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A former head of the armed forces told the defence secretary a UFO claim known as Britain's Roswell could be a "banana skin", newly released files show.
In 1985 Lord Hill-Norton wrote to Michael Heseltine about the "Rendlesham incident" in 1980, when US airmen in Suffolk said they saw strange lights.
He said an authorised aircraft may have entered and left UK airspace.
In 2003, an ex-US security policeman said he and another airman had shone patrol car lights as a prank.
in 1985, Lord Hill-Norton - a former chief of the defence staff and First Sea Lord - wrote to Mr Heseltine, the then-defence secretary, to express his feelings about the event.
In his letter, Lord Hill-Norton said he rejected the official MoD line that the case was of "no defence interest", adding that it displayed "puzzling and disquieting features which have never been satisfactorily explained by your department".
He said it was either the case that a piloted craft had entered and left UK airspace with "complete impunity" or "a sizeable number of USAF personnel at an important base in British territory are capable of serious misperception".
Lord Hill-Norton added: "There seems to be a head of steam building up on this matter, and I can see a potential 'banana skin' [a political embarrassment] looming."