UFO Evidence header

<< Return to the Main Page for this Case


Condon Report Case Study: RB-47

Source: Roy Craig, in the Condon Report, 1968
Original Source


Summary: The RB-47 incident was one of the cases examined by the University of Colorado UFO study (the Condon Report), with Roy Craig as investigator of the case.

Investigator: Craig


The crew of a B-47 aircraft described an encounter with a large ball of light which was also displayed for a sustained time for both airborne radar monitoring receivers and on ground radar units. The encounter had occurred ten years prior to this study. Project Blue Book had no record of it. Attempts to locate any records of the event, in an effort to learn the identity of the encountered phenomenon, failed to produce any information. The phenomenon remains unidentified.


At a project-sponsored conference for air base UFO officers, held in Boulder in June 1967, one of the officers revealed that he personally had experienced a puzzling UFO encounter some ten years previously. According to the officer, a Major at the time of the encounter, he was piloting a B-47 on a gunnery and electronic counter-measures training mission from an AFB. The mission had taken the crew over the gulf of Mexico, and back over South Central United States where they encountered a glowing source of both visual and 2,800 mHz. electromagnetic radiation of startling intensity, which, during part of the encounter, held a constant position relative to the B-47 for an extended period. Ground flight control radar also received a return from the "object," and reported its range to the B-47 crew, at a position in agreement with radar and visual observations from the aircraft.

According to the officer, upon return to the AFB electronic counter-measures, graphic data, and radar scope pictures which had been taken during the flight were removed from the plane by Intelligence personnel. He recalled that an Intelligence questionnaire regarding the experience had later been completed by the B-47 crew; however, the "security lid" shut off further information regarding the encounter. The crew learned nothing more regarding the incident, and the pilot occasionally had wondered about the identity of the phenomena encountered ever since his experience.


When no report of this incident was found in Blue Book or Air Defense Command records, this project undertook to obtain leads to the location of data recorded during the event through detailed interview of all available members of the B-47 crew. Of the six crew members, the three most closely involved in the encounter were the pilot, co-pilot, and the officer who had been in charge of the most involved radar-monitoring unit.

Details of the encounter, as best they could be recalled, were obtained by interview with the pilot and, later, with the two other officers at another air base. A11 remained deeply impressed by the experience, and were surprised that a report of it was not part of Blue Book files. Their descriptions of the experience were generally consistent, although the pilot did not mention that the navigator also had received a radar return from the object in question, as was recalled by the other officers. (The navigator, on duty in Vietnam, was not available for interview). The two other crew members, each of whom had operated a radar monitoring unit in the B-47 during the UFO event, were involved to a lesser extent in the incident, and were not located for interview.

The crew's description of the experience follows:

Time: Early morning, Fall 1957.
Place: Over South Central United States
Plane's altitude: About 30,000 ft. during the first part of the encounter.
Nature of Mission: (Pilot): Combined navigation, gunnery, and electronic counter-measure training mission. (Other Crew): Check-out of plane and equipment, including electronic counter-measures equipment, prior to European assignment.
Weather: Witnesses recalled seeing, from 30,000 ft. altitude, lights of cities and burn-off flames at gas and oil refineries below. They have no recollection of other than clear weather.

Radar monitoring unit number two, in the back end of the B-47, picked up a strong signal, at a frequency of about 2,800 mHz., which moved up-scope while the plane was in straight flight. (A signal from a ground station necessarily moves down-scope under these conditions, because of forward motion of the airplane). This was noted, but not reported immediately to the rest of the crew. The officer operating this unit suspected equipment malfunction, and switched to a different monitoring frequency range. The pilot saw a white light ahead and warned the crew to be prepared for a sudden maneuver. Before any evasive action could be taken, the light crossed in front of the plane, moving to the right, at a velocity far higher than airplane speeds. The light was seen by pilot and co-pilot, and appeared to the pilot to be a glowing body as big as a barn. The light disappeared visually, but number two monitor was returned to the frequency at which the signal was noted a few moments earlier and again showed a target, now holding at the "two-o'clock" position. The pilot varied the plane's speed, but the radar source stayed at two o'clock. The pilot then requested and received permission to switch to ground interceptor control radar and check out the unidentified companion. Ground Control in the area informed the pilot that both his plane and the other target showed on their radar, the other target holding a range of ten miles from him.

After the UFO had held the two o'clock position and ten-mile range through various test changes in aircraft speed, the number two monitoring officer informed the pilot that the target was starting to move up-scope. It moved to a position dead ahead of the plane, holding a ten-mile range, and again became visible to the eye as a huge, steady, red glow. The pilot went to maximum speed. The target appeared to stop, and as the plane got close to it and flew over it, the target disappeared from visual observation, from monitor number two, and from ground radar. (The operator of monitor number two also recalled the B-47 navigator's having this target on his radar, and the target's disappearing from his radar scope at the same time). The pilot began to turn back. About half way around the turn, the target reappeared on both the monitor and ground radar scopes and visually at an estimated altitude of 15,000 ft. The pilot received permission from Ground Control to change altitude, and dove the plane at the target, which appeared stationary. As the plane approached to an estimated distance of five miles the target vanished again from both visual observation and radar. Limited fuel caused the pilot to abandon the chase at this point and head for his base. As the pilot leveled off at 20,000 ft. a target again appeared on number two monitor, this time behind the B-47. The officer operating the number two monitoring unit, however, believes that he may have been picking up the ground radar signal at this point. The signal faded out as the B-47 continued flight.

The co-pilot and number two monitoring officer were most impressed by the sudden disappearance of the target and its reappearance at a new location. As they recalled the event, the target could be tracked part of the time on the radar monitoring screen, as described above, but, at least once, disappeared from the right side of the plane, appeared on their left, then suddenly on their right again, with no "trail" on the radar scope to indicate movement of the target between successive positions.

The monitoring officer recalled that the navigator, who reported receiving his own transmitted radar signals reflected from the target, not only had a target on his screen, but reported target bearings which coincided exactly with the bearings to the source on the monitoring scope. He also indicated that the officer Operating the number one radar monitoring unit, which was of a different type, having a fixed APD-4 antenna instead of a spinning antenna as used with the number two unit, and covering all radar ranges, also observed the same display he observed on unit two. The sixth crew member, operating number three radar monitor, which covered a lower frequency range, was searching for something to tie in with the signals being observed on the other scopes, but found nothing.

The following questions are raised by this information:

1. Could the number two monitoring unit have received either direct or reflected ground radar signals which had no relation to the visual sighting?

The fact that the frequency received on number two, about 2,800 mHz., was one of the frequencies emitted from ground radar stations (CPS6B type antennas) at an airport and other airports near by, makes one suspect this possibility. The number two monitoring officer felt that after the B-47 arrived over South Central U. S., signals from GCA sets were received, and this confused the question of whether an unidentified source which emitted or reflected this wave length was present. On original approach to the area, however, a direct ground signal could not have moved up-scope. Up-scope movement could not have been due to broken rotor leads or other equipment malfunction, for all other ground signals observed that night moved down-scope. A reflected signal would require a moving reflector in the region serving as apparent source, the movement being coordinated with the motion of the aircraft, particularly during periods when the UFO held constant position relative to the moving aircraft. Since the monitor scans 360o, if a reflected beam were displayed on the scope, the direct radar beam also would be displayed, unless the transmitter were below the horizon. As the event was recalled by the witnesses, only one signal was present during initial observations. If the UFO actually reflected radar signals transmitted from the B-47, and appeared in the same position on the navigator's scope as one, the number two monitoring scope, reflection of 2,800 mHz. ground signals from these same positions seems extremely unlikely.

2. Could the visual observations have been misinterpreted airplane lights, airplane afterburners, or meteors?

The persistence of the phenomenon rules out meteors. Observed speeds, plus instant re-position and hovering capabilities are not consistent with the aircraft hypothesis.

3. Were the visual observations necessarily of the same phenomenon as the radar observations?

Coincidence of disappearances, appearances, and indicated positions suggest a common cause.

3. If the reported observations are factual and accurate, what capabilities and properties were possessed by the UFO?

a. Rapid motion, hovering, and instant relocation.

b. Emission of electromagnetic radiation in the visible region and possibly in the 2,800 mHz. region.

c. Reflection of radar waves of various frequencies. (From airborne radar units as well as 2,800 mHz. ground units). Failure to transmit at the frequency of the number three radar monitor.

d. Ability to hold a constant position relative to an aircraft.

4. Could the observed phenomenon be explained as a plasma?

Ten scientists who specialize in plasma research, at our October 1967 plasma conference regarded an explanation of this experience in terms of known properties of a plasma as not tenable.

Further investigation of this case centered around efforts to trace reports of this event submitted by the crew after the B-47 returned to the AFB. Recollections of the nature and manner of submission of such reports or records were in sharp divergence. As the pilot recalled the incident, the landing plane was met by their Wing Intelligence personnel, who took all filmed and wire-recorded data from the "back-end" crew. The crew was never extensively questioned about the incident. Days or weeks later, however, the crew did receive from Air Defense Command, a lengthy questionnaire which they completed including sketches of what they had seen and narrative descriptions of the event. The questionnaire also had a section to be completed by the ground radar (GCI) personnel. The pilot could not recall where or exactly when the completed questionnaire had been sent.

In contrast with this recollection, the co-pilot and number two monitoring officer said that no data whatsoever had been recorded during the flight. The #1 monitoring unit was equipped for movie filming of its display, and #2 was equipped for wire recording of data. Since the flight had been merely for the purpose of checking equipment, however, neither film nor recording wire was taken aboard. Both these officers recalled intensive interrogation by their Intelligence personnel immediately after their return to the AFB. They did not recall writing anything about the event that day or later. According to their account, the B-47 crew left for England the following day, and heard nothing more of the incident.

Since it appeared that the filmed and recorded data we were seeking had never existed, we renewed the effort to locate any special intelligence reports of the incident that might have failed to reach Project Blue Book. A report form of the type described by the pilot could not be identified or located. The Public Information Officer at ADC Headquarters checked intelligence files and operations records, but found no record of this incident. The Deputy Commander for Operations of the particular SAC Air Wing in which the B-47 crew served in 1957 informed us that a thorough review of the Wing history failed to disclose any reference to an UFO incident in Fall 1957.


If a report of this incident, written either by the B-47 crew or by Wing Intelligence personnel, was submitted in 1957, it apparently is no longer in existence. Moving pictures of radar scope displays and other data said to have been recorded during the incident apparently never existed. Evaluation of the experience must, therefore, rest entirely on the recollection of crew members ten years after the event. These descriptions are not adequate to allow identification of the phenomenon encountered (cf. Section III Chapters 2 & 6, and Appendix Q).

Article ID: 669


  FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.