USO Tracked Off of Norway Coast
February 28, 1963
Location: Orange, TX
A worker at Boston's Museum of Science is Valerie Wilcox of Aubarndale, Massachusetts. During a telephone conversation on July 27, 1984, Val commented that an English acquaintance recently mentioned a UFO experience that he had while he was in the Royal Navy. He told her he was present when an unidentified target was picked up on his ship's radar and then tracked by sonar after it entered the water. Part of the log referring to this event was alleged to have been confiscated.
The following report resulted from interviews with the witness at Val's house on September 6, 1984, and at his place of business on September 12, a follow-up interview. Since he was sworn to secrecy at the time of the incident and still is a British citizen, the observer requested that interviews not be taped, nor use his name or the name of his ship in this report. He also declined to fill out MUFON Form 9, Radar Cases, due to the classified nature of the instrumentation. However, I was permitted to take notes.
It was late February, possibly the 28th, 1963, and a contingent of the Royal Navy's North Atlantic Fleet had been participating in exercises off Norway for about three days. Part of this contingent of approximately ten ships included a destroyer escort.
Tom Preston, pseudonym, a 20 year old lieutenant trained in navigation and radar/sonar operations, over 12 months of radar experience, was on the early morning watch, Midnight to 7:50 a.m., in the darkened radar sonar room. Second in command of this facility, Tom happened to be in charge of the shift at the time of the UFO incident. Besides himself, other personnel in the room comprised three radarscope operators and two sonar operators. The senior officer was not present.
The witness believes his frigate was cruising approximately northeast between Spitsbergen and Norway, some 30 to 50 miles off the northern Norwegian coast. On a map he placed his position at roughly 71° north latitude and 20° east longitude in the Norwegian Sea. Thinking back to that morning, the observer recalled that the sky was clear except for scattered clouds, the seas were probably running 3' to 5', and winds were probably blowing at 4 to 7 miles per hour, a slight breeze.
Each of the three radarscopes in the room displayed a different height level in the atmosphere. At approximately 3:15 a.m., Preston recalled, a stationary bleep appeared abruptly on the highest level scope. The target's vertical height was approximately 35,000', and it was located somewhat west of the overhead point, at perhaps 70° elevation. The bleep indicated a seemingly hard, solid object giving off a strong reflection, the size of the target on the screen, according to the witness's best recollection, implied an actual diameter or length for the object of between that of a jet fighter and a 707, in other words, said Preston, roughly 100' to 120' across.
One of the strange things about this unknown target was the suddenness of its appearance:
One moment the screen was empty, the next moment the target was there. If it in fact represented a genuine reflection from a real object at the indicated altitude, the object would have had to have entered the radar field at unbelievable speed, either horizontally or vertically, and then stopped instantly without any deceleration. When asked about the possibility of anomalous propagation creating a false target, the observer said no unusual atmospheric conditions existed at the time that might have caused anomalous propagation.
Tom stated that he went out on deck a number of times during the observation and peered upward through binoculars in attempts to spot the UFO against the night sky. He was unsuccessful, however, in spotting the object visually. A visual confirmation also eluded others in the fleet so far as Preston was able to determine later.
After a few minutes, Tom notified his senior officer who came into the radar room, looked at the target on the scope, and then withdrew. The officer proceeded to radio the nearest ship to learn if it also painted the same target. It did. Thus, a radar set malfunction was ruled out. Tom's conversations with radar operators aboard other ships following the episode determined that they had the unknown on their screens as well.
When an attempted radio contact with the unexplained source failed to make any response, the fleet's flagship was contacted and an order subsequently issued to all ships to execute an evasive maneuver, basically a Z pattern. Preston said the UFO appeared to follow the maneuver, remaining overhead at its original altitude and holding the same relative position on the radarscope.
At this point, according to the witness, a call went out for fighter assistance in making an identification intercept. Within minutes, Tom heard the sound of jets through the open door, and he could see the bleeps of two aircraft on the scope racing from the southwest toward the unidentified image. He believes the aircraft must have been English Electric Lightnings, the RAF's fastest fighters in the early 1960s.
Tom recalled that when the jets came within about 10 to 15 miles of the unknown, the UFO suddenly performed a steep angular descent at incredible speed, crossing all three radar screens as it descended and passing completely below the radar horizon which was 750' to 1,000' in height, all within about two or three seconds. The object's path crossed the ship's bow from port to starboard.
As the target descended, the two sonar operators aimed their pulses in the general direction of the dropping object. Almost immediately, in a matter of seconds, following loss of radar contact, both sonar operators received audible pings, indicating a strong echo from a fast moving submerged target at a range of roughly 10 miles.
Sonar is the underwater counterpart of radar, only the former employs sound waves rather than radio waves. The distance to the submerged object can be found from the time taken for the waves to travel to the object and back to the ship, knowing the velocity of acoustical sound waves through sea water. Tom explained that sonar's usually limited range was extended in this case by means of a classified procedure.
The underwater target appeared to be traveling in the same general azimuth and at the same descent angle, at least initially, as the airborne object, implying that the two unknowns were one and the same. The target's speed was considerably reduced, down to hundreds of miles per hour, but still moving damn fast, remarked Preston, and it was now moving along a zigzag path away from the ship. Sonar first picked up the target at its upward horizon, perhaps 50' below the ocean surface, and continued to register an echo from the object as it dropped rapidly into deep water. Tom claims that the depth in this area should have been no more than 2,000'. Sonar contact with the unidentified object suddenly ceased after an indeterminate period of no more than two or three minutes. The abrupt cessation of the echo might have simply indicated that the object dropped behind a rise in the uneven sea bottom.
Tom's frigate had begun steaming toward the target's entry point at flank speed and probably arrived at the spot in about 20 minutes. A visual and sonar search over the entry point, however, yielded nothing. No further contact of any kind was made with the submerged object.
When asked to estimate the total duration of the entire radar/sonar observation, Tom said he was uncertain owing to the length of time that had elapsed since the event. But he came up with five or six minutes although it could have been a lot longer. In fact, if one considers all the elements of time involved throughout the episode, the initial radar observation prior to notification of the senior officer, the subsequent ship to ship communications, the attempted radio contact with the target, the evasive maneuver of the fleet, the arrival of the jets, and the sonar contact, it would appear that a duration on the order of at least 15 to 20 minutes would have been more reasonable.
After Tom witnessed the senior officer enter the UFO observations in the radar log book, their shift ended. Radar room personnel on the early morning watch ate breakfast and then turned in. Probably sometime between noon and 3:00 p.m., Tom said he was awakened and ordered to report to the ward room, along with the five radar and sonar operators on his shift that morning. There was a little grumbling at having their sack time interrupted. Awaiting the men in the ward room were their senior officer and the commander of the ship. All sat down around a table over coffee.
The senior officer proceeded to go over the events of that morning, asking questions about the radar/sonar observations. He told the six men that their conversations were being taped and explained that until more was known about the unknown target, they were to remain silent about what they had seen. Gentlemen, the officer said, we will remember that we have all signed the Official Secrets Act, or words to that effect. Although there were no threats, the implication was clear that to divulge anything to anyone concerning the tracking of the UFO would be considered a breach of security.
Tom was asked if the meeting might have been part of a general order carried out on other ships in the fleet as well in connection with the UFO incident. He responded that he didn't know if it was or not. Tom recollected that he was in the ward room about 10 minutes. He said he never heard anything further about the unknown target. When Tom came on duty once again at midnight, he said he was surprised to discover that a spanking new book had replaced the radar log used the previous morning.
Tom obeyed his senior officer's instructions to the letter and never revealed to anyone what happened on the British frigate that morning in 1963 until a few years ago. Tom and his wife happened to be watching Nova's infamous: The Case of the UFO. in October 1982. Immediately after the PBS program had ended, Tom turned to his wife and told her he had participated in a UFO sighting while in the Royal Navy. He remembered that he didn't go into much detail and never referred to the experience again until July 1984.
What did he think the object was? I have no idea, Tom replied simply. He added that whatever it was, it was guided. The witness emphasized that both the radar and sonar targets consisted of crisp, hard reflections, not ghost echoes. The radar target, he stressed, was absolutely not an aircraft, balloon, bird, or false weather target. Nor could it have been a radar set malfunction since operators on other ships had the same target on their screens.
As far as one can be aware, this case is totally unique in the history of UFO reports. It is the first known combined radar/sonar contact of a UFO. With perhaps a single exception, it is also the first known sonar tracking of a USO, Unidentified Submarine Object, UFOs reportedly seen entering, passing through, or exiting bodies of water. The most significant UFO accounts involve objects observed entering and/or leaving water. Sightings of many unidentified objects remaining underwater throughout the entire observation may in fact be due to the activity of foreign submarines as well as to bioluminescent phenomena, the mysterious wheels of light.
The only other publicized USO sonar contact that this investigator could uncover turns out to be not much more than an unsubstantiated rumor related which can be summarized as follows:
Sometime in 1963, the same year as this occurance, the U.S. Navy was conducting antisubmarine exercises off Puerto Rico. The craft included five smaller naval vessels, submarines, aircraft, at least one towing a dunking or dipping sonar below the ocean surface, and possibly the carrier Wasp serving as the command ship.
A sonar operator aboard a destroyer reported that one of the subs suddenly commenced pursuit of an unknown submerged object that was moving at over 170 miles per hour. According to most accounts, similar sonar reports of a high speed object began coming in from all of the other ships and from the sonar trailing aircraft. One of Sanderson's sources stated that no less than 13 craft recorded in their logs that their sonars had tracked this object. Allegedly, the unknown target continued to be tracked for four days as it maneuvered down to depths of 27,000', This must have been in the vicinity of the Atlantic's deepest point, 28,374' below sea level, in the Puerto Rico Trench.
If the above story is true, nothing of known earthly origin can travel underwater at such speeds or maneuver at such depths. The fastest nuclear subs can attain 52 miles per hour, and dive to around 3,000'. The bathyscaphe Trieste, with a specially constructed pressure resistant hull, descended to a record 35,820' in 1960. However, it was incapable of maneuvering about.
It is unfortunate that more than 21 years elapsed before this case reached the attention of a UFO investigator. We have here yet another example of government UFO secrecy at work, this time a foreign nation, Great Britain. Largely due to his apprehension over potential repercussions if he revealed his experience, Tom felt compelled to keep his knowledge of the event to himself. Since it hadn't occurred to him at the time that the radar log notes would be removed, he had only his memory to rely upon during interviews. He expressed uncertainty about some of the details and about his exact location off the coast of Norway. Nevertheless, the gist of what took place seems quite clear.
If we assume that the observer's recollections are approximately correct regarding the UFO's 35,000' vertical height, 70° elevation angle, three second descent, and approximate 10 mile distant entry point, then we can infer that the object's 30° descent path covered 14 miles at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour, in the neighborhood of a slow meteor's velocity.
The radar target apparently was not confirmed visually. This situation would ordinarily lead one to believe anomalous propagation might be responsible. AP arises when abnormal atmospheric conditions interfere with the normal propagation of radar waves, causing a display of false targets in places and at altitudes where no physical object should appear. For example, super refractive layers in the atmosphere may bend radar beams at such an angle that they pick up distant surface or airborne targets below the horizon and make them appear at elevated locations on the radarscope. Nothing would be evident to the naked eye in the sky.
Nevertheless, according to Tom, none of the conditions that might lead to AP were in fact present at the time.
But there are other arguments against anomalous propagation and natural phenomena in general being the cause of the radar/sonar targets. Was it just a coincidence that the target suddenly darted away at the moment the jets approached after having remained stationary for quite possibly some 10 or 15 minutes? Was it a coincidence that an unidentified, high speed sonar target appeared in the same direction of the airborne target's point of disappearance below the radar horizon and within seconds of loss of radar contact? What sort of airborne natural phenomenon can suddenly submerge and maneuver almost equally well through a water environment?
The image on radar gave all the outward appearances of reacting to the jets' approach and then successfully eluding further detection by submerging in the ocean and eventually retreating from view. Another example of apparent intelligent behavior: The target appeared to follow the fleet’s evasive Z maneuver.