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Under conditions of war, bombing aircraft entering hostile territory can be assisted in their penetrations if any of a variety of electronic countermeasures (ECM techniques as they are collectively termed) are brought into action against ground-based enemy radar units. The initial step in all ECM operations is, necessarily, that of detecting
the enemy radar and quantitatively identifying a number of relevant features of the radar system (carrier frequency, pulse repetition frequency, scan rate, pulse width) and, above all, its bearing relative to the aircraft heading. The latter task is particularly ample in principle, calling only for direction-finding antennas which pick up the enemy signal and display on a monitor scope inside the reconnaissance aircraft a blip or lobe that paints in the relative bearing from which the signal is coming.
The ECM gear used in RB-47's in 1957 is not now classified; the #2 monitor that McClure was on, he and the others pointed out, involved an ALA-6 direction-finder with back-to-back antennas in a housing on the undersurface of the RB-47 near the rear, spun at either 150 or 300 rpm as it scanned in azimuth. Inside the aircraft, its signals were processed in an APR-9 radar receiver and an ALA-5 pulse analyzer. All later references to the #2 monitor imply that system. The #1 monitor employed an APD-4 direction finding system, with a pair of antennas permanently mounted on either wing tip. Provenzano was on the #1 monitor. Tuchscherer was on the #3 monitor, whose specifications I did not ascertain because I could find no indication that it was involved in the observations.
As the lobe continued moving upscope, McClure said the strength of the incoming signal and its pulse characteristics all tended to confirm that this was some ground unit being painted with 180-degree ambiguity for some unknown electronic reason. It was at 2800 megacycles, a common frequency for S-band search radars.
However, after the lobe swung dead ahead, his earlier hypothesis had to be abandoned for it continued swinging over to the 11 o'clock position and continued downscope on the port side.
Clearly, no 180-degree ambiguity was capable of accounting for this. Curiously, however, this was so anomalous that McClure did not take it very seriously and did not at that juncture mention it to the cockpit
crew nor to his colleagues on the other two monitors. This upscope-downscope orbit of the unknown was seen only on the ALA-6, as far as I could establish. Had nothing else occurred, this first and very significant portion of the whole episode would almost certainly have been for gotten by McClure.
Provenzano told me that right after that they had checked out the #2 monitor on valid ground radar stations to be sure it was not malfunctioning and it appeared to be in perfect order. He then checked on his #1 monitor
and also got a signal from the same bearing. There remained, of course, the possibility that just by chance, this signal was from a real radar down on the ground and off in that direction. But as the minutes went by,
and the aircraft continued westward at about 500 kts. The relative bearing of the 2800 mcs source did not move downscope on the #2 monitor, but kept up with them.
One of the other incidents involved a plane in which Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Bailey was flying as an ECM officer. Bailey, pictured at the left with me in his home outside of Dallas, Texas, back in 2006, has served as the de facto historian for the RB47 since his retirement (his book We See All is a wonderful airman's memoir of what it was like to fly back then).
He describes his crew's own incident in my just completed documentary, Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases. Bailey (third from right in the photo at left, back in his USAF days) also describes the aftermath, not only of his incident, but of others involving RB47 crews, including the classic 1957 case. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time he had talked about his case on camera.
His career in the Air Force (1956-77) was spent primarily as an Electronics Warfare Officer flying reconnaissance missions during the cold war. He has written several books on the subject and has become a sought-after authority. Bruce has flown many different types of aircraft, but most of his 9,000 hours were spent in the RB-47 and RC-135. Throughout most of his career he flew combat missions and wore the Combat Crew badge. During the height of the Cold War he was constantly either “On Call” or deployed. Air Force life was much better suited to Bruce. He was a highly effective leader and widely recognized as such by his peer and superior officers. The Air Force also allowed him to put his intellectual capacity to work. Quickly mastering electronics and Radio Frequency theory and processing, he quickly dominated his specialized field within the community. By the time of his retirement, Bruce was a highly decorated having been awarded the Bronze Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross several times, and many other medals and awards. His life in the military enabled him to travel the world where he had the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide range of people and cultures.
In joint review with the CAA of the data from the incident, it was definitely established by the CAA that object observed in the vicinity of Dallas and Ft. Worth was an airliner.
This refers to a near-collision of two DC-6 American Airliners near Salt Flats, Texas, 50 mi. from El Paso at 14,000 ft at 3:30 a.m. of this day. (See the map on page 68.) The case is now carried in the official Blue Book files as "Identified as American Airlines Flight 655."
The crew consisted of:
Lewis D. Chase, pilot, Spokane, WA
James H. McCoid, copilot, Offutt AFB
Thomas H. Hanley, navigator, Vandenberg AFB
John J. Provenzano, No. 1 monitor, Wichita, KS
Frank B. McClure, No. 2 monitor, Offutt AFB
Walter A. Tuchscherer, No. 3 monitor, Topeka, KS
If we had to list only ten of the very best UFO cases on record, the RB-47 UFO incident would be on that list.
The RB-47 UFO Encounter
Possessing the most sophisticated electronic intelligence (ELINT) gear available to the U.S. Air Force, the RB-47 could handle anything.
Unfortunately, in the morning hours of July 17, 1957, over the southern United States, an RB-47 came across something it was unprepared for
In the first hint of what was to come, one of the three officers who operate the electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment detected an odd signal. Moving up the radar screen, the blip passed some distance in front of the RB-47, then over Mississippi. Though puzzled, he said nothing. However, a few minutes later, at 4:10 A.M., the sudden appearance of an intense blue light bearing down on the aircraft shook the pilot and copilot. Even more unnerving, the object changed course in the blink of an eye and disappeared at the two o'clock position. The aircraft radar picked up a strong signal in the same spot. The UFO maintained this position even as the RB-47 continued toward east Texas.
The pilot then observed a "huge" light, attached, he suspected, to an even bigger something that the darkness obscured. When the electronics gear noted the presence of another UFO in the same general location as the first, the pilot turned the plane and accelerated toward it. The UFO shot away. By now the crew had alerted the Duncanville, Texas, Air Force ground radar station, and it was soon tracking the one UFO that remained (the second had disappeared after a brief time). At 4:50 radar showed the UFO abruptly stopping as the RB-47 passed under it. Barely seconds later it was gone.
This incredible case -- considered one of the most significant UFO reports ever -- remained classified for years. When it became known years later, the Air Force declared that the RB-47 crew had tracked an airliner. Physicist Gordon David Thayer, who investigated the incident for the University of Colorado UFO Project, called this explanation "literally ridiculous."
Originally posted by karl 12
Condon Report Scientist calls USAF explanation "literally ridiculous."
But what is of greatest present interest is the point that here we have a well-reported, multi-channel, multiple-witness UFO report, coming in fact from within the Air Force itself, investigated by the Condon Report team, conceded to be unexplained, and yet it is, in final analysis, ignored by Dr. Condon. In no section of the Report specifically written by the principal investigator does he even allude to this intriguing case. My question is how such events can be written off as demanding no further scientific study. To me, such cases seem to cry out for the most intensive scientific study - and the more so because they are actually so much more numerous than the scientific community yet realizes. There is a scientific mystery here that is being ignored and shoved under the rug; the strongest and most unjustified shove has come from the Condon Report. "unjustified" because that Report itself contains so many scientifically puzzling unexplained cases (approximately 30 out of 90 cases considered) that it is extremely difficult to understand how its principal investigator could have construed the contents of the Report as supporting a view that UFO studies should be terminated.