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The French Report on UFOs and Defense: A
By Gildas Bourdais
On Friday July 16, 1999 an important document was published
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 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 quiteimpressive. It includes:
- 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
- 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
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 experts.
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 CNES.
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 international cooperation.
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
In a 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
In a 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 and Testimonies"
Many of the cases selected are well known by most
researchers, and need only be mentioned here. They are:
Testimonies of French pilots:
- M. Giraud, pilot of Mirage IV (1977)
- Colonel Bosc, fighter pilot (1976)
- Air France flight AF 3532 (Jan 1994)
Aeronautical cases worldwide.
- Lakenheath (U.K., 1956)
- RB-47 (U.S., 1957)
- Teheran (1976)
- Russia (1990)
- San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina, 1995)
Observations from the ground:
- Tanarive (1954)Observation of a saucer near the ground
by a French pilot, J.-P. Fartek (1979)
- Observation at close range over a Russian missile site
by several witnesses (1989)
Close encounters in France:
- Valensole (Maurice Masse, 1965)
- Cussac, Cantal (1967)
- Trans-en-Provence (1981)
- Nancy (the "Amaranth" case, 1982)
- 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 UFOs.
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 photographs.
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 stellar impulsion.
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
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
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 physics.
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
The report stresses the importance, in the United States,
of private independent associations. It mentions the briefing
document Best Available Evidence [available from CUFOS—see
publications page] 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 and Defense"
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
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
United States." 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 prepared for?" 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 civilizations?
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
In its final recommendations, COMETA stresses again the
- Inform all decision-makers and persons in positions of
- 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 important question.
- Study measures which might be necessary in case of
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 disinformation
- Antiquity of the UFO phenomenon and elements for a
- Reflection on various psychological, sociological and
political aspects of the UFO phenomenon.