Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Re-Look at the Malmstrom/Echo Flight Case: Has anything changed?

During the past 4 weeks, the Unexplained Mysteries Forum has been discussing the Echo Flight incident.  It's been a lively discussion and for the most part has been interesting so far as the subtopics that were raised.  In the end, the question (for some) still remain whether a UFO caused the flight's missile guidance systems to shut down.

For those not familiar with the case, on 16 March 1967,  Malmstrom AFB's Echo Flight sustained a full flight shutdown of all 10 of it's ICBMs.  An indepth investigation would eventually lead to the conclusion that a "noise" pulse was generated from the Launch Control Center that affect the ICBM missile guidance system.

The then on duty deputy missile launch commander, Walter Figel, would later state to Robert Hastings and Robert Salas that he had received a report from a missile maintenance team or a security guard that a UFO was seen hovering above one of the flight's Launch Facilities, thus driving the debate.

A portion of the discussion on UM's forum centered around the statements given by Walter Figel in two interviews given to Hastings and Salas.  For some, this is proof positive that a UFO had caused the missile shutdowns.  My counter argument has always been that Figel gave two completely different versions of the supposedly event.  The version given to Hastings is different from that given to Salas.  This renders Walter Figel's statements irrelevant and suspect...in my opinion.

As I've stated on this blog on numerous occasions,  the 341st Strategic Missile Wing's unit history and the subsequent engineering investigation and analysis do not mention any maintenance/security teams on any of the launch facilities which cast further doubt on the statements given by Walter Figel.  

Another area of interest that was discussed was a section of the unit history that mentions that "the rumors of UFOs were disproven..."  This brings up an interesting point of discussion, as the unit history references the paragraph to the engineering report.  Someone had to have provided details as to why UFO rumors were "disproven" and I seriously doubt that it was the engineering task group that did so.  This may have lead to the input of LtCol Lewis Chase, the base UFO officer.

Of special note, Chase never elevated Echo Flight to Project Blue Book for an investigation, nor is there any evidence that Blue Book personnel tasked Chase to conduct an investigation.  But the questions remains where did the "rumors of UFO's were disproven" come from.  Some on the UM forum speculate that a separate investigation was ensued based on the supplanting of AFR 200-2 with AFR 80-17 in Sept 1966.  Again, this may have been true, but as of yet nothing has surfaced to validate these claims.

To understand AFR 80-17, we have to look at the program objectives:

2. Program Objectives.  Air Force interest in UFOs is two-fold: to determine if the UFO is a possible threat to the United states and to use the scientific and technical data gained from study of UFO reports.  To attain these objectives, it is necessary to explain or identify the stimulus which caused the observer to report his observation as an unidentified flying object.
   a. Air Defence.  The majority of UFOs reported to the Air Force have been conventional or
       familiar objects which pose no threat to our security.
       (1) It may be possible that foreign countries may develop flying vehicles of revolutionary
            configuration or propulsion.
       (2) Frequently, some alleged UFOs are determined to be aircraft.  Air Defence Command
             (ADC) is responsible for identification of aircraft.  Except as aircraft are determined to be
             the stimulus for a UFO report, aircraft are not to be reported under the provisions of this
   b. Technical and Scientific.  The Air Force will analyze reports of UFOs submitted to it to attain
       the program objectives.  In this connection these facts are of importance:
       (1) The need for further scientific knowledge in geophysics, astronomy and physics of the
             upper atmosphere which may be provided by study and analysis of UFOs and similar aerial
       (2) The need to report all pertinent factors that have a direct bearing on scientific analysis and
            conclusions of UFO sightings.
       (3) The need and the importance of complete case information.  Analysis has explained all but a
             small percentage of the sightings which have been reported to the Air Force.  The ones that
             have not been explained are carried statistically as "unidentified."  Because of the human
             factors involved and because of analysis of a UFO sightings depends on a personal
             interpretation   by the observer rather than on scientific data or facts obtained under
             controlled conditions, the elimination of all unidentifieds is improbable.  However, if more
             immediate, detailed and objective data on the unidentifieds that have been available and
             promptly reported, perhaps these too, could have been identified.

Based on the above, it would appear that the primary focus was to identify UFOs with the purpose of ascertaining if foreign countries had developed technologies that would have allowed incursion into the United States posing as possible security threats.  This would make sense due to a then expanding Soviet capability and threat to our national resources.

But where does Echo Flight fit into this scenario?  Again, we go back to AFR 80-17:

 c. Investigation.  Each commander of an Air Force Base will provide a UFO investigative
       capability.  When notice of a UFO sighting is received, an investigation will be implemented to
       determine if the stimulus for the sighting.

The question for consideration:  was there a notice of a UFO sighting?  We simply don't know for sure if Walter Figel's alleged report from the flight area would have stimulated an investigation, because it is unknown prior to his decades later interviews that he had ever told anyone his story.  The crew commander Eric Carlson stated in an interview with Ryan Dube, that there was never any mentioning of UFOs during the shutdown event.  Plus, no eyewitness has ever come forward to validate Figel's initial claims.  If there are no witnesses that had visual observation, then there is no reason to investigate.

Yet, there were rumors of UFOs, and these rumors permeate the narratives of Henry Barlow, LtCol Arneson, and Robert Jamison, though none of these individuals saw anything themselves. The local newspaper was awash with UFO reports.  And it stands to reason that these accumulated rumors would have drifted to the investigation team.

Despite all that was discussed, I've yet to see any persuasive argument to alter my views.  The cause of the noise pulse came from the Launch Control Center and traveled via the HICS cabling system to each Launch Facility, thus causing the missile guidance systems to enter into a "controlled" shutdown.

There remains no credible or verifiable evidence to support a UFO causation be it ET or a foreign source.

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