by Gildas Bourdais
On Friday July 16, 1999 an important document was
published in France entitled, UFOs and Defense: What
must we be prepared for? ("Les Ovni Et La Defense: A
quoi doit-on se préparer?"). This ninety-page report is
the result of an in-depth study of UFOs, covering
many aspects of the subject, especially questions of
On Friday July 16, 1999 an important document was published in
UFOs and Defense: What must we be prepared for?
("Les Ovni Et La Defense: A quoi doit-on se préparer?").
ninety-page report is the result of an in-depth study of UFOs,
covering many aspects of the subject, especially questions of
national defense. The study was carried out over several years by an
independent group of former "auditors" at the Institute of
Advanced Studies for National Defense, or IHEDN,
and by qualified experts from various fields. Before its public
release, it has been sent to French President Jacques Chirac
and to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.
The report is prefaced by General Bernard Norlain of the Air
Force, former Director of IHEDN, and it begins with a
preamble by André Lebeau, former President of the National
Center for Space Studies (Centre National D’études Spatiales),
or CNES, the French equivalent of NASA.
The group itself, collective author of the report, is an association
of experts, many of whom are or have been auditors of IHEDN,
and it is presided over by General Denis Letty of the Air
Force, former auditor (FA) of IHEDN.
Its name "COMETA" stands for "Committee for
in-depth studies." A non-exhaustive list of members is given at
the beginning which is quite impressive.
General Bruno Lemoine, of the
Air Force (FA of IHEDN)
Admiral Marc Merlo, (FA of IHEDN)
Michel Algrin, Doctor in
Political Sciences, attorney at law (FA of IHEDN)
General Pierre Bescond, engineer
for armaments (FA of IHEDN)
Denis Blancher, Chief National
Police superintendent at the Ministry of the Interior
Christian Marchal, chief
engineer of the national Corps des Mines and Research
Director at the National Office of Aeronautical Research (ONERA)
General Alain Orszag, Ph.D. in
physics, armaments engineer
The committee also
expresses its gratitude to outside contributors including
Jean-Jacques Vélasco, head of SEPRA at CNES, François
Louange, President of Fleximage, specialist in photo
analysis, and General Joseph Domange, of the Air Force,
general delegate of the Association of Auditors at IHEDN.
General Norlain explains in a short preface how this
committee was created. General Letty came to see him in March
1995, when he was Director of IHEDN, to discuss his idea of a
committee on UFOs. Norlain assured him of his interest and
referred him to the Association of Auditors of IHEDN, which in turn
gave him its support. As a result, several members of the committee
come from the Association of Auditors of IHEDN, joined by other
It is interesting to recall here that, twenty years ago, it was a
report of that same Association which led to the creation of
GEPAN, the first unit for UFO study, at
Most of the committee hold, or have held, important functions in
defense, industry, teaching, research, or various central
administrations. General Norlain expresses hope that this report
will help develop new efforts in France and lead to indispensable
General Letty, as president of COMETA, points
to the main theme of the report, which is that the accumulation of
well documented observations compels us now to consider all
hypotheses as to the origin of UFOs, especially
extraterrestrial hypotheses. The committee then presents the
contents of the study. The
first part consists of
the presentation of some remarkable cases from both France
and other countries.
second part, they
describe the present organization of research, in France and abroad,
and studies made by scientists worldwide which may provide partial
explanations of the UFO phenomenon, in accordance with known laws of
physics. The main global explanations are then reviewed, from secret
crafts to extraterrestrial manifestations.
third part, measures to
be taken regarding defense are considered, based on information from
both civilian and military pilots.
Strategic, political and
religious consequences, should the extraterrestrial hypothesis be
confirmed, are then discussed.
Part I: "Facts
Many of the cases selected are well known by most researchers,
and need only be mentioned here. They are: Testimonies of
M. Giraud, pilot of Mirage
Colonel Bosc, fighter pilot
Air France flight AF 3532
Aeronautical cases worldwide.
Observations from the ground:
of a saucer near the ground by a French pilot, J.-P.
Observation at close range
over a Russian missile site by several witnesses (1989)
Close encounters in France:
Valensole (Maurice Masse,
Cussac, Cantal (1967)
Nancy (the "Amaranth" case,
Counter-examples of explained
phenomena (two cases).
Although the selection is limited, it seems to be sufficient to
convince an uninformed but open-minded reader of the reality of
Part II: "The
Present State of Knowledge"
The second part begins with a survey of the organization of
official UFO research in France,
from the first instructions given to the gendarmerie in 1974 for
the recording of reports, to the creation of GEPAN
in 1977, its organization and its results, including collection
of more than 3,000 reports from the gendarmerie, cases studies,
and statistical analyses.
It then surveys agreements passed by GEPAN and,
later, SEPRA, with the air force and the army, the
civilian aviation and other organizations, such as civilian and
military laboratories, for the analysis of samples and
Regarding SEPRA’s methods and results, we are
reminded of some famous cases (Trans-en-Provence, l’Amarante),
and emphasis is placed on catalogues of cases, notably of pilots
(Weinstein catalogue), and radar/visual reports world wide.
A historical note appears here with a quotation of the famous
letter of General Twining, of September 1947, which even
then asserted the reality of UFOs.
The following chapter, called "UFOs: Hypotheses and attempts
at modeling" ("OVNI: hypothèses,essais de modélisation")
discusses some models and hypotheses which are under study in
several countries. Partial simulations have already been made
for UFO propulsion, based on observations of aspects such
as: speed, movements and accelerations, engine failure of nearby
vehicles, and paralysis of witnesses.
One model is MHD
propulsion, already tested successfully in water, and which
might be achieved in the atmosphere with superconducting
circuits, in a few decades. Other studies are briefly mentioned
regarding both atmospheric and space propulsion, such as
particle beams, antigravity, or reliance on planetary and
It is suggested that the failure vehicle engines may be
explained by microwave radiation. In fact, high power
hyperfrequency generators are under study in France
and other countries. One application is microwave weapons. Particle beams, such as proton beams, which ionize
the air and therefore become visible, might explain the
observation of truncated luminous beams. Microwaves
might explain body paralysis.
In the same chapter global explanatory hypotheses are studied
next. Hoaxes are rare and easily detected. Some
nonscientific theories are discarded, such as conspiracy
and manipulation by very secret, powerful groups. Also
rejected are parapsychological phenomena, and
collective hallucinations. The hypothesis of secret
weapons is also regarded as very improbable, as is
"intoxication" or hysteria at the time of the Cold War, along
with natural phenomena.
We are then left with various extraterrestrial hypotheses.
One version has been developed in France by
astronomers Jean-Claude Ribes and Guy Monnet,
based on the concept of "space islands" of American
physicist O'Neill, and it is compatible with present-day
The organization of UFO research in the United
States, Great Britain and Russia
is rapidly surveyed. In the United States, the media and the
polls show a marked interest and concern of the public, but the
official position, especially of the Air Force, is still one of
denial, more precisely that there is no threat to
national security. Actually, declassified documents, released
under FOIA, show another story, one of
surveillance of nuclear installations by UFOs,
and the continued study of UFOs by the
military and intelligence agencies.
The report stresses the importance, in the United States, of
private independent associations. It mentions the briefing
document Best Available Evidence sent in 1995 to a
thousand personalities worldwide, and the Sturrock
workshop in 1997, both sponsored by Lawrence
Rockefeller. The Best Available Evidence has
obviously been welcomed by the authors of the COMETA
The committee also notes the public emergence of alleged
insiders such as
Colonel Philip Corso, and concludes that
his testimony might be partially revealing as to the real
situation in the U.S., despite its many critics.
The report briefly describes the situation in Great
Britain, with a special mention of Nick Pope, and
poses the question of the possible existence of secret
studies pursued jointly with American services. It mentions
as well research in Russia, and the release of
some information, notably by the KGB in 1991.
Part III: "UFOs
In the third part the report states that if it is true
that no hostile action has been proven yet, at least some acts
of intimidation have been recorded in France (the Mirage IV
case, for instance). Since the extraterrestrial origin of
UFOs cannot be ruled out, it is therefore
necessary to study the consequences of that hypothesis at the
strategic level, but also at the political, religious and
media/public information levels.
The first chapter of Part III is devoted to prospective
strategies and it begins with fundamental questions. What if UFOs are extraterrestrial? What
intentions and what strategy can we deduce from their behavior?
Such questions open a more controversial part of the report.
Possible motivations of extraterrestrial visitors are
explored here, such as protection of planet Earth against the
dangers of nuclear war, suggested for instance by repeated
flying over nuclear missile sites. The committee
then ponders the possible repercussion on the behavior, official
or not, of different nations and focuses on the possibility of
secret, privileged contacts which might be "attributed to the
The attitude of the U.S. is seen as "most
strange" since the 1947 wave and the Roswell event. Since
that time, a policy of increasing secrecy seems to have been
applied, which might be explained by the protection at all cost
of military technological superiority to be acquired from the
study of UFOs.
Next, the report tackles the question "What measures must we
take now?" At the least, whatever the nature of UFOs,
they require "critical vigilance," in particular regarding the
risk of "destabilizing manipulations." A kind of "cosmic
vigilance" should be applied by the elites, nationally and
internationally, in order to prevent any shocking surprise,
erroneous interpretation and hostile manipulation.
Nationally, COMETA urges the strengthening of SEPRA, and recommends the creation of a committee at
the highest level of government, entrusted with the development
of hypotheses, strategy, and preparation of cooperative
agreements with European and other foreign countries. A further
step would be that European states and the European Union
undertake diplomatic action with the Unites States
within the framework of political and strategic alliances.
A key question of the report is "What situations must we be
It mentions such scenarios as an
extraterrestrial move for official contact; discovery of a
UFO/alien base on Earth; invasion (deemed improbable) and
localized or massive attack; manipulation or deliberate
disinformation aiming at destabilizing other states.
COMETA devotes special
attention to "aeronautical implications," with detailed
recommendations aimed at various personnel, such as air staffs,
controllers, weathermen and engineers.
It also makes
recommendations at the scientific and technical levels, aimed at
developing research with potential benefits for defense and
industry. The report further explores the political and
religious implications of UFOs, using as a model
the perspective of our own exploration of space: How would we do
it, how would we handle contacts with less advanced
Such an approach is not new to the well-informed readers of the
abundant ufological literature, but it has a special value here,
being treated seriously at such a level. The implications for
the media and public opinion are not neglected, with the
problems of disinformation, fear of ridicule, and manipulation
by certain groups.
In its conclusion, COMETA claims that the
physical reality of UFOs, under control of intelligent
beings, is "quasi-certain." Only one hypothesis
takes into account the available data: the hypothesis of
extraterrestrial visitors. This hypothesis is of course
unproven, but has far-reaching consequences. The goals of these
alleged visitors remain unknown but must be the subject of
speculations and prospective scenarios.
In its final recommendations, COMETA stresses
again the need to:
Inform all decision-makers and
persons in positions of responsibility.
Reinforce means of investigation
and study at SEPRA.
Consider whether UFO
detection been taken into account by agencies engaged in
surveillance of space.
Create a strategic committee at
the highest state level.
Undertake diplomatic action with
the Unites States for cooperation on this most
Study measures which might be
necessary in case of emergencies.
Finally, this document is
accompanied by seven interesting
appendices which are worth
reading even by seasoned ufologists:
Radar detection in France
Observations by astronomers
Life in the Universe
Colonization of space
The Roswell case and possible
Antiquity of the UFO phenomenon
and elements for a chronology.
Reflection on various
psychological, sociological and political aspects of the