The military deleted a passage about unidentified flying objects from a 2008 Air Force personnel manual just days after The Huffington Post asked Pentagon officials about the purpose of the UFO section.
Before the recent revisions, the document -- Air Force Instruction 10-206 -- advised pilots, radar operators and other Air Force personnel on what to do when they encountered any unknown airborne objects. Now in the 2011 version, the reference to UFOs -- which simply means "unidentified flying objects," not necessarily spaceships with little green men -- has been eliminated.
What makes this so intriguing is that the U.S. government officially stopped investigating UFOs in 1969 with the termination of the Air Force's Project Blue Book.
HERE'S THE 2008 VERSION OF AFI 10-206 THAT REFERENCED UFOS ON P. 37:
The 22-year study, led by high-level military officials and academic experts, ruled that UFOs weren't extraterrestrial visitors, nor were they technologically advanced aircraft, nor were they a threat to national security.
With that, the military essentially shut the book on flying saucer research, concluding that "nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigation by the Air Force."
"The reason why the military is claiming they don't investigate UFOs is because they don't want to respond to people like you," former Air Force Captain Robert Salas told The Huffington Post.
"They don't want to respond to reporters or to the public as to what the heck is going on, and it's been going on for so long. They just don't want to have to answer that question."
Yet more than 40 years after the close of Project Blue Book, there were still written orders on what Air Force personnel should do in the event they spotted a flying vehicle that couldn't be identified.
As recently as early September, Air Force members who came across anything they didn't recognize were told to note "altitude, direction of travel, speed, description of flight path and maneuvers, what first called attention to the object, how long was the object visible and how did the object disappear?"
Eyes in the sky and on the ground were commanded to treat a UFO as they would if they had seen a missile, hostile aircraft or unidentified submarine.
All details were required to be included in a report to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), which protects the airspace over the U.S. and Canada.
On Sept. 2, The Huffington Post made inquiries to the Air Force about the UFO directives. A spokesman said he'd arrange an interview with an appropriate officer. But before the interview was set up, the 111-page instruction manual was revised on Sept. 6, and the UFO instructions were deleted, as were other portions of the document, now shortened to 40 pages.
HERE'S THE UPDATED 2011 AFI 10-206 MANUAL WITH UFOs DELETED:
Air Force 10-206 2011
Credit: U.S. Air Force
For several weeks, military officials failed to respond to HuffPost inquiries about the rewritten manual, which included changes to areas unrelated to UFOs.
Finally, on Oct. 5, after several follow-up calls, an Air Force major emailed a response, informing HuffPost that UFO reporting is not a duty of the armed forces branch. He denied any cover-up, and instead said it was a coincidence that the document was updated after this news organization asked for an explanation.
"UFO reporting is a NORAD requirement, but not a requirement for Air Force operational reports," Air Force Maj. Chad Steffey told The Huffington Post in the e-mail.
"All Air Force Instructions are reviewed/revised on a regular basis (about every two to three years). For this revision, we merely deleted a procedure that did not apply to this AFI.
"For any other questions about requirements for UFO reporting, I'll have to refer you to NORAD," Steffey wrote.
Unlike the Air Force, officials at NORAD acknowledge that looking into UFOs is part of their job description.
Of course, most UFOs are eventually explained as something far less extraordinary than little green -- or grey -- men.
"When I talk about UFOs, it is literally an unidentified flying object, not an extraterrestrial," said John Cornelio, chief of media relations at NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. "There is a blip on the radar, and we don't know what it is. And we're responsible for identifying what that object is. We know it's an aircraft of some sort, but we don't know who it is, and so have to go up and identify it."
But here's the big question: Did the Air Force really stop investigating UFOs in 1969 as they have repeatedly claimed throughout the ensuing decades?
"Absolutely not! They have continued to look into UFO cases," said Salas, co-author of "Faded Giant." "In fact, there are NORAD records from 1975 of UFO sightings -- and this was not any general aviation aircraft -- objects seen over missile sites and other bases.
"They scrambled jets to intercept these UFOs, which clearly operated at speeds that the jets couldn't keep up with, and they were sighted by a lot of people," Salas told HuffPost.
THIS DOCUMENT DETAILS A 1975 NORAD INCIDENT WHERE JETS COULDN'T CATCH UFOS:
Salas is just one of many former military officers who have come forward in recent years to disclose their involvement with a variety of UFO incidents that occurred over several U.S. nuclear weapons sites, sightings that had been kept secret for decades.
"As a matter of fact, there was that incident in Wyoming last year where 50 ICBM missiles went down and the base commanders instructed the troops not to talk to anybody about this UFO that was seen over the base," said Salas.
It was a scenario too familiar to Salas, who in 1967 was monitoring a launch control center at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. When UFOs appeared over the base, Salas recalled, "all of a sudden, we started getting bells and whistles going off. As we looked at the display board in front of us, sure enough, the missiles began going into an unlaunchable, or no-go, mode. They couldn't be launched."
In the aftermath of that event, Salas was debriefed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or AFOSI.
"After we told them our recollection of the incident, the AFOSI captain wanted us to sign papers, saying we'd never talk about this and swear we wouldn't even talk to our wives or any of the airmen on the base -- nobody!"
HuffPost News first received the 2008 Air Force procedure document from John Greenewald, creator of The Black Vault, the largest private online archive -- at 600,000 downloadable pages -- of declassified documents on UFOs, government secrets, conspiracies, biological nuclear weapons and terrorist activities.
CHECK OUT JOHN GREENEWALD HERE:
"When I first obtained AFI 10-206 in 2006, UFOs were in it, and were the same procedures as outlined in a previous Army-Navy-Air Force publication called JANAP-146, that was a joint U.S.-Canadian manual for reporting UFOs, that came after 1969," Greenewald, author of "Beyond UFO Secrecy," told HuffPost.
"They've had many opportunities to take [the UFO reference] off of this publication and now look at what happens," said Greenewald. "All of a sudden, when a major news outlet like Huffington Post starts asking questions about why UFOs are still on the books -- to have that media outlet not get a fast response, number one; and number two, the military completely re-writes the regulation, changes it and UFOs are nowhere to be found -- that's a fascinating coincidence."
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Greenewald's 15-year crusade to pry government documents loose has yielded UFO reports from many government agencies, like the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense and the National Security Agency, documents that detail UFO accounts beyond 1969 and into more recent times.
"You can find UFO documents that stretch all the way into 2008 on the shelves of quite a few agencies," Greenewald pointed out. "The CIA and National Security Agency collected quite a bit of material after 1969. The UFO topic is of great importance that never went away."
At NORAD, Cornelio explains that they can't investigate every single UFO report that comes along.
"We have our specific role that we're responsible for, and that is to monitor threats to our nation," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's not our job to identify every unidentified object that's out there. I'm aware of the process by which the command center handles these things, and I don't believe it's something that's releasable."
Salas doesn't completely agree with Cornelio about the overall urgency that some UFO reports pose.
"Are you telling me they don't care about UFOs in general, whether they're from another planet or not? They do care; they care about anything in our air space," said Salas. "They can't just say, 'No, we don't investigate UFOs.' They can't make a blanket statement like that because that's their duty, their responsibility, to investigate UFOs.
"To me, they're talking out of both sides of their mouth."
UFOs: WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?
This cigar-shaped UFO was photographed by general aviation pilot David Hastings as he piloted a Cessna Skymaster plane over the Mojave Desert on Sept. 9, 1985. There has never been an indication of hoax in this case, which remains unexplained to this day.
An unidentified flying object was photographed by a government employee over the Holloman Air Development Center in New Mexico in 1964. Conspiracy theorists have claimed the photo is proof that the U.S. government has been in contact with aliens.
While descending an Austrian mountain in 1954, photographer Erich Kaiser captured an image of what he called mysterious silvery-white flying objects.
Mexican Air Force pilots filmed strange, brightly lit objects that moved quickly in the skies on March 5, 2004. Some scientists said the phenomenon could have been caused by gases in the atmosphere.
America's most infamous UFO case centers in Roswell, N.M. Some people claimed an alien spacecraft crashed there in 1947; the military said it was a weather balloon.
The Air Force issued "The Roswell Report" in 1997. Countering claims that aliens were recovered at the New Mexico site, the report said military officials picked up 200-pound dummies, above, that were used in an experiment.
Video grab close up. What looks like an alien creature with visible head, neck, arms and body standing in the Brazilian rainforest in Manaus, Brazil. In this Amaz-alien footage, a lone unidentified being appears to stand in the jungle of Brazil -- even arching its back -- just feet away from a bright flashing blue light. In what some allege as proof that Earth is being visited by aliens from another planet, the video was obtained by paranormal writer Mike Cohen who says the video was taken by two British tourists visiting the Manaus region of the Amazon jungle.
A large circle and geometric pattern local residents say were created by a UFO appeared in a rice field in Krasakan hamlet in Sleman, Yogyakarta, on the morning of Jan. 23, 2011.
Stan Romanek claimed that this still image from a three-minute video he shot in 2003 shows an alien looking into his home in Nebraska. In the film, a strange face appears to be popping up and down outside Romanek's window.
This eyewitness drawing of an alleged UFO sighting is in one of 19 once-secret files posted to the British National Archives website. The files cover sightings reported between 1986 and 1992. Although many of the reports were debunked, some remain unexplained.
An investigator in 1989 measures markings that some said were left behind by a UFO in Normandy, France. France began releasing its "X-Files" on UFO sightings in 2007.
President Jimmy Carter, shown here in 1971, reported that he saw a UFO above Leary, Ga., in 1969. He filed a report about the sighting to the International UFO Bureau in 1973.
Astronaut Gordon Cooper, who piloted Mercury and Gemini space missions in the 1960s, once said he saw a "typical saucer shape, double-cylindrical shape, metallic" UFO. He was also outspoken on the idea that some UFOs were interplanetary vehicles visiting Earth.