In the introduction to part one I posed the question "Could some Australian UFO cases be caused by stratospheric balloons?"
In looking at the RAAF's UFO files, as listed by the Disclosure Australia Project, I located 20 potential cases where such balloons may have been involved. I then used the digitised UFO files from the National Archives of Australia to view the actual RAAF UFO report forms for these cases. My final conclusion is that I think that 11 of these cases may relate to balloons. In this and following posts I will provide details of these cases.
1. 15 November 1960
Ironically, an Operation Crowflight aircraft crew reported a UFO sighting! (See previous posts about Operation Crowflight.)
RAAF file 580/1/1 Part 2 pp44-45 in the National Archives tells the story. It involved the crew of a JB-57 aircraft operating out of RAAF East Sale. The pilot's report reads:
"On Tuesday morning, 15 November 1960, approximately 1040LCL, while flying on a mission track , 15 miles north of Launceston, my navigator, Captain Douglas G Ludlam, USAF called out an aircraft approaching to our left, and slightly low. Our altitude at the time was 40,000 feet, TAS of 350 knots and heading of 340 degrees. I spotted the object and immediately commented to Captain Ludlam that it wasn't an aircraft but looked more like a balloon.
"We judged its altitude to be approximately 35,000 feet, heading 140 degrees, and its speed extremely high. From previous experience I would say the closing rate to be in excess of 800 knots.
"We observed this object for 5-7 seconds before it disappeared under the left wing. Since it was unusual in appearance I immediately banked to the left for another look, but neither of us could locate it.
"The color of the object was rather translucent, somewhat like that of a "poached egg." There was no sharp edges but rather fuzzy and undefined. The size was approximately 70 feet in diameter, and it did not appear to have any depth."
The report was made by Douglas G Ludlam, Captain USAF and Joseph W Ivins, Jnr, Captain USAF.
All but one of the pieces of data suggests to me that the object was a partly deflated balloon. It was translucent. It had no sharp edges. Was fuzzy and undefined. The size would be consistent. In addition, Captain Ludlam stated that the object "...looked more like a balloon..." Balloons of this size were being flown out of Mildura, Victoria in 1960 by the US Atomic Energy Commission. Against the balloon hypothesis is the estimated closing speed of 800 knots. If this piece of data is incorrect (perhaps an overestimate due to the large size of the ballloon), then the balloon hypothesis fits the observation.
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