence facility, where Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) monitoring occurs as part of our UKUSA SIGINT intelligence alliance. The site is linked with the nearby Watsonia facility which has direct satellite communications with the NSA and CIA. In this light, one can understand the acute sensitivities with the security "breach" that occurred that night.

In intelligence parlance, one could suggest that the Melton UFO showed "clear intent" in its intrusion at the DSD Rockbank aerial array. We probably don't know the full story of that nights events.


The RAAF used the lack of a coherent threat in their 1983 "Operation Close Encounter" to finally resolve their ongoing dilemma - that much of their public involvement in the UFO controversy fell well outside the RAAF's military/security domain.

What of the "breaches" at North West Cape in 1973 and at Rockbank in 1983? Both incidents had clear links to the clandestine world of military intelligence. Predictably it was not long before the RAAF changed their UFO policy.

The Defence News Release of May 2nd, 1984 carried the details:

WEDNESDAY. MAY 2 1984 NO 80/84


The RAAF in future will investigate fully only those Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS) which suggest a defence or national security implication. The Minister for Defence, Mr Gordon Scholes, said today that while the RAAF would continue to be the first point of contact, UAS reports not considered to have a defence or security implication would not be further investigated.

Instead they would be recorded and the UAS observer would be given the address of civilian UAS research organisations if the observer wished to pursue the matter further. Mr Scholes said that in the past the RAAF's investigation of all UAS reports had often proved time consuming, unproductive and had led to many man-hours of follow-up action by the RAAF and other agencies such as the Department of Aviation and the Bureau of Meteorology.

He said that procedures for investigating UAS reports had remained unchanged for many years. The vast majority of reports submitted by the public had proven not to have a national security significance.

This sparked an inevitable response from the nations media, with headlines like:

Gordon's blow: No UFOs
(Daily Telegraph, Sydney)

No go for the average UFO
(Courier-Mail, Brisbane)

RAAF resets UFO targets
(Canberra Times)

RAAF gives up chase for UFOs
(West Australian, Perth)

UFO reports now have low rating
(Hobart Mercury)

RAAF turns back on UFO Investigations
(The Australian)

I responded to the RAAF's policy change with a letter to the editor of one of Australia's leading newspapers of record:

The Sydney Morning Herald

Saturday, May 19, 1984

RAAF now has correct UFO policy

SIR: The Defence Ministers recent announcement of the RAAF's "new" policy on UFOs (or UASs) (Stay in Touch, May 3) is a logical and inevitable expression of the RAAF's 34 year involvement in the UFO controversy. As the first civilian to have been permitted direct access to the entirety of the RAAF's UFO files, I can confirm that the whole history of the RAAF's activity in this area has been based on two criteria logically, national security and, predictably, political expediency.

In the main, the RAAF UFO investigations have served there publicly stated purposes. That is, they may have allayed possible fear and alarm by the general public and satisfied the Government that there is no apparent defence implications.

The RAAF has stated "nothing that has arisen for the 3 or 4 per cent of unexplained cases gives any firm support for the belief that interlopers from other places in this world or outside it have been visiting us". It is my contention, having examined many of those unexplained cases, that surprisingly many of them contain extraordinary details which do not lend themselves to easy explanation.

These deserve to be the stuff of scientific scrutiny. In the great majority of cases that make up this unexplained residue, national security implications were not clearly apparent. However in a few, violations are apparent.

For example, on October 25, 1973, a UFO hovered near the sensitive North West Cape US Naval Communications base. It was observed by a US Lt-Commander and a base fire captain, before it "accelerated at unbelievable speed and disappeared to the north".

The US experience is similar. For example an alleged UFO ostensibly showed "clear intent" (according to previously classified documents) when observed hovering near a weapons storage facilities at Loring Air Force Base late in 1975.

Therefore, I believe the recent change in policy is an appropriate one for the RAAF to adopt. It will allow the RAAF to weed out those rare occasions in which national security violations are suggested and also allow civilian groups to attempt scientific investigations of the infrequent "close encounters" that the RAAF prefers to ignore.

Bill Chalker, May 9, 1984

The end of September, 1984, saw an embarrassing incident for the government's "new" UFO policy. Having "down-graded" their interest, due to an alleged lack of "national security" impact, a delta winged aircraft, which startled golfers and trail bike riders at Cunnamulla, in south-west Queensland, put the RAAF into a flap.

The UFO was described as having no tail, no windows and no apparent sound. One witness reported it had "beautiful rainbow colours" and "seemed to zig zag like it was out of control" for a short time before disappearing. The object ostensibly remained unidentified. The RAAF denied ownership. The matter was raised in the Senate of Australia's parliament, leading the Senator representing the Defence Minister in the Senate, to confirm that the RAAF advised there had been no "known" delta-winged aircraft operating in the area at that time.

"Beryl flying off course" was supplied as the only suggestion -- a flippant reference to the Queensland premier's pilot, Beryl Young.

Since then the RAAF have taken a relatively low profile in the UFO controversy but civilian researchers have benefited in that reports coming to the RAAF have been passed onto them. Even an abduction case, located near Jindabyne, NSW, was referred to my group by the RAAF. I have even had RAAF officers contacting me reporting their own UFO sightings.


It came as a great surprise to many when the RAAF Senior Public Relations Officer in Canberra, Ken Llewelyn, wrote a book about "Incredible true stories of airmen on the earth plane and beyond" - Flight into the Ages.

The book, released in February, 1992, carried the disclaimer that it did not represent the official view of the RAAF on paranormal activities. It described ghost encounters, past lives, psychic experiences, and most interestingly of all, as far as this history is concerned, accounts of UFO experiences. Ken Llewelyn covered the Valentich disappearance and the apparent UFO connections. He also described Shamus O'Farrell's classic radar visual encounter and detailed a number of other less well known accounts.

One of Ken Llewelyn's sources was former RAAF pilot, Dave Barnes. He gave details of an extraordinary event that took place at Amberley RAAF Base, in the late 1970s.   More than 20 airmen saw "a large UFO hovering above the runway", at about 5.00 am. The object was described as being an inverted cone shape. Barnes also indicated he had spoken to Aboriginal elders near the Maralinga atomic bomb test site, about their dreamtime and min min lights. The aboriginals had often seen high speed lights north of Maralinga.

Another of Ken Llewelyn's prominent sources was Group Captain Tom Dalton-Morgan. He had been part of a combined Royal Air Force and United States Air Force committee in the late 1940s investigating UFO sightings.  It had concluded that most reports could be explained except for three per cent which remained unexplained. Dalton-Morgan was the Officer in Charge of Range Operations at Woomera between 1959 and 1963.

In about the late 1950s, shortly before the test firing of a Black Knight rocket, he received a radio call from Percy Hawkins, the Recovery Officer, reporting an exceptional bright light at about 5000 feet travelling at high speed directly towards the test site. Dalton-Morgan and his team, who were 80 to 90 miles SE of Hawkins position, were able to view the incoming light from their elevated control building position.

They watched it fly in from the NW, then orbit around the range buildings some 5 miles to the south. When the UFO was east of the control building, it seemed to accelerate and climb very steeply away to the NE.   Dalton-Morgan concluded,

"I am unable to conceive of any object, plane or missile during my posting to Woomera that was able to perform the manoeuvers seen by my team. Observers at the control tower and the launch site all agreed on the brilliant white-greenish light; the high degree of manoeuvrability, including rate and angle of climb; complete lack of sound; the lack of positive identification of the vehicle fuselage because it was a dark moonless night; and the exceptionally high speed of which it was capable."

Ken Llewelyn told me that his book was like "Lady Chatterley's Lover" in official circles -- an underground popular book even at high levels. Beyond his controversial, but fascinating book, I questioned him on a number of matters. In response to the perennial charges of coverups, he said he had such regular and sufficient contact at high levels in the RAAF to be certain that there was no evidence of hidden cells of high power involvement in the UFO mystery.

He appreciated that many people, particularly a lot of UFO researchers and enthusiasts, did not believe this position. He indicated that as of 1992, the current intelligence head was emphatic that there was nil real interest since 1984 and even prior to that. It was felt there was just not enough man power and resources, and no really compelling material to sustain high level interest.

Despite the O'Farrell encounter, the numerous reports of military personnel, such as the 1978 HMAS Adroit report, sightings from witnesses of the calibre of Dalton-Morgan and others, and the high level "sub rosa" interest of scientists like Harry Turner (JIB), Dr. John Farrands and George Barlow (DSTO), and Dr. Michael Duggin (CSIRO), the military ethic was entrenched and the inevitable decline was well underway. The RAAF's exorcism of "the UFO problem" was reaching its denouement.


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 Pt 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 (of the 1983 "Operation Close Encounter" caper fame), 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 organisations 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 ollocation 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.

You have seen evidence in the history I have written where science rarely got a look in, despite courageous and persistent "sub rosa" efforts by scientists like Harry Turner and Michael Duggin. In examining the official record I share with these scientists the sense of lost opportunities.

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 to the legitimacy of the UFO phenomenon.


Over 1,612 reports have been received by the RAAF from between 1950 and until June, 1984. The actual figure is somewhat greater due to incomplete records and scattered omissions from the Summary reports periodically produced by the RAAF between 1965 and 1980. Accurate figures for the period 1950 and 1954 are not possible, due to the loss of the original files.

It is possible to give a rough statistical breakdown of the RAAF's "total" investigations from 1950 to June, 1984. This needs to be broken up into 4 periods, due to different sources of information and lack of official "unknown" percentages outside the period from 1960 to 1980 inclusive.

PERIOD 1 (1950 - 1954):

YEAR No. No. "unknown" % "unknown"

Records for this period are incomplete with the only surviving records being the previously secret "1954 Report on "Flying Saucers"" prepared for the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) at their request by nuclear physicist, Harry Turner, as a "scientific appreciation" of their reports. Some of reports from this period survive in the old Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) UFO files which were examined by me during November, 1982, at the Melbourne offices of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation.

The total for 1954 is made up 35 from the "1954 Report" plus 3 additional reports, namely 2 from the Ballarat School of Radio and the classic radar visual event over Goulburn, NSW, involving a Naval Sea Fury aircraft. Only the latter is included as an "unknown" in addition to those cited in the "1954 Report".

PERIOD 2 (1955 - 1959):

YEAR No. No. "unknown" % "unknown"

Records for only the latter part of 1955 are present in the extant DAFI files I examined. Reports for 1956 to 1959 appear to be somewhat incomplete. The "unknown" figures are my own estimates and therefore should not be regarded as official figures.  

PERIOD 3 (1960 - 1980)

This is the only period in which official "unknown" figures can be supplied, as based on the Unusual Aerial Sighting Summaries, nos. 1 to 12. Summaries nos. 10, 11 and 12 were not generally released but were supplied to me, during my file review in 1982, by the RAAF.


Total number
of Reports
No. "unknown"
% "unknown"
Source of
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.1
Summary No.2
Summary No.3
Summary No.3
Summary No.4
Summary No.5
Summary No.6
Summary No.7
Summary No.8
Summary No.9
Summary No.10
Summary No.11
Summary No.12

Some "unknowns" are not included due to low weight status, i.e. insufficient information or possible explanation provided was probable.

PERIOD 4 (1981-1984)

Only actual numbers of reports on file with the RAAF can be supplied based on personal file inspections and DAFI advice:

Total number
of Reports
*up till June 1984


To properly put the RAAF data into perspective, consider the following. From 1950 to 1984, the RAAF dealt with more than 1,612 reports, and 1,258 from 1960 to 1980.

One of the best civilian groups in Australia, the Tasmanian UFO Investigation Centre (TUFOIC), has been keeping valuable statistics on their investigations for years. For one small Australian state alone, they have dealt with 2,131 reports up to and including 1980. The period 1960 to 1980 has been chosen as it is the only period for which the RAAF have published data. The following table compares the data.

Total number
of Reports
Total number
of "unknown"
% "unknown"


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