Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Repeat Performance of Big Sur: 20 Years Later?

Peace Keeper ICBM RVs impacting near Kwajalein

Tim Printy's write up of the 1964 Big Sur UFO story jogged my memory of another story propagated by Robert Hastings regarding a 1984 test launch out of Vandenberg AFB involving a Minuteman III ICBM.  In this story, UFOs evidently snatched up two out of three RVs dropping in on Kwagalein Atoll.   Like the Big Sur incident, the culprit is supposedly caught on film.  But did it really happen the way Hastings imagined it?

Excerpts from Robert Hastings' "UFOs Are Stalking and Intercepting Dummy Nuclear Warheads During Test Flights":

The incident in question was obviously the same one that Mills had briefly mentioned to me in 2006, before moving on to other topics. Now, when I asked for details, he responded, "A small white object was [recorded] as it maneuvered near the MIRVs. I saw the filmage, very classified, following the launch [when] contractors showed it to me."
Startled by this answer, and understanding its significance and relevance to the Big Sur case, I then asked Mills if I could call him and discuss the incident. Excerpts from our tape-recorded conversation follow here, which I've interspersed with comments from his emails on the topic, so as to create a more complete narrative...

John W. Mills, retired missile maintenance technician, provided Hastings with his description of the event that occurred circa 1984 involving a Follow On Test and Evaluation (FOTE) launch of a Minuteman III ICBM out of Vandenburg:

[The MIRVs] were going from lower right to upper left on the screen and they were still attached to the RV platform. It looked like a single blob of light. It was [well] downrange and not like looking at a high-def image. It was like looking at a TV picture, and this was in the '80s so the platform was even less [resolved]. But this thing—we thought it might be lint on the camera lens was whipping around the RV platform; something moving around it. 

Then a cloud [in the foreground, well below the altitude of the ascending RV platform, obscured it]. When it emerged from the cloud the engineers [watching the film with us] said only one RV remained on the platform. We watched the platform pass behind the cloud with this little white speck near it. Three RVs went behind the cloud but only one came out. That's why the contractors were upset with us.

Later, post-apogee, when the platform released the RVs, only one shot off it. Later, when they checked the [recovered platform at Kwajalein] nothing was on it. If the other two hadn't released for some reason, they should have been there, attached to it.

Three cameras were involved [in these tests], one at Vandenberg, one up the coast at Big Sur and then the one aboard the Orion. But the Orion film takes days to arrive and the Big Sur film takes awhile too. What I saw was a 30 to 40-second segment, taken from the camera at Vandenberg.

So in a brief summary, a Minuteman III ICBM is launch from Vandenberg AFB on a flight path towards the Kwajalein test range in the Pacific.  The missile is carrying 3 test RVs.  On camera, a white object is seen moving about the RV platform.  Only one RV separates from the platform and splashes down in the Pacific.  There is no indication that the other two RVs had separated and upon recovery of the platform the 2 RVs in question are not mounted on the platform but are missing.

When asked by Hastings for his take on the incident, Mills, to his credit, lists the possibility of lint on the camera lens and/or burn off of monomethylhydrazine.  It was not until Hastings plants the 1964 Big Sur UFO story that Mills starts to see a possible UFO angle.

Since Hastings' website offers no ability to directly comment on articles, I was fortunate that Frank Warren's UFO Chronicles website carried the same article.  Frank allows comments so off I went querying about the case.  Note to reader, Frank Warren is providing Hastings' and Mills' comments.  Both never interact directly with me, but only thru Frank. 

Tim H:  Frank,

Robert has written an interesting piece. I see that he has referenced the Big Sur incident, I do recall that Kingston George had a slightly different slant to that story, but lacking any of the actual footage that was shot, were left to two opposing view points.

As far as the 1984 FOTE shot from Vandenberg involving a Minuteman III MIRV evaluation. Did Robert and Mr. Miller take into account of the Army's Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE) that was conducted on June 10, 1984? This was a classified launching of a Minuteman I with test RV from Vandenberg, coupled with another Minuteman I with intercept capability that was launched from the Kwajaleins and successfully intercepted the test RV. The launch occurred from Vandenberg's LF-06. Mr. Miller seems to be fixed on LF-26 for the MM III launches that occurred on 8 Apr and 19 Sept, 1984. LF-26 or LF-06, possible confusion? Anyway, I'm sure that Robert took the HOE tests into consideration. BTW, Robert might be interested in looking at the photos from Bob Hampton who was stationed on the Kwajalein islands about the time of the UFO intercepts that Robert and Mr. Miller refers to.

Mr. Hampton's photos clearly show the glowing cloud of the platform bus following along the path of 3 separated RVs (granted not the test shot mentioned in Robert's article).

Mr. Hampton's site:

Thanks Frank, hope all is well with you.

Frank Warren:  Tim, 

This in from John Mills:

I worked on Homing Overlay from the Vandenburg end and no we didn't launch Minuteman I's; we used II's. They launched from LF 04 exclusively. A Minuteman I and II carry a single RV not a MIRV and homing overlay's interceptor was basically an inversed umbrella (it worked very well) and destroyed RV after RV, but was not used in MM III's. I'm not aware of any Homing Overlay launch that intercepted MIRVs and I worked all the launches from 81 through 85.

Tim H:  Mr Mills,

My apologies for misspelling your name in my first comments. I did read the documents, those that were available, and concur that HOE tests were not directed at MM III MIRVs, however, the history of Vandenberg launches do in fact show that a Minuteman I was launched from LF-06 as the HOE target on 10 June 1984. This would have been the 4th and final HOE test. Of course, the history showing the launches could have it wrong as far as the particular LF used in the launch. The documents that I reviewed does mention the use of a Minuteman I launched from VAFB and the "interceptor" launched from the Kwajaleins as a modified Minuteman I.

Since your conversation with Robert Hastings centered around two possible Glory Trip launches, both MM IIIs, and I believe that you stated either 101GB or 104GB, launched 8 Apr and 19 Sept 1984, and both from LF-26 (per VAFB launch history) were involved with a possible UFO intercept, could the cloud and or bright light that you or others observed been the platform bus?

I thought that your original assessment of monomethylhydrazine burning off was a plausible explanation.

And lastly, could it have been possible for only one RV to separate from the bus leaving the other two still attached, thus only one RV impacting?

Kind regards

Tim Hebert

Tim H:  Frank, apparently I was in error pertaining to the VAFB launch history. It appears that LF-03 was used for the last HOE target launch, not LF-06. This is annotated in the launch history for Vandenberg. BTW, this last test launch and intercept, 10 June 1984 was the only successful intercept, according to documents that I have reviewed.



Tim H:   Frank,

My apologies that you found my comments "pithy", but pleased that you found them "insightful" and "courteous". Do you think that you might be able to contact Robert or Mr. Mills regarding Mr. Hampton's Kwagalein photos? Those pics (nice photos BTW) showing the platform bus (cloudy and bright) might shed some light on the UFO intercept question.

Oh, least I forget, does Mr. Mills/Hastings have an opinion concerning the possibility that only one RV separated from the platform bus leaving the other two remaining with the bus?

Kind regards,


Frank Warren:  Tim, 

This in from John:


The LF 03 and LF 06 launches were by Space Data Corp, a division of Boeing now. Their launches were classified and I only worked them once, and not for Homing Overlay. The Minuteman I's that launched out of those sites may have been Homing Overlay, I don't know.

I worked the LF 04 and LF 21 launches for the project. I do know the first two launches failed, but the third worked. I had nothing to do with the other launches, so I would not have any information regarding their success or failure. I was aware the contractors bought everyone dinner at the O-club after the success of the 3rd launch. Normally, enlisted are prohibited from entering the club, and this was a really big deal, so the rules were bent a tad.

Regarding your question, that has always been a plausible arguement and I never said it was a UFO that buzzed around the platform. The engineers were saying it was either lint, or something on the lense or film that caused the activity. They also hypothesized that the platform bus had misfired or was leaking. Two RV's were never recovered as to my understanding. Three went up, one came down and a small (tiny) white blob moved around the platform. I know the navy searched for a long time looking for the other rv's. They have radio packages installed and will run for a long time underwater, but nothing was found.

Regarding the Peacekeeper (MX) launch, what I heard was purely hearsay and was never validated either.


Frank Warren:  Robert Hastings writes:

"Mills explicitly said that they were not on the platform when it was recovered from the lagoon."

Tim H:  Robert and/or Mr. Mills,

Since the platform bus is designed/programed to trail the MIRVs, after RV release, and act as a de facto penetration aid, is it possible that upon impact with the ocean that the platform bus could have dislodged any remaining RVs? Further, could the force of the impact completely destroy the bus and any remaining RVs?


At this point in the "conversation" it abruptly ends with neither Robert Hastings or Mills answering my last question.  I'm assuming that I had exhausted their patience.  But what was important from the series of above comments is that Mills states, or gives the impression that no UFO was involved in this story...only probable lint or the ejection of propellant from the bus platform.  It appears to me that only Hastings was actually talking UFOs.  Hastings own expert witness sinks the UFO story. 

I had mentioned photos from Bob Hampton, but unfortunately his site no longer exists.  Such a shame as he had posted outstanding photos of RV impacts near Kwajalein.  However, I was able to obtain others that provide context for this blog post.

The above photo shows three RVs mounted on to the bus platform.  The bus would sit atop the missile guidance system.  The missile guidance system would contain the propellant monomethylhydrazine for the vernier jets used for programed terminal flight adjustments prior to release of the RVs.  The propellant could easily account for the white object/blob seen moving about or surrounding the RV platform as seen on camera by Mills and the associated contractors.

This photo shows the re-entry of RVs from two Minuteman III missiles over Kwajalein.  In the top right corner of the photo you will see the ejection or burn off of monomethylhydrazine associated from the two bus platforms.  The associated white cloud appearance surrounding the platforms is consistent with most photos depicting RV releases over Kwajalein.

A similar photo can be seen here.  The photo at the top of this blog article shows a similar pattern with a Peace Keeper ICBM RVs incoming near Kwajalein.

What about Hastings and Mills two missing RVs?  Is it not plausible that the two RVs failed via mechanical failure to separate from the bus?  If we take into consideration that the bus and remaining RVs continue on a trajectory into the Pacific traveling even at subsonic speeds due to the combined weight of the platform and RVs.  Then it is feasible to infer that the shear impact could have dislodged the RVs from the platform...f=ma.

So there you have it.  Interesting tale of an anomaly involving a probable mechanical failure, lint on a camera lens and white clouds of propellant...but dare I UFOs.


  1. Tim, here's an abbreviated, link to the Bob Hampton website page you noted above for additional RV / Kwajalein photos, below.


  2. Steve, thanks kindly for the info. I'll check out the link and see if I can down load photos if possible. Hampton's photos were outstanding, imho.