UAP

A 2022 Australian Department of Defence Briefing Paper on UAP

Summary

Background On 14 April 2022 I wrote a blog post about the establishment of Australia’s new Defence Space Command, and that the initial Commander was Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts. This prompted Melbourne researcher Grant Lavac to submit the following Freedom […]

Background

On 14 April 2022 I wrote a blog post about the establishment of Australia’s new Defence Space Command, and that the initial Commander was Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts. This prompted Melbourne researcher Grant Lavac to submit the following Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Australian Department of Defence (DOD.)

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts

“I kindly request a copy of all emails, sent to/from | bcc/cc’d Defence Space Commander Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts for the period 25 June 2021 to 15 April 2022 (inclusive), that contain any of the following keywords: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena; UAP; Unidentified Flying Object; UFO; Unidentified Flying Objects; UFOs;, Unauthorised Aircraft Movement; UAM; Unauthorised Aircraft Movements; UAMs; Unusual Aerial Sighting, Unidentified Phenomena.”

DOD response 

The DOD assigned the request as FOIA 459/21/22, and then responded on 7 June 2022, releasing 14 pages of documents. These were:

1. An email from [redacted] to Roberts, Catherine, AVM, cc’d [redacted]; dated Friday 11 February 2022, Subject Senate Estimates Briefs. Text “As discussed please find official Senate Estimates Briefs.” It mentions there are two briefs.

Comments: At the 27 October 2021, Senate Estimates Committee hearings, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson addressed a number of questions regarding UAP to then Chief of Air Mel Hupfield. My blog article dated 28 October 2021 provided a transcript of these discussions.   Grant Lavac located two written DOD responses to follow-up questions from Senator Whish-Wilson. Copies may be read here and here. They were dated 1 February 2022 and 6 December 2021, respectively. Thus this email to Air Vice-Marshal Roberts attaching Senate Estimate Briefs should be seen as prepping Roberts for any further questions on UAP.

2. A page headed “Space Domain and Policy. CAF Brief. Questions on Notice. Estimates QoNs.” There are two broad topics referenced, namely UAP at the 27 October 2021 Estimates Hearing; and Space Policy at a 1 June 2021 hearing. 

3. A document headed “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. CAF Brief.” There is no indication as to who prepared the briefing document.

The contents listed are – Notes; Key Messages; Strategic Narrative; Talking Points; How are UAP reported to Defence?; As an ally, have the United States offered to or asked to collaborate on UAP investigations? With the US calling UAP a potential threat to national security, should Australia be concerned too; Timeline of Significant Events/Decisions; Relevant Media Coverage; Relevant Media Enquires; Relevant Ministerial Comments; Questions on Notice; Estimates QoNs; Other QoNs; Freedom of Information; Contact and Clearance officers. 

Notes

Area is blank (not redacted). 

Key Messages

“* Defence does not have a policy governing the reporting or recording of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) by either members of the public or Defence members

* The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) ceased the handling of reports of UAP in 1996 after determining there was no scientific or other compelling reason to continue to devote resources to the recording and investigation of UAP

* Defence safety of flight incidents, including those potentially posed by UAP are handled by the Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA), with civilian safety of flight incidents the purview of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).”

Comments: Point 1 has been the consistent response from the DOD to all my enquiries, and those by the media, eg. the ABC. Point 2 is indeed the reason given by the RAAF for cessation of UAP investigations. All their Base UAP files were bundled up, and sent to the National Archives of Australia, where, today, they are available for public viewing. 

On point 3, I don’t think I have ever seen a statement before, that potential UAP flight safety incidents could turn up in DASA records. As far back as 2017, Melbourne researcher Paul Dean referenced DASA’s predecessor, in an article about UAP. In March 2022 Grant Lavac submitted an FOIA request, assigned number 443/21/22 by the DOD. He asked for all DASA reports, between 2017 and 31 March 2022, which referenced UAP or various other similar keywords. There was a “Nil responsive documents” answer, from the DOD, dated 2 May 2022. 

Strategic Narrative

“UAP are likely to be one of three things:

* natual or other benign phenomena

* anomalies with sensors, or

* (human-made) technologies

UAP could be other nations systems, either contemporary or advanced. Information regarding the collection and investigation of these systems is the remit of the Intelligence Community and is classified.”

Comment: I don’t understand the statement “natural or other benign phenomena.” Yes, “natural” but what does “benign phenomena” mean in this context? 

Background

“On 25 June 2021, the United States Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (the Report) to provide an intelligence assessment of the threat posed by UAP and the progress the US Department of Defense Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF) has made in understanding this threat.

* The Report does not draw conclusions on what UAP are and most remain unexplained, mainly due to lack of data

* The Report finds no evidence that UAP are extra-terrestrial in origin

* The Report did reach the following conclusions:

** In a limited number of incidents, UAP reportedly appeared to exhibit unusual flight characteristics. These observations could be the result of sensor errors, spoofing or observer misperception and require additional rigorous analyses

** There are probably multiple types of UAP requiring different explanations based on the range of appearances and behaviours described in the available reporting

** UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security. UAP would also represent a national security challenge if they are foreign adversary collection platforms or provide evidence a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology

** On 23 November 2021, the US Director of National Intelligence directed the establishment of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronisation Group to coordinate reporting across US Department of Defence and other US agencies with the gaol to minimise flight safety and national security concerns

* Defence has no plans to replicate a similar mechanism. DASA and CASA already serve this function across flight safety issues and apparatus exist for concerns regarding national security

* Historically the RAAF was responsible for handling UAP reports, however that ceased in 1996. If civilians wish to report UAP they should contact their local police authorities, or get in contact with civil UAP research organisations

* The Defence Instruction was cancelled in November 2000 and not replaced

* UAP may also be referred to as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) or Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS). UAP is the contemporary term for such phenomena.”

Comments: Finally, someone in the DOD, has had to do some research on the topic to provide this briefing paper to Air Vice-Marshal Roberts. It’s a fair summary of the ODNI report and RAAF involvement. Naturally, there is no indepth review of the material, which the RAAF collected between 1951 and 1996; in which, areas of the DOD itself said there was enough evidence to require an indepth study, by some government agency, such as the then Department of Supply. 

There probably is no-one in the DOD who has reviewed their own UAP related files, which are now in the National Archives of Australia. This does raise an interesting question as to how does someone in DOD knows the RAAF interest ceased in 1996 and the Standing Instruction was cancelled in 2000, if all their files are in the NAA? It would appear that some new recording system, eg an electronic file has been created to store this knowledge. Another topic for an FOIA request?

Talking points

“How are UAP reported to Defence?

* Defence does not have a policy for reporting or recording UAP

* Historically, the RAAF was responsible for handling UAP reports on behalf of Defence, however that ceased in 1996 after determining there was no scientific or other compelling reason to continue to devote resource to the recording and investigation of UAP

* Defence safety of flight incidents, including those potentailly posed by UAP are handled by the Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA), with civilian safety of flight incidents the purview of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

As an ally, have the United States offered to or asked to collaborate on UAP investigations?

* No, the United States nor any other nation or ally have requested or offered to collaborate on UAP reporting or investigation

* Defence has no desire to seek collaboration on this issue.”

Comment: This last section answers a question I had, as to whether or not, the US had approached Australia to seek information or offer collaboration on UAP investigations.

With the US calling UAP a potential threat to national security, should Australia be concerned too?

* UAP are likely to be one of three things, natural or other benign phenomena, anomalies with sensors or (human-made) technologies. Information on the human-made technologies is classified and the remit of the Intelligence Community

* Countering capabilities spanning the maritime, land, air, cyber and space domains that could threaten our national security is a core business of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), any threat to national security is a concern but also a priority for Defence.”

Comment: Looking at the agencies which make up the Australian National Intelligence Community, the one most likely to be involved in any collection and analysis of “human-made technologies ” per UAP; is The Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO.) Its role is as the Department of Defence’s all-source intelligence assessment agency on countries and foreign organisations, looking at military capabilities, weapon systems, and defence-related technologies. So, if, for example, some UAP are foreign adversary drones, then the DIO would be interested. It would therefore appear reasonable to suggest, that if any portion of the entire Department of Defence were to take an interest in UAP, the DIO would be it. I have mentioned before that I suspect that some analyst in the DIO has a watching brief on the UAP topic. 

“Are UAP a risk to flight safety?

* Flight safety is a high priority for ADF aviation. Any risks to flight safety are considered serious, but Defence is not aware of UAP being the cause of an aviation safety incident or featured prominently in a safety investigation.”

Comment: On the last point re flight safety, I doubt that ADF aviation has read any of the available NARCAP data, or looked into incidents such as the near-miss between a passenger aircraft and an “unknown” object near Perth on 19 March 2014 as reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau? 

“Are these likely to be extra-terrestrial in origin?

* There is no evidence to suggest that UAP would be extra-terrestrial in origin.”

Timeline of significant events/decisions

This lists three events:

* 25 June 2021 – Release of ODNI report

*13 November 2000 – DI(G) ADMIN 55-1 outlining ADF policy cancelled

* 27 August 1996 – DI(G) 55-1 amended.

Relevant Media Coverage:

This lists the following media reports. 10 Nov 2021 The Sun; 9 Nov 2021 GQ UK; 29 Oct 2021 The Australian; 28 Oct 2021 ABC News; 25 Oct 2021 Remo News.

Relevant media inquiries:

Nil.

Relevant Ministerial comments:

Nil.

Questions on notice:

Whish-Wilson 27 October 2021 Senate Estimates.

Other QoN:

Nil.

Freedom of Information:

Nil.

Contact and Clearance Offices:

Clearing Officer AVM Catherine Roberts.

Consultation:

Mr Colin McKenna, Assistant Secretary Strategic Capabilities Policy Development.

Brig. Warren Gould, Director General Systems and Integration – Army.

Mr Rod Smith, STaR Shot Leader – Resiliant  Multi Mission Space , Defence Science and Technology Group. 

Comment: A search of the daily summaries of the Australian Senate Budget Estimates 2022-2023, for the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, for hearings held on 1, 6 and 7 April 2022, failed to locate any mention of UAP. A search of the Hansard transcripts for those three days also failed to locate any mention of, or questions about, UAP. It would therefore appear, that the DOD brief was not used, as apparently no parliamentary questions were asked about UAP. 

Rest of documents

4. The rest of the documents released, deal with the Space Policy brief.

In summary

The Australian DOD has no interest in UAP. There are existing processes for any concerns re air safety or adversarial technology. 

Acknowledgement:
I wish to thank Grant Lavac for sharing the details of his FOIA requests, and the DOD responses. These documents should shortly be uploaded to the Australian DOD FOIA Disclosure log page. For the moment they may be accessed via this Dropbox link. 

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