Condign: Background> [prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ next]


4. Why do the Defence Intelligence Staff use the phrase UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) rather than UFO?

One version of the acronym UAP [with the meaning ‘Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomenon’] was coined by UFOlogist Jenny Randles in her discussions with the American astronomer Dr J. Allen Hynek during the late 1970s. Hynek acted as consultant to Project Blue Book and created the famous UFO classification system that included Close Encounters of the First, Second and Third Kind. Jenny recalls that:

“…we talked about his classification scheme and how I felt it needed to be updated. I argued that UAP was a better term to use in order to interest scientists because it presumed less and was more accurately descriptive than UFO, which, both by its use of the word object and by years of presumed application now inferred a material craft, usually a spacecraft, in many people's minds. Whereas, as he and I knew, most UFOs never had the remotest likelihood of being such a thing but still deserved to be recognised. I used it a lot on my lectures after that point. In December l980 I addressed the House of Lords UFO Study Group in Westminster and certainly used the term there.”

In UFO Study (1981) Jenny defines UAP (pronounced ‘whap’) as a term:

“more valid than UFO for the phenomenon we are studying….Unidentifiable [sic] implies it is not presently explicable to any observer and atmospheric phenomenon covers all possibilities for origin (both natural and artificial) and thus implies nothing.”

It is therefore curious to find that, apparently simultaneously, the term UAP was being used by the MoD’s Defence Intelligence Staff. UAP can be found in some intelligence documents dating from the mid-1960s but the acronym recurs again during the mid-1990s under similar terms of reference. In a Loose Minute headed “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Policy” dated 25 April 1997 the head of DIST, referring to the acronym UFO used by his opposite number in Sec(AS), writes:

“…an immediate difficulty arises over the use of the term ‘UFO’. This term is discredited in some circles and I think that consistent use of UAP would be much more satisfactory. This would then avoid an immediate association with ‘extraterrestrial’ phenomena and the difficulty which arises in trying to distinguish whether events are ‘extraterrestrial’ or not, a judgement which we are strictly incapable of making. While analysis may enable MoD to identify some phenomena, those that remain are by definition ‘unidentified’ rather than ‘extraterrestrial.’”

Did Britain’s chief of defence intelligence have copies of Jenny’s UFO books in his personal library? This might seem unlikely, until you become aware of the contents of another ‘Secret’ memo from his office, dated 1995, that includes the line:

“I have several books at home that describe our [DI 55’s] supposed role of ‘defender of the earth against the alien menace’ – it is light years from the truth!”

Returning to the UFO/UAP issue, in a minute headed “Unidentified Flying Objects – Policy’ dated 13 May 1997, Sec(AS) head Mr M.J. Fuller insists that UFO be retained, in public at least:

“You say that you would prefer the term ‘UAP’ rather than ‘UFO’. Presentationally this would give us some problems. To the vast majority of the public – and it is the public we deal with – ‘UFO’ with all its ‘extraterrestrial’ connotations is the only one they recognise. Most are not interested in the difference and, to avoid any more confusion in their minds, we shall continue with ‘UFO.’”

To which DIST responded on 28 May:

“UFO/UAP. I note that you will continue to use the term ‘UFO’ and appreciate your logic. We prefer to use the term UAP internally to DI(ST) since I believe that it more accurately describes this topic.”

Despite this internal spat, the internal use of UAP by DIST persisted and was finally used in the title of the DI 55 study completed in December 2000. »

[prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ next]


“Unless stated otherwise the material on this site is owned by the authors and is copyright protected. Material can be used as long as appropriate credit is given. We will vigorously pursue and expose plagiarists.”