Monday, January 30, 2012

UFO Tracked on Radar at Minot AFB: It Was Near Nuclear Missile Sites At The Time

UFO Tracked on Radar at Minot AFB - It Was Near Nuclear Missile Sites At The Time

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By Robert Hastings

     This follow-up article compliments the last one I posted.

During the pre-dawn hours of October 24, 1968, a UFO was tracked at Minot AFB—by the base’s weather radar as well as onboard a B-52 Stratofortress bomber preparing to land at the base. Significantly, this simultaneous tracking occurred during the same period of time when USAF missile security teams and missile maintenance teams were reporting UFOs maneuvering near Minuteman missile Launch Facilities (LFs) O-6 and N-7.

Over a five year-period, researchers Tom Tulien and Jim Klotz painstakingly investigated the events which occurred at Minot that early morning in 1968, interviewing many eyewitnesses and reviewing numerous declassified USAF files and radarscope photographs. In fact, this case is so spectacular and so well-documented, ABC Television chose to include a detailed discussion of it in its February 2005 two-hour special, UFOs: Seeing is Believing, hosted by the late Peter Jennings.

Tulien notes for the record, “The contents of the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) USAF Project Blue Book microfilm file regarding the Minot incident (case number 12,548), consists of over 130 pages dated from 24 October 1968 to 14 November 1968.” The final report on the Tulien/Klotz investigation is now online and incorporates those declassified Project Blue Book files as well as additional witness testimony.1

On 24 October 1968, at 2:15 a.m., 14 miles east-northeast of N-7, a missile security camper team posted at LF O-6 notified the Flight Security Controller (FSC) at the Oscar Flight Launch Control Facility that they were observing a UFO near their position. The camper team reported that, from their vantage point, the UFO had disappeared behind some trees. At the time, a missile targeting team was at work at O-6. Immediately after being notified of the situation by the FSC, the Combat Targeting Commander ordered his team to abort their work, secure the LF, and return to base.

At 2:30 a.m., two missile technicians assigned to the 91st Missile Maintenance Squadron (MIMS), Airmen 1st Class Lloyd Isley and Robert O’Connor, reported observing a strange light in the eastern sky while traveling to Minuteman Launch Facility N-7 for a routine procedure. Based on the documentation it appears as though it was the same UFO sighted earlier at O-6. Based on reports he was receiving from the maintenance team, the Base Operations dispatcher noted this in his log at 3:00 a.m.: “object S/E of N-7 moving toward site with brilliant light like the sun. Lights flashing on and off. It’s too brilliant and big for an aircraft now moving south and hovered over N-7 [my emphasis], turned green, amber off and on.” O’Connor later reported that the UFO “appeared self-luminous like a big ball of white light that seemed to change to a dim green light then later to a dim amber color.”2

The maintenance team notified Transportation Control and Base Operations, then radioed the FSC upon entering the site, at which point they reported the UFO to him. Eventually, both the FSC and his two-man Security Alert Team observed the UFO from their positions at the November Launch Control Facility. All of the observers, both maintenance and security personnel, reported that the UFO was extremely bright and had the ability to hover, as well as to move abruptly at great velocity.

Sgt. Bond hastily dispatched the SAT team to N-7. While en route, both men reported that a second UFO had appeared east of their position and then flew toward the first object, which was still located near the LF. After maneuvering near each other in the sky for a brief period, one of the UFOs suddenly disappeared.

In his report, researcher Tulien states, “During the period [that the November Flight SAT team was] on the road, the Wing Security Controller noted in his summary that between 3:20 and 3:25 a.m. ‘SSgt Smith at Oscar-1 saw the object separate in two parts and go in opposite directions and return and pass under each other. At this time Juliet Flight and Mike Flight Team observed the same things and described it in the same way.’”3

While these startling events were unfolding, the pilot of a B-52 returning to Minot after a 10-hour training mission received a radio call from the base’s Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) center, asking him to look for any unusual “orange glows” from his position. According to the declassified transcript of the radio conversation, the RAPCON controller told the bomber’s pilot and co-pilot, “Someone is seeing flying saucers again.”4 He then told them where to look. Shortly thereafter, RAPCON was informed that the base’s weather radar was tracking the object near Bowbells, ND, about 38 nautical miles northwest of the base.

Suddenly, that UFO flew toward the B-52, and began pacing it at a distance of one mile. The aircraft’s own radar was already tracking the object and recorded these maneuvers. The navigator, Major Patrick McCaslin, said that the UFO’s radar return was “as big or bigger than a KC-135 [tanker].”5

Radar Navigator Major Chuck Ritchey quickly activated the aircraft’s radarscope camera and the object’s radar return was captured on film. Later that morning, the images were evaluated by one of the 5th Bombardment Wing’s intelligence officers, Richard Clark, who recalls that he computed the UFO’s mean velocity at 3900 mph. This estimate was based on the fact that the UFO had covered two miles during one, three-second sweep of the radar. He told Tulien, “It had to be something other than what we were aware of, you know, and I didn’t think our technology had anything like that as far as capability—so it’s got to be a UFO.”6

As the UFO began to pace the B-52, the aircraft’s two UHF radios were apparently impacted by its presence, and normal outgoing radio transmissions were temporarily interrupted. However, the aircraft’s UHF receiver was unaffected and the crew continued to hear instructions from the RAPCON controller. The UFO paced the aircraft for approximately 20 miles, at which point it broke-off and moved away. As soon as it did so, and disappeared from the bomber’s radar, the aircraft’s transmitters resumed normal functioning.

As the B-52 began its final approach to Minot, it was unexpectedly diverted, on the orders of an unidentified “general officer.” RAPCON provided the pilot vectors for the UFO—which was by then on, or hovering near, the ground—and told to turn the aircraft and fly directly over it.

Tulien and Klotz have interviewed the aircraft’s co-pilot, Captain Bradford Runyon, and the Instructor Pilot, Major James Partin, both of whom provided detailed accounts regarding the UFO’s appearance.

Partin noted that he first saw an orange object on or just above the ground and stated that it appeared “like a miniature sun placed on the ground below the aircraft.” As the aircraft closed on the UFO, the object’s shape became more visible. Partin said, “It was sort of oblong, there were—looked like windows around it that were lit, and it was just hovering there.”7

Captain Runyon later drew a picture of the UFO, showing an oval-shaped object with a tubular limb extending from one end. Beyond the other end of the tube was a crescent-shaped spray of illumination. He stated, “My first impression was that the orange [oval] portion was bigger than a large barn and the tubular section reminded me of a large grain silo lying on its side. The crescent-shaped part did not become clear until we rolled into the first 90-degree turn...I’m not good at estimating dimensions, especially 32 years after the fact, but to my best guess, I would say it was at least 200 ft in length and 100 ft in width and 50 ft. in height.”8

Navigator Patrick McCaslin, who did not see the object himself, added, “The description [given] to me [by one of the pilots] was that it was an elliptical shape—kind of a cough drop-shaped thing, glowing orange with a boomerang exhaust, or boomerang-shaped exhaust or whatever—a florescence off one end.”9

As the B-52 neared the UFO, its UHF transmitters were impacted once again. Upon landing, one of the crew was debriefed about the incident, but there was no further discussion among the crew until years later.

What was the Air Force’s official verdict on these events? On November 13, 1968, three weeks after the UFO incidents, Project Blue Book chief Major Hector Quintanilla issued an official statement about them. He wrote, “The following conclusions have been reached after a thorough study of the data submitted to Foreign Technology Division. The ground visual sightings appear to be of the star Sirius and the B-52, which was flying in the area. The B-52 radar contact and the temporary loss of the UHF transmission could be attributed to a plasma similar to ball lightning. The air visual from the B-52 could be the star Vega, which was on the horizon at the time, or it could be a light on the ground, or possibly a plasma. No further investigation by the Foreign Technology Division is contemplated.”10

This highly implausible official explanation for the UFO incidents at Minot AFB was reminiscent of Quinanilla’s earlier verdict on the August 1, 1965 UFO sightings at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. In that case, several Air Force SAT teams had independently observed, over a three hour-period, as many as nine UFOs at a time maneuvering near and hovering over various Minuteman missile sites. The Blue Book chief concluded that the teams had not seen UFOs, but twinkling stars.


1. Tulien, Thomas. “A Narrative of UFO Events at Minot AFB, 24 OCTOBER 1968”,
2. National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) USAF Project Blue Book microfilm file (case number 12,548)
4. National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) USAF Project Blue Book microfilm file (case number 12,548)
5. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Quintanilla, Hector. Project Blue Book Report, Case Number 12,548, November 13, 1968

1 comment :

  1. Dear Robert:

    Thanks for the well-written and accurate posting concerning the 24 October 1968 Minot UFO case.

    I might add that the real value of the case (aside from the story) lies in the ability to reconstruct the Air Force investigation. This case clearly demonstrates interest in the phenomenon at the highest levels and provides significant insight into the process by which they dealt with the problem. Few cases are able to reconstruct the investigation process in sufficient detail that reveal how the AF managed to contain and limit information regarding these events. It also reveals that documentation was collected by SAC/Hq that is not yet available in the public record. For example, Clark's radarscope photo analysis and materials forwarded by Werlich to Gen. Hollingsworth at SAC Hq. It is unfortunate that Werlich is not alive to fill in the missing pieces.

    In addition, few cases contain quantitative data that allow for a hypothetical determination of the performance characteristics and energy output of the UFO. If, as the British MOD "Condign Report" concludes, that the best explanation for UFOs is a "buoyant plasma" phenomenon then one needs to explain how a very large ball of plasma could manifest without any obvious source of energy to sustain it. Or for that matter, how it could maneuver in relation to the B-52's movements over a period of about 10 minutes.

    Kind regards, Tom Tulien


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