During May 2006, the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) released a lengthy report entitled “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense
Region” (the "Condign Report"). The Condign Report uses the term “UAP” to refer to “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”, "popularly known as
UFOs” [Executive Summary page 3, Para 1].) The report was completed in December 2000.
The Condign Report states that it is the “first UK detailed and authoritative report [on UAPs] which has been produced since the late 1950s”
(Volume 1, Chapter 1, page 2, page 2).
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Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference for the Condign Report indicate that the author of the report had been instructed that the aim of his task was “to determine
the potential value, if any, of UAP sighting reports to defense intelligence” (Volume 1, Annex A, Para 1). The Terms of Reference also specify the
method by which this objective is to be fulfilled: “A limited analysis based on an electronic relational database containing data extracted from UAP
sighting reports, over a period to the present date…” (Volume 1, Annex A, Para 2).
Outline of the Report
The Condign Report is over 400 pages long.
It consists of 3 numbered volumes (Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3) plus an Executive Summary.
The Executive Summary
The Executive Summary seeks to briefly summarize the material in the other volumes (particularly the conclusion from Volume 1).
The Executive Summary of the Condign Report includes the following:
“… That UAP exist is indisputable… and [they] clearly can exhibit aerodynamic
Characteristics well beyond those of any known aircraft or missile – either manned or
“…The topic has, hitherto, defied credible description as to its actual cause…”
“Aerial phenomena of the type consistent with those reported as UAP, and with
exceptional characteristics certainly exist – but the available evidence suggests that
apart from those which can be more easily and satisfactorily explained, they are
comprised of several types of rarely encountered natural events within the atmosphere
and ionosphere. Some of these are still barely understood…”
“Considerable evidence exists to support the thesis that the events are almost certainly
attributable to physical, electrical and magnetic phenomena in the atmosphere,
mesosphere and ionosphere. They appear to originate due to more than one set of
weather and electrically-charged conditions and are observed so infrequently as to make them unique to the majority of observers…”
“The close proximity of plasma related fields can adversely affect a vehicle or person.
For this to occur the UAP must be encountered at very close ranges. A probable
modulated magnetic, electric or electromagnetic (or even unknown field) appears to
emanate from some of the buoyant charged masses. Local fields of this type … have
been medically proven to cause responses in the temporal lobes of the human brain.
These result in the observer sustaining (and later describing and retaining) his or her
own vivid, but mainly incorrect, description of what is experienced. … This is
suggested to be a key factor in influencing the more extreme reports found in the media
and are clearly believed by the ‘victims’”.
“There is no evidence that any UAP, seen in the UKADR, are incursions by air objects
of any intelligent (extra-terrestrial or foreign) origin, or that they represent any hostile
“Key Recommendation: … It should no longer be a requirement for DI55 to monitor
UAP reports, as they do not demonstrably provide information useful to Defense
This Volume contains the main report.
It contains the conclusions reached, and outlines the methodology adopted.
Volume 1 also contains the conclusions reached by the author. The main conclusion is that “simply man-made airborne objects such as aircraft,
para-wings or balloons are often the explanation [for UAP reports]. The range of options then progresses through a set of other relatively easily
explainable man-made, atmospheric and natural and unusual, propagation and atmospheric phenomena (some of which are still not fully understood)”
(Volume 1, Chapter 2, page 2, Para 2).
Volume 1 begins with an introduction, which sets out the historical background to the Condign Report.
The bulk of Volume 1 is largely devoted to statistical analysis of a database of a limited number of the reports received by the Ministry of Defense
in the period 1987 to 1997. The preparation of the relevant database included the “tedious task of converting thousands of paper UAP reports into
electronic form” (Volume 1, Chapter 2, page 1, Para 1).
The statistical analysis is repeatedly acknowledged to be based on poor and incomplete data. The report comments on the fact that “the great
majority of UK Report Forms are incomplete or incompetently completed or as vague as the typical example UAP report [presented at Annex B to Volume
1]” (Volume 1, Chapter 2, page 2, Para 3). It further states that “as DI55 are not permitted to make follow-up investigations after UAP events and
not event to speak to witnesses to clarify the meaning of (often cryptic or missing observations) analysis is dependent only on the paper reports)”
(Volume 1, Chapter 2, page 2, Para 2).
This volume comprises 25 “Working Papers” (also referred to as “Point Papers”) on various topics, ranging from relevant scientific issues to
details of various objects that are common causes of UFO reports.
The Working Papers include: (a) Working Paper 1 in relation to UAP effects on humans and objects. (b) Working Paper 25 on magnetic field effects on
The material in these two Working Papers relies upon the research of Michael Persinger about the possibility that magnetic fields may affect brain
activity, particularly the temporal lobe areas. The Condign Report states that there is a “high probability” that UAPs produce EM radiation which
“can affect the brain”, causing “the brain to interact in an unusual way with the imagination ‘library’, causing reports of visual activity
which are not in fact a true representation of the facts” (Volume 2, Working Paper 1, Annex F, pares 13-16. See also Working Paper 25).
This relatively brief volume discusses various miscellaneous matters, including an assessment of UAP as potential hazards to aircraft.
The plasma-UFO Theory
The Condign Report was the subject of widespread media coverage (particularly in Britain) after the press was made aware of the report.
Most media coverage focused upon the suggestion in the report that UFO reports may be caused by atmospheric-electrical plasmas of some type similar to
Previous authors (including Philip J Klass) have advanced the theory that UFO reports may be caused by plasmas similar to ball lightning caused by
atmospheric conditions. The material relating to statistical analysis in the Condign Report, however, concludes that meteors are the most significant
cause of plasmas that result in UAP reports.
The report refers to the large quantity of matter entering the earth’s atmosphere which “in theory is said to burn up”. The report states that
certain issues arise “if it is postulated that” not all this material burns up or impacts the surface. (The report acknowledges that there is “a
dearth of information in the scientific press on this possibility”).
The report suggests that the postulated further material turns into “meteor plasmas”. The report notes a finding that “peak reporting periods
co-incided with meteor show peaks”, and contends that the reports did not involve sightings of “falling meteors” but were in fact sightings of
“meteor plasmas”. The report concludes that these sightings “were clearly events which occurred after the plasmas had been formed, were usually
at low altitude and exhibited the regularly-seen erratic, bobbing, hovering and climbing motion which would not [sic] be mistaken by the public and
other credible witnesses” [Volume 1, Chapter 3, paras 53-65 (particularly at paras 54-55 and 65)]
Complete text of the Condign Report
Website of the individuals that submitted the relevant FOIA requests
BBC News Article article “UFO study finds no sign of aliens”
BBC News Article article “Report fuels spy plane theories”
Comments by Martin Shough
Comments by Isaac Koi
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