The Tehran 1976 UFO

Declassified military documents show that Iranian fighter planes engaged a UFO in 1976. What really happened?

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs, Urban Legends

Skeptoid #315
June 19, 2012
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Just about every well-known UFO story is billed as among the best documented and most believable. Well, they can't all be right, and certainly some documentation is better than others. UFOlogists' favorite supporting documentation is declassified government communiques that mention the UFO, and one famous case has about as much as any other. It happened in 1976 in the skies over the city of Tehran, Iran, in the dark just after midnight. Not much Iranian documentation survives due to the revolution that happened soon after, but the United States Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency gathered enough written material to make the Tehran 1976 UFO one of the creepiest, and most menacing, in all of UFOlogy.

The story goes that sometime before midnight on September 19, four Tehran residents began telephoning the local Mehrabad airport stating that they saw a bright light in the sky. Mehrabad's radar was under repair and was not operational, so General Yousefi phoned Shahrokhi Air Force Base at Hamadan, 275 kilometers west southwest of Tehran. They showed nothing on radar. Yousefi went outside and saw the bright light for himself. He then ordered a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighter plane, piloted by Lt. Yaddi Nazeri plus a backseat weapons officer, to have a look. It took off from Shahrokhi an hour later at 1:30am. Once Nazeri reached Tehran, he reported losing all instruments and communications, so turned around and returned to base, and reported that his instruments came back once he did so.

A second F-4 was launched at 1:40am, piloted by Lt. Parviz Jafari. Jafari acquired radar lock on the bright object at a range of 27NM. According to the F-4's radar, the object had a signature similar to that of a KC-135 Stratotanker. Jafari reported that its lights consisted of alternating strobes of blue, green, red, and orange, so fast that all four were visible at once.

The F-4 pursued the object to the south of Tehran. It dropped another bright object out, which Jafari believed to be heading straight for him, and he attempted to engage it with an AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared guided missile. But upon doing so, he lost all communications and his weapons console. He turned away, and saw the second object apparently rejoin and merge with the first object. Moments later another bright object came out and went straight down into the ground, leaving a bright trail, and lighting up a large 2-3 kilometer wide area.

Jafari prepared to land at Mehrabad rather than return to Shahrokhi, and during approach experienced further intermittent communications and navigation failures. A commercial airliner in the vicinity also reported communication failures, but did not see anything.

The next day, Jafari and his backseat officer were taken out in a helicopter to have a look at where they thought the light hit the ground. Nothing was found, except they did pick up the beeping from a radio transponder. They homed in on the signal to the vicinity of a house, where the occupants knew nothing except they'd heard a loud noise and a bright flash of light during the night. And that's where the story ended — lots of strange events, and no explanations.

How do we know all of this? Because the Iranians told us. Following the incident, Iran invited the USAF section chief, Lt. Col. Olin Mooy, to a debriefing. The story as just given came from Mooy's official "Memorandum for Record" based on his notes. Mooy's memo was never deemed important enough to classify, and in fact was published in the United States two months later by UFO Investigator, the newsletter of the civilian UFO enthusiast group NICAP.

Iran was a relatively peaceful country in 1976, and open to Westerners. The first rumblings of revolution were still at least a year away. Among the American expats living in Iran were engineers from various contractors who supported the 225 F-4 fighter planes the United States had sold to Iran over the previous decade. And, of course, just about every other guy you'd see on the street who looked American was probably working for the CIA in some capacity or another. So we had really good eyes and ears into the machinations of the Iranian government, and a tight working relationship with their military.

Over the years, most of the story's basics have stayed pretty much the same, even when it was dramatized on a 1994 episode of the TV series Sightings. Sightings got a number of details wrong, including stating that Mehrabad's radar was operational, and that it indicated the object was as large as a KC-135 Stratotanker. In fact radar signatures do not indicate an object's size at all; only the strength of the reflected signal. Sightings also described all the events from the context of a presumption that the light was a hostile and intelligently guided alien spacecraft, using language like the jamming was turned off as soon as the F-4 was "no longer deemed to be a threat", and referring to the light as a "craft" or a "mother ship".

Along with Col. Mooy's memo, the USAF published a narrative titled "Now You See It, Now You Don't" about it, which was classified, and was only released in 1981 following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The case leaves us with six elements that are difficult to explain. First, the classified US military documents. There would not be classified documents if nothing extraordinary had happened. Second, the persistent sighting of the mother ship, the main light that was constantly visible and was observed by residents, by Yousefi, and by the pilots. Third, the selective jamming of communications, electronics, and fire control systems, which remains (to this day) beyond known military capability. Fourth, the radar lock obtained by the second F-4, indicating a solid flying object. Fifth, the bright missiles, first the one that shot out toward the second F-4, and second the one that descended to the ground with a flash. And sixth, the beeping transponder. Let's look at these one at a time.

Classified Documents

First, the classified "Now You See It, Now You Don't" document. As mentioned, this was a narrative, told as a dramatic story, and was hardly in the nature of an official government document. Yet it's often waved by the UFOlogists as compelling evidence. It was actually an editorial in the typed, mimeographed newsletter of the United States Air Force Security Services quarterly MIJI newsletter (MIJI standing for meaconing, intrusion, jamming, and interference). Because this service requires a security clearance, their newsletter is protected as well. There is nothing especially interesting about the actual article; it's just a dramatized retelling of the same information in Col. Mooy's memo, offered in the newsletter as a curious editorial on the subject of jamming and interference.

The Mother Ship

Second was the mother ship, that persistent light in the sky that prompted the phone calls, aroused Yousefi's curiosity, and led the pilots on their merry chase across the skies. We don't know what this was. Journalist Philip Klass suggested that it was the planet Jupiter, an explanation echoed by aerospace researcher James Oberg. Many UFOlogists have dismissed this explanation saying that Jupiter's direction in the sky was 90° wrong, but I found two reasons to give this suggestion some credence. First, the direction is not wrong. The F-4s were scrambled to northern Tehran, not to the light. Once they arrived, they saw the light just where Jupiter would have been. Second, Yousefi and the telephone witnesses all described the light as similar to a star but much brighter. Considering the fact that Jupiter was in the sky, my own conclusion is that it's almost certain that Jupiter was responsible for some percentage of what was reported that night, though not necessarily everything.

Jamming & Electronics Failure

Third was the apparently successful jamming of communications and radar equipment, that one would think should have concerned the Americans and the Iranians equally. In 1978, Klass dug deeper into this. He was not able to get any information from any Iranian sources, but he did track down several American civilian contractors from Westinghouse and McDonnell Douglas who were involved in the incident. The Westinghouse tech at Shahrokhi confirmed that only the second F-4 was reported to have experienced any electrical problems during the flight; the first F-4 was never sent in for maintenance. The McDonnell Douglas tech at Shahrokhi noted that the second F-4 had a long history of intermittent electrical outages that the IIAF had never been able to fix. He was personally called in to adjust that F-4's radar about a month after the event. Both techs stated that the Shahrokhi base was notorious for low quality work and poor record keeping.

So we have reason to expect that Jafari's F-4 would have had electrical problems regardless of whether he was under attack by a UFO or not, and we have conflicting stories about whether Nazeri's F-4 had any problems at all or not. Only Jafari was present at the official debriefing; Nazeri never made any known official report until he had moved to the United States and appeared on the Sightings TV show.

Radar Lock

Fourth is the compelling radar lock obtained by Jafari's backseat weapons officer. Surely there had to be something up there. Maybe there was; most of what these pilots did was to intercept enemy MiG-25 fighters on surveillance missions, whether Jupiter was in the sky or not. But there were also two other possibilities. Note that Jafari's radar was known to be defective, or at least in need of adjustment. The same McDonnell Douglas supervisor noted that the weapons officer "could have been in manual track or something like that and not really realized it." Whichever of the three possibilities was true, it's not necessarily a fact that a radar lock meant something was there. Maybe there was; maybe there wasn't.

UFO "Missiles"

Fifth were the bright objects that Jafari reported came at him, and that shot straight down into the ground. Twice a year, the Earth's orbit takes us through the debris trail left by Halley's Comet, causing meteor showers. We also pass through various other clouds and trails at the same time each year. In his 1984 book Meteor Showers: A Descriptive Catalog, astronomer Gary Kronk studied years of annual meteor data up through 1980. On September 19, we are at or near the maximums of two minor annual showers, the Gamma Piscids (PIE-sids) and Southern Piscids, and at the tail end of a third shower, the Eta Draconids. There was more than enough expected meteor activity to account for all of the reports of falling lights and rapidly moving bright objects. Some UFOlogists have attempted to connect the Tehran sighting with several other sightings of speeding bright lights that same night across the Meditteranean, suggesting that the "mother ship" must have been speeding all around the region. Since there were meteors falling worldwide that night, such sightings are exactly what we should expect to see, mother ships or not.

Klass noted several cases where experienced night pilots have taken unnecessary evasive maneuvers to avoid meteors that they mistook for aircraft. Another telling detail that Klass learned from the American technicians is that the Shahrokhi pilots never flew at night; that these two night sorties chasing the UFO were the only known night flights during the whole time the technicians were stationed there. According to Col. Mooy's report, the pilots reported that landing at Mehrabad was difficult because they were having trouble adjusting their night visibility.

$2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

Beeper

Sixth was the beeping transponder located by Jafari and the helicopter crew the next day, apparent physical evidence of intelligent technology. And so it probably was. Col. Mooy noted that the beeping transponder appeared to be from an American C-141. These large transport aircraft carried such transponders designed to be released in the event of a crash, but they'd been having problems with the beepers being ejected simply by turbulence over the mountains just north of Tehran.

Once we look at all the story's elements without the presumption of an alien spaceship, the only thing unusual about the Tehran 1976 UFO case is that planes were chasing celestial objects and had equipment failures. There have been many cases where planes had equipment failures, and there have been many cases where planes misidentified celestial objects. Once in a while, both will happen on the same flight.

A common way for UFOlogists to analyze stories such as this one is to use a process of elimination to show that it wasn't a star, it wasn't Jupiter, it wasn't a meteor or an aircraft, therefore we're left with the only thing it could have been: an alien spacecraft. The problem with this reasoning is that it's exactly as valid as using a process of elimination to show the only thing it could have been was the fiery chariot of Elijah.

Neither, in fact, is a process of elimination the proper way to examine such stories. We want to know what it is, not what it isn't. And, in this case, we don't have enough information to know what it is. So even if any of the six elements is not otherwise explained, all we're left with is "I don't know", not "I do know and it was an alien spaceship." What was the Tehran 1976 UFO? I don't know, but there's insufficient evidence to convince me to get excited about it.

Brian Dunning

© 2012 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Dubietis, A. "Activity of the Southern Piscid Meteor Shower in 1985-1999." Journal of the International Meteor Organization. 1 Apr. 2001, Volume 29, Numbers 1-2: 29-35.

Klass, P. UFOs: The Public Deceived. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1983. 111-124.

Kronk, G. Meteor Showers: A Descriptive Catalog. Hillside: Enslow Publishers, 1988.

NICAP. "Iranian Air Force Jets Scrambled." NICAP UFO Investigator. 1 Nov. 1976, November 1976: 1-2.

Oberg, J. "UFO Update: UFO Over Iran." Omni. 1 Aug. 1979, Volume 1, Number 11: 30.

Shields, H. "Now You See It, Now You Don't." MIJI Quarterly. 1 Oct. 1978, MQ-3-78: 32-34.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "The Tehran 1976 UFO." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 19 Jun 2012. Web. 21 Aug 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4315>

Discuss!

It was the fiery chariot of Elijah! Noted "skeptic" Brian Dunning says so!

Cambias, Massachusetts
June 19, 2012 7:30am

Another story I didn't know what was real or fake.

Tecpaocelotl, Costa Mesa, CA
June 19, 2012 8:21am

Well it was real in the sense that they scramble Phantoms to check out the object, that it was a real, alien space vehicle, well, not so much.

Robert Clary, Tillsonburg Ontario Canada
June 19, 2012 9:15am

I'm going to use one of the best axioms of skepticism: "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Arguments from ignorance, that is assuming something is true because you can't prove it false, are nearly always used by UFO believers. But why don't we get clear evidence, let alone irrefutable evidence? We get UFO nuts claiming there's a UFO following the Chilean AF, and what we really have is a small insect jumping on the lens.

Those making the assertion have the responsibility for providing evidence, and this story has so many holes that it could be used as a replacement for Swiss cheese.

In fact, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

Michael, Los Angeles
June 19, 2012 9:27am

I can give you two rational explanations as to why people believe in UFO sightings:

Some people just don't know any better, and some people do know better but will do anything in order to get the attention they want.

The skeptic's goal, I believe, is to educate the people that don't know better, and strike down the ones that want attention with facts and logic.

Anonymous, Nowhere
June 19, 2012 10:11am

A fine episode,

Its so good to see someone who knows what the "U" in UFO means... So many of us jump right to "what else could it be!" instead of "I don't know."

I thought "the fiery chariot of Elijah" was a bit of an unworthy dig though.

Harts and minds and all that.

Dan Hillman, Seattle
June 19, 2012 12:02pm

I can't fault the Iranian military for checking the 'object' out but has any military ever encountered a ufo that actually did anything hostile?

Other than a few crashed planes which have been shown to have occurred do to pilot error there is no evidence that I've ever heard of actual hostile action taken by a ufo.

Rob Jase, New Britain, CT
June 19, 2012 12:29pm

You said the pilot "attempted to engage" with a Sidewinder missile. Does that mean he actually fired it, or just attempted to get a lock with the IR seeker? I ask because the falling light that allegedly lit up the local area and flared on impact (speculation) sounds a lot like an infrared flare launched in response to the fighter locking on with its radar and potentially firing a missile.

I would be interested to know if a C-135 variant, or other large aircraft, was known to be operating in the area at the time. I've no doubt that the visual target was indeed Jupiter, but it's entirely possible that the radar target was real... and friendly.

Martin Dawson, Fort Worth, TX
June 19, 2012 1:08pm

Martin,
Reasonable ideas, but I think we are just speculating.

In my own mind I doubt this for a couple of reasons. First, he F-4 could carry both radar and IR guided missles. So why launch a flare and no chaff? A quick search turned up lots of links to the story but no reports of chaff like material found in the area.

They were probibily using the radar to get range info so the pilot would know if he was close enough to the target to bring up his missle.
The seeker on the older AIM-9 versions is cooled and has a limited ammount of coolant. So he would not have brought it up unless he was about ready to fire. (about 15 miles assuming an AIM-9J)

He would also need to be Behind the target with this generation of missile. So he's not just going to pop one of these off in the general direction of the target and hope it hits.

Second, I think the RIO selecting the wrong mode for the radar makes more sense, particuilarly if the crew as not used to flying at night.

Ah speculation.....

Dan Hillman, Seattle
June 19, 2012 1:39pm

I recently thought I saw a UFO. I was driving home on the A5086, between Cockermouth and Egremont, and saw this really bright light suddenly start zipping across the sky. It looked amazing, and I nearly stopped to watch.

Then I realised. I was driving along a very windy bit of road, and the bright light zipping around the sky was Jupiter, staying in the same place, while my view of it rapidly changed.

I was pleased to have explained the phenomenon within a few seconds of seeing it, but rather disappointed as well.

Terry Harvey-Chadwick, Seascale, UK
June 19, 2012 1:57pm

I still find the process of elimination useful, as long as leaping automatic assumptions are not made.

For example "We know that the object was not of celestial origin, not swamp gas, not any known aircraft, but we do NOT know what it is" instead of automatically assuming that it is not only a spacecraft, but alien as well.

Then having discarded certain areas of enquiry, the efforts can begin as to what the object IS.

The part in the story about objects leaving the "mothership" and descending straight to the ground is similar to Bruce Cathie's witness descriptions of events taking place over world grid aerial points.
Whether or not one supports Bruce Cathie in his assertions, backed up by what he terms harmonic maths, his books are an interesting read. Working out some of his maths can bring surprising results.

Macky, Auckland
June 19, 2012 2:08pm

"There would no be classified documents if nothing extraordinary had happened."

Those guys classify just about everything, from lunch menus to daily reports. Great episode.

Daniel, Seattle
June 19, 2012 2:50pm

This reminds me of Hickam's dictum: "Patients can have as many diseases as they damn well please."

i.e. It's more likely that a patient experiencing many symptoms has several common diseases rather than a single very rare disease.

Max, Boston, MA
June 19, 2012 4:46pm

I've seen plenty of UFOs. What you see in the sky that you can't explain is usually due to the fact that they are very high up and very far away and therefore unrecognisable...ie: a UFO.

John Blackhall, Wonthaggi
June 20, 2012 9:26pm

I have to disagree with Dan Hillman of Seattle -- the "fiery chariot of Elijah" bit was my favorite part!

Good episode.

Cassie, Germany
June 20, 2012 10:49pm

Another nice episode Brian. I just want to pick you up on a small point: you assertion that meteor showers are due to the debris of a comet is correct, however you seem to imply that all meteor showers are due to Halleys commet. This is not so. The Halleys comet gives rise to the Orionids and the Eta Aquarids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halley's_Comet#Orbit_and_origin). The meteor showers that you list are for some other comets (which are not necessarily known).

SillyBear, Sydney
June 24, 2012 5:23am

Why send an airplane with known electrical problems into a fight. Just seems a bit too strange.

domi, Finland
June 25, 2012 6:39am

Another very entertaining and informative episode, Brian. Was that the actual radio chatter recording from the incident or just a representation for dramatic effect?

Bennett Hipps, Columbus, GA
June 26, 2012 6:43am

The radio chatter was from the Sightings TV show, which they said was real. But I could not confirm that so didn't repeat the claim.

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
June 26, 2012 7:11am

Domi,
You have to remember that for those nations that do not produce their own aircraft and rely on sales from other countries, they pretty much have to use what they've got. And just because an aircraft hmight have a glitchy system here or there, it doesn't make it unflyable.

Great episode Brian-keep it up!

Walter, Clifton Park, NY
June 26, 2012 8:09am

Domi, even in Western countries you will see the pilot examine the log book of the aircraft before taking off. The pilot does this to find out what uncorrected problems there are. You see, the existence of a problem is not a simple go/no-go decision. There are problems more problematic, problems just annoying, and there are problems absolutely critical. Not all electrical problems are critical, some are just annoying but do not prevent operational use of the aircraft.

Pentti Hirvonen, Finland
June 27, 2012 11:11am

AHA!

Obviously intergalactic reptilians were behind the Iranian revolution.

Another win for me!

Signed
David Icke

Greg, Sydney
June 29, 2012 12:03am

Thanks for dissecting the Iranian UFO case for us! I've seen this one held up as one beyond reproach because of military involvement. I've seen first-hand the low quality of training and maintenance that a lot of third-world countries maintain (like the Afghani pilots in the Russo-Afghan war who routinely forgot to arm their bombs or rockets before firing them) and also the fact that a lot of the hardware we provided to third-world allies was old and needed constant high-quality care which they rarely received. A lot of this incident can be chalked up to the unfamiliarity of night flying by the pilots, combined with their anxiety of finding a UFO flying overhead. The simplest explanation is usually right and you pretty much summed up the simple explanation for each unknown.

Richard, Alabama
July 3, 2012 8:02pm

Hi domi,
Just because the Phantom wasn’t built in Iran doesn’t mean the crew was untrained. These crews probably trained stateside with their USAF contemporaries as pilots from several air forces do today. The fact that the a/c were supported by contractors for the manufacturer shows that they paid at least some attention to maintenance and the Shaw’s government could certainly afford flight time for training.
That said there is so much here that could account for the sightings other than spaceships. Without further information I think we have done the best we can with this one and it looks like it’s a mistake that got a bit out of hand. If Reptoids land and show us an old movie their dad took that has an F-4E in his rearview mirror we will reconsider.
Which is silly because EVERYONE knows reptoids primary sense is taste so they would never have taken movies, just a bite or two, like I do with the free samples at Costco.

Dan Hillman, Seattle
July 10, 2012 3:39pm

why the illuminati referrence shown in the "all seeing eye" motif featured on this website and media player? Why place it here? its hardly gonna win over conspiracy theorists, is it! There are some useful points in this website, but most of it smacks of more illuminati fed propaganda and red herrings placed in order shade the truth and create more confusion! What this website comes down to is, "There is no god. If there was, he would have showed up, ordered a coffee and fixed all the horrible crap he created" syndrome.

charlie baxter, brisbane, australia
July 17, 2012 5:43pm

"...blue, green, red, and orange, so fast that all four..."

Very strange. That part disappeared from the tale as quickly as it appeared, and from the systematic, point-by-point debunking, and from all 20+ comments thereafter.

danR, Vancouver/Canada
September 23, 2012 1:08pm

@ danR: Good point. I'm an amateur astronomer, and I can tell you from experience that planetary light does not behave like that. Even closer to the horizon, where stars tend to have maximum "twinkle," planetary light tends to remain steady. In all my years observing Jupiter, I've never seen it display the kind of color-changing behavior that was observed by that F-4 pilot.

I'd be very interested to hear Brian tackle THAT part of the story. I'm not saying that there was an alien spacecraft cruising over Tehran that night, but UFO stands for "Unidentified Flying Object," and that seems to be exactly what we are dealing with here...not an unusually phosphorescent Jupiter and a relatively minor period of meteor showers.

Clark, Indiana
October 2, 2012 10:46am

@ danR:

So you say there is significance in the coloured lights? Why? If someone had just witnessed those alone would you say that it warranted further investigation? People believe they see strange lights in the sky all the time, should we be wasting millions investigating all such sightings?

On its own the lights sighting is pretty irrelevant as far as I can see, its only significance would be if it was somehow supported by other evidence - which it appears not to be. If we can explain all the other happenings by every-day things like possible poor maintenance etc to me it makes the 'lights' just another observation by a fallible biological system - the human.

When I was young I could have sworn that I saw a fast moving blinking light going around Sirius, a period of about less than five seconds !!! Not with a telescope either, with naked eye !!! I was puzzled and a while later I related the tale to a schoolfellow, who claimed they saw the same thing. There it rested and I am now sure it was a trick of the mind and eyes and the other chap was probably just agreeing with me for some social reason. Of course in these days of maximum woo and the Internet I would have been on-line and within hours have been exposed to all kinds of 'explanations'.

IMO each individual element should be self-supporting and clearly here they are not, the lights are just part of a house of cards and the rest of the card pack has been put away.

David "sheeple" Healey, Maidenhead, UK
October 3, 2012 9:05am

A good article! I was looking into this incident and only found out believers who said that it was a UFO, or sceptics who insisted it's just jupiter or a fireball. This article had the best explanations so far. Still, I have to say I think there was something special going on, some of the arguments were a bit too vague for me. Well, like it was said before, we can't be sure what it was.

I think every UFO encounter can be analyzed and explained to be just a sum of ordinary phenomenas. Even if there really would be a 100% real extraterrestrial spaceship hovering around, when looked at the situation closely enough, we can find evidence to dismiss it: somebody was tired, jupiter was around, some meteors were flying nearby, radar was outdated, some of the witnesses had tried drugs at some point of their lives etc. And some people wouldn't believe it even if E.T. would land from the sky and shake their hands.

Anyway, it was a good read, thanks! We need both skeptics and believers to improve things!

Marko Lahti, Finland
October 25, 2012 12:02pm

So, why did the US military investigate this encounter?

I thought they didn't do this type of thing since Bluebook closed.

Johnny Doe, Your mums vag
December 7, 2012 9:22pm

Marko, what is needed is proof that cannot be dismissed so easily, in this example we have pilots who hardly flew at night in their career, possibly with adrenaline pumping, piloting aircraft that have doubtful serviceability. Humans are fallible and eye-witness testimony can be wrong, that's why sceptics need something more than anecdote, they need physical evidence.

Billions of humans on the planet, decades of study and no proof of UFOs existing as anything other than perhaps a meteorological phenomena.

Most UFO enthusiasts seem to think that UFOs are alien piloted, with no proof for it. The reason sceptics can explain away the alien hypothesis belief is because the evidence is flimsy. When an alien lands at Buckingham Palace or the White House, in front of thousands of people and TV crews, leaving evidence of interaction, then they have some evidence that most sceptics would be willing to accept or investigate. Sure some cynics will still claim it was a mass illusion and hysteria or a Illuminati conspiracy or something, but fringe folks will always be there - at either end of a debate.

@ Johnny Doe, from what I read the US really only sat in on interviews and had no in depth investigation themselves. Besides, the US having an interest in a UFO encounter doesn't make it any more valid. Pilots been reporting strange things since they took to the skies, it's common sense to investigate and see if it is just something psychological or perhaps of defence significance.

Sceptical Steve, Caergwrle, Wales, UK
December 8, 2012 4:18am

It makes sense for the military to investigate any form of UFO in the interest of national security, however, they claim not to after Bluebook. So, why would they not look into UFOs, and why lie about not looking into UFOs?

Conflicting evidence from this website. It should be noted that Klass only interviewed Americans, who are actually the one's who are accused of trying to cover up the information of UFOs in the first place.
"The Westinghouse tech at Shahrokhi confirmed that only the second F-4 was reported to have experienced any electrical problems during the flight"
However Jafari's own words conflict with the American source, as seen in his statement at the national press club. (Google it).
What are the details of the "long history of intermittent electrical outages" the F-4 experienced. Was there a history of losing all communications and use of the weapons console? Or is the lack of any detail that part of the "poor record keeping".

The link you provided also stated that a "commercial airliner in the vicinity also reported communication failures", which backs up the claim that it may have been a result from the UFO.
The link you provided also states that "radar signatures do not indicate an object's size at all," does anyone know if this is true? Not that it matters, as the visual sighting did confirm the radar data.

Johnny Doe, Your mums vag
December 8, 2012 9:54am

Johnny Doe,
I don't think they're lying about not investigating UFOs. The military, of any country, has a habit of only answering the question they are asked, so the reply was probably something along the lines of 'since the closure of Project Blue Book we no longer have a department dedicated to investigating any and all UFO sightings.'That doesn't preclude them being interested in, as you said, anything that might have a bearing on national security. A sighting by the air force of a friendly nation in a volatile part of the world would certainly fall into that category.

Darren, Liverpool, UK
December 8, 2012 10:42am

Darren.
So if the 'commies' decided to attack your country with their own super secret technology, the military would just ignore any reports made from any civilian under attack? That's kinda lame for an organisation set up to protect us.

The theories from this website are as follows.
The bright multi-coloured "burning object" was Jupiter, although I have never seen Jupiter flashing different colours, even when on the horizon. Have you?
Nor have I ever seen Jupiter "jump 10 degrees to the right." Have you?
The smaller object that came from Jupiter were merely comets. Although the comet suddenly appeared from Jupiter and headed straight for him. Do comets act like this?
The radar may have been faulty, or perhaps the operator was in 'manual track mode', but didn't know that it was on this setting, although visual sightings backed up the radar data.

So basically according to OP, the Iranian pilots are just dumb idiots who were attacking Jupiter and some comets?

Johnny Doe, Your mums vag
December 8, 2012 11:40am

Hey Johnny,

I didn't respond to any of your other points because I don't know the answers and I'm not going to respond to them now for the same reason.

Just to reiterate the point I did make : what kind of sightings are the USAF going to be more interested in? Cletus claiming he's been anally probed by Martians? Or Air Force pilots seeing something strange in the sky?

Darren, Liverpool, UK
December 8, 2012 12:07pm

LOL, obviously the pilot.
But still, my point stands.
If the enemy wanted to attack your country, all they'd have to do is attach some flashing lights to their own super secret technology, and enter your country freely.

You'd have civilians including police officers, ringing in to say there are UFOs flying around, and what would the military do?
"We don't investigate UFOs, sorry."

Johnny Doe, Your mums vag
December 8, 2012 2:27pm

If the enemy wanted to attack your country, they'd attack your country. If their 'super-secret technology' enables them to enter your airspace without you noticing you'd probably best surrender now.

Fortunately, all they seem to want to do is fly around playing silly buggers, frightening people in rural areas, so they're probably not that much of a threat.

Darren, Liverpool, UK
December 29, 2012 2:46pm

Darren...I will predict its always a big year for crops...

Have we had crop circles in namibia yet?

Mud, At virtually missing point, NSW, OZ,
January 10, 2013 1:20am

Skeptics often have equally strong beliefs in their teachings and the strings of cherry picked 'facts' to support their beliefs as do religious people to support their chosen doctrines.

A lot of the source data for this article comes from P.Klass, and it is treated as fact.

My point is that P. Klass has been shown to state 'facts' that have in their favor evidence no more verifiable than the kind of anecdotal evidence that skeptics often claim ufo researchers use.

Do some balanced research into him.

James, Australia
April 28, 2013 12:29am

I honestly think that Phillip Klass had a strong cynicism towards extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting Earth and tried to come up with explanations that fit his world view.

I'd like to point out that UFO means UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT and not alien spaceship. If a UFO incident was determined to be an alien spaceship than it is no longer a 'UFO'.

But what's important is that an orbiting DSP-1 satellite detected an infared anomaly over the Teheran area for about an hour at exactly the same time this incident occurred.
So even if the F-4's had properly working electronics they still would likely have succumbed to avionic malfunction.

Anton, Neither here nor there
May 25, 2013 7:56pm

I your conclusion :

"What was the Tehran 1976 UFO? I don't know, but there's insufficient evidence to convince me to get excited about it"

The fact that nobody, including the military, knows what it really was, is imho very exciting.

The big thing about life in general (or science in particular) is precisely to be excited about things we don't know or understand. Being skeptic should not forbid curriosity nor dismiss any hypothesis

Fred, seattle
May 27, 2013 9:41pm

I was very unhappy about this ep until the very end that BD admit he didn't know. Which is good, unlike in some ep he is trying to force a conclusion that reject any unordinary conclusion such as the naked people in snow and avalanche one(sorry forgot the name).

One big problem though, BD, UFO stands for unidentified/unknown flying object, NOT alien space airecraft. And what we have here is precisely that: an unidentified/unknown flying object(s).

Reader, Vancouver
June 4, 2013 10:20pm

One keeps reminding folk that there is no reason to date to believe any UFO being alien related.

Mind you, on the unhappy business, I am sure Brian would like everyone to be happy

Moral Dolphin Back in Mud Suit, Greenacres by the sea Oz
June 4, 2013 11:28pm

The Flight Controller of O'Hare International Airport:- 'Do you have any idea how often we've cleared Venus to land?' (quoted in Allan Hendry, 'The UFO Handbook').

Rob Horne, Colombo, SL
June 6, 2013 12:29am

Mud Suit, sorry but your point? Or you are one of the people with this disorder that force them to post whether they have anything to say or not?

Reader, Vancouver
June 7, 2013 12:01am

The point Reader was;

"One keeps reminding folk that there is no reason to date to believe any UFO being alien related."

I think your comment name was exceedingly generous to your real nature.

Magnanamous Dinoflagellate, sin city, Oz
June 19, 2013 10:44pm

Sorry, but your tentative at debunking each element of this story is so convoluted that it would tend to show a chronic psychopathology.

There are no particular reasons to doubt the statements of experienced military personnel. To claim that they were chasing Jupiter or that they somehow got confused by Jupiter is bordering on the absurd. To further claim that they could not differentiate between meteor showers and what they reported is just plain daft.

The phenomenon was observed by radar personnel, fighter pilots and multiple witnesses that knew very well what Jupiter and meteorites looked like.

There have been numerous unexplained UFO sightings around the world, check this one as another example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Air_Lines_flight_1628_incident

My father was one of the Military officers in charge of investigating UFO sightings in France and he was convinced that about 5 to 13% of UFO were actual crafts from extraterrestrial origin.

I suggest you examine what element of your belief system prevents you from contemplating the notion that some extraterrestrial alien species are more technologically advanced than us.

Mog, Oz
June 26, 2013 7:20am

So, we are to believe that the Iranian Air Force personnel are some kind of idiots who cannot tell the difference between Jupiter and a UFO. Also not smart enough to recognize a meteor shower. It's a wonder that they even know how to fly! I'm assuming there were no scientists in Iran who could have suggested Jupiter and Meteors before the Air force went public with the UFO theory.
It's one thing to be a skeptic, but quite another to be arrogant and dismissive. The explanations you give are neither rational nor reasonable.
I have no idea whether the Iranian incident was due to a UFO, but these explanations are just sad!

ria, NY
July 1, 2013 9:28pm

April 17, 2012. Air Canada flight 878.

The first officer initiated emergency maneuvers to avoid collision with what he believed was an USAF C-17 approaching. The captain retook control of the plane immediately, because the first officer was trying to not collide with Venus.

Another Nick, Alexandria VA
July 2, 2013 6:33am

What should we make of former astronaut Edgar Mitchell saying straightforwardly that ETs and UFOs are real then?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtCnXP8msQA

Mog, Oz
July 5, 2013 8:58am

See here for NASA's response to Edgar Mitchell: http://skep.us/4218

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
July 5, 2013 9:15am

It only takes one white crow to prove that not all crows are black.

It only take one lie to prove that someone is not trustworthy.

Governments all over the world are notorious liars, yet, allegedly "rational" people still quote them to back their arguments.

The disclosure project provide over 5000 witnesses: NASA personnel, fighter and civilian pilots, army and navy personnel, police officers, engineers, and so on, ready to testify in front of Congress on the UFO phenomenon.

Who should we trust: 5000 witnesses or governments?

Mog, Oz
July 7, 2013 5:00pm

Not all crows are black...Maybe you should look up the variants.

None of the UFO phenomena reliably indicate alien life forms visiting us.

This doesnt mean that a particular administration is untrustworthy or not, it just means when it comes to UFO, its generally just ufo..

I'd be very worried if an administration thought it worthwhile to blither about UFO's when it has real stuff to deal with..

Mantovani Duck, Greenacres by the sea Oz
August 13, 2013 3:22am

To think that we are the only sentient life forms in such a vast universe is arrogance at it's best.

Skeptoid Fan, Canada
August 31, 2013 9:21am

look folks,the biggest problem with believing is the lack of CLEAR evidence.the disclosure project aside,i would love to see one of these ufos in broad daylight, say,over head a football pitch with literally 000s of people there to see it.the guy strolling down a country lane in the middle of the nite and suddenly seeing a bright light just doesnt wash with me im afraid...too much moonshine me thinks!!!

ian butler, cork city ireland
September 19, 2013 12:21pm

Ian, you have hit the nail on the head. Lights in the sky in a technological world is no big deal.

You can admit to poteen here in skeptoid tho, no one here would hold it against you! 8-)

On the concept of alien UFO's

Were Aliens only that smart. Turn the lights on, this landing business is tricky, no one on the ship has done it for thousands of years..

Sort of paraphrased from "Soap" to keep the general rated site its clean image.

Mahdour Downtree, Sin City Oz
September 24, 2013 4:53am

Quoting from above (the article, not Heaven-lol):
"the mother ship, that persistent light in the sky that prompted the phone calls, aroused Yousefi's curiosity, and led the pilots on their merry chase across the skies. We don't know what this was. Journalist Philip Klass suggested that it was the planet Jupiter, an explanation echoed by aerospace researcher James Oberg."
... Quoting Klass is the same as Mr Dunning talking to himself, it lends no credibility to the story. Mr. Klass would say ANYTHING as long as it would cast a negative shadow on the facts. That's a formula that he used, I saw him use it on TV shows. These folks, who always debunk stuff, do this:
START with sneaking in anything negative, no matter how dumb, then build on that. -People mentally count the negatives to decide about the truth of a story.- So 1 down X to go!- The author here only brings Mr Klass up to accomplish that same goal. Plus, if it's too dumb, he could just blame him.
Ask this about the details above: Would all those people believe that Jupiter was an unusual object that night, ..really ? What about all the other thousands of times, in their lives, Jupiter was visible, why didn't they call then???
I don't know if this account is accurate, or not, but this worn out approach, well it's more of an insult then anything else. You are not trying to consider anything, just debunk it!

Remo Carbetta, Ohio
November 20, 2013 9:03am

Just want to say thank you for what you do, Brian. It is critical for smart, rational individuals to take the time and effort necessary to debunk the irrational and magical thinking that pervades the interwebs. Nothing in our world is more important than is the promotion of critical thinking.

Joe Paul Santini, Abilene, Texas
November 25, 2013 6:27am

I worked for Bell Helicopter International 1994-1998 as Manager of Photographic Services. We were living in Tehran during this time. I actually saw the object in question from my 3rd floor rooftop on Alley 13, Nobahct, Abbassabad which was in north central Tehran. When I first saw the object it was moving south east to north west (against the normal earth/perceived stellar movement) at first much slower than a fixed wing aircraft which registered to me as a helicopter. It then appeared to stop and hover then move toward Mount Damavand east and north of Tehran at a speed much faster than an IIAAF-14 jet fighter. Then it traveled back due west at high speed. Having been a photographer for aircraft companies (Vought, LTV & BHI) for many years and an astronomy buff (10" Meade scope) I know the difference in a celestial body, an aircraft and fired ordinance. It was neither, PERIOD! I remember thinking at the time that it was odd that there was so much aircraft traffic in the air at that time of night as normal night ops were usually limited to commercial and a helicopter or two. Next day at work several people mentioned that their home power flickered and went out after midnight for a few minutes in the north eastern part of the city. Three days later, Jamshid Mortazahe, my Iranian counterpart and a SAVAK (secret police) officer in casual conversation requested that I "should not" speak of the incident again. No doubt in my mind that this was an extra terrestrial vehicle.

Greg Carroll, Fort Worth, Texas
January 7, 2014 8:44am

Some excerpts from the pilot's (Gen. Parfiz Jafari (Ret.)) own description of the event from Leslie Kean's book:

'(...) he (night supervisor) went outside (...) He saw it, too—a bright object flashing colored lights, and changing positions at about 6,000 feet up. It also appeared to be changing shapes.'

'It was flashing with intense red, green, orange, and blue lights so bright that I was not able to see its body.'

'All of a sudden, it jumped about 10 degrees to the right. In an instant! Ten degrees … and then again it jumped 10 degrees, and then again.… I had to turn 98 degrees to the right from my heading of 70 degrees, so we changed position 168 degrees toward the south of the capital city.'

'All of a sudden it jumped back to 27 miles in an instant.'

'Then I was startled by a round object which came out of the primary object and started coming straight toward me at a high rate of speed, almost as if it were a missile.'

Arguing that this incident is to be explained with Jupiter is equivalent to saying the pilot and all other witnesses were either completely delusional or lying their asses of for some reason. Anyone may think that, because we only have a testimony, but at least admit it, and don't for a second pretend to have actually genuinely searched for a reasonable explanation that even remotely fit's the description. It's an insult for the witnesses and the reader's intelligence.

I think the ET hypothesis is reasonable but until we know we should call it a UFO.

Cmonc, Netherlands
January 16, 2014 7:12am

On many questions the voice of skepticism is sorely needed. On the UFO question I'm and more finding that it's not the truth-finding/error-correcting program it is absolutely convinced that it is. Lurking right under the "debunking" surface appears to be a kind of faith commitment, but one that's utterly hidden, even from smart skeptics: the ET hypothesis can't be true. You see this in the skeptic's willingness to believe conspiracy theories and unlikelihoods, all to avoid confronting this ontological challenge to their ideological dogma on this issue.

google the 1968 minot air force base ufo b-52 case if you're an agnostic on the ET hypothesis. (No, ET hasn't been confirmed in this case--an argument from ignorance. But what is more likely--ETs or DARPA/etc. with technology in '68 vastly beyond what we even have now?)

Skepticism isn't about dogmatism. It's about advancing knowledge, isn't it?

eric, St. Paul
January 19, 2014 6:05pm

hey Cmonc, you realize Leslie Kean tried to pass off blurry bugs close to a camera lens as distant UFOs, even after it was demonstrated numerous times that the images were bugs? She was still sowing weasel-word doubt after the other pro-ETH people had dismissed the cases as 'bugs'.

Not that we should expect much from a Huffington Post writer, but Kean's book is about as factual as the Harry Potter novels.

Brendan, Ontario
January 20, 2014 2:48am

Well, you tried, but I'm afraid I can't offer the same gushing praise for the conclusions that others did. There is more indication that something was there, than there is that nothing was there. The issue then boils down to what may have been there. The first thing I would have done is take note of these facts. It was the height of the Cold War. Iran was an American Ally at the time. The USSR bordered on Iran, mainly via the Caspian Sea. The Soviets maintained major military facilities there.

See how easy it was to aim the story in another direction? There are UFO reports that are best left alone, as opposed to debunked. Is this one of them? Hard to say. It's dubious. But why at this late date?

Tim Mullins, Port Angeles, WA
January 20, 2014 5:21am

@ Brendon

This is a straw man argument, The 'bug' video has nothing to do with it, whatever Leslie Kean thinks about other issues has nothing to do with it. This is what so called skeptics, who are in fact narrow minded presuppositionalists, do all the time. They try to discredit a single position a person has and thereby imply that everything the person says is therefore BS. Even the most honest person can be wrong sometimes and/or have false beliefs.

We are talking about the Tehran UFO here. We are talking about what the pilot witness HIMSELF has to say. THAT is the 'raw data' we have to work with. The fact that it is in Leslie Keans book is and that Kean supposedly thinks that bugs are UFOs is completely and utterly irrelevant. Now I cannot prove that what the Pilot really exactly happened as he describes, I don't know for sure this wasn't some kind of delusion or they made it up for some unfathomable reason. But there where multiple witnesses who saw the same thing, I see no sensible reason why they would make up such a story, the US apparently took it very serious, plus these kind of events seem to be reported all over the globe. According to Occam's razor I have to assume that something extraordinary took place. If this notion is ever to be disproved and a satisfactory (conventional) explanation is given, fine, I change my position, no problem. But Jupiter isn't even REMOTELY a satisfactory explanation, and if you think it is, then you're just patently dishonest.

Cmonc, Netherlands
January 25, 2014 2:41am

Getting older now, but I remember this incident. I know of at least two U.S. P-3 Orion crews who saw SOMETHING that they couldn't explain. This P-3 was pretty loaded, so the FLRD and so forth couldn't have been malfunctioning for just those 35+ minutes

COL. JAMES STODDARD, COLUMBIA, MD
March 10, 2014 7:49pm

Its ok, youve done a fairly good job at planting the seeds of doubt in peoples minds about the reality of this event, and hence all such events, which is great, because we should all just keep on with our lives until whatever/whoever is out there decides to make themselves properly known. There is no reason for people to have to worry about it, and its good I think that what you've written will set a lot of minds at ease..for multiple reasons, not mine though(where's a good Man in Black when you need him..). If in the process of keeping on with my life I find some time, might go into them in more detail in a later post. But, dont count on it...
P S Thanks for the opportunity to post on this website.
P P S Interesting that even a General is capable of identifying Jupiter as an at times fast moving u.a.p.(unidentified aerial phenomenon), but skepticism is never misplaced.

Kevin Ward, Auckland New Zealand
March 26, 2014 1:10pm

I know UFO seems bit far fetched but hardware malfunctions? Jupiter? All at the same time so convienently? Thats even more far fetched. Mr. Dunning is same kind of guy like the ones who debunked Galileo Galilei.

Ekim Ärjy, Scandinavia
April 7, 2014 10:25pm

@Ekim, did we read the same article?
from what I read , the plane was having malfunctions so reguardless of what was there , they were likely to happen , and if the facts that are presented are true then jupiter was the likely suspect.
That aside compairing Mr Dunning , who presents infomation that you can either chose to accept or not, to Roman Inquisition is a bit far fetch.

Bubba, up the road from Gorokan
April 19, 2014 10:55am

This article didn't really debunk anything, and I get the feeling that Dunning is in over his head with this one. He supposes that most people believe the object was extraterrestrial -- even though the very reason the Iranian and US governments paid any attention to it was because of potential threats to national security.

In other words, the worry at the time was that the Soviets or someone else could have developed new tech. That's all they cared about.

I think we can all agree that *something* happened -- after all, why aren't the authorities getting calls every time Jupiter is visible? Why don't these supposedly inept pilots think they see aliens during every scramble? Even the jabs at the Iranian pilots' competence are more informed by opinion than fact -- these guys were trained and bankrolled by the USAF. Are we really going to sit here with a straight face and claim they're unable to distinguish between a planet and an aircraft?

But more than anything, this shows the problem with one guy donning the hat of "skeptic investigator" and trying to debunk something from his laptop, especially when there's a great deal of subject matter expertise necessary to honestly evaluate the aeronautical elements of the story. Mostly what we're seeing here is "Iranians = unreliable, American contractors = ironclad sources."

Plan, New York, NY
May 9, 2014 12:13am

I woudn't want you to be a witness to a crime: you'd say the crime was a hoax or delusion, all the other witnesses were lying or hoaxing, and the crime was just a foolish mistake.

Steve Erdmann, St. Louis, Missouri
May 20, 2014 3:27pm

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