In June 2019, I asked the Australian Department of Defence if they had "...any current guidelines concerning the reporting by Department of Defence personnel of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena?" Their response was "Defence does not have a protocol that covers recording or reporting of UFO sightings."
Later, on 16 June 2021, I submitted an FOIA request to the Australian Department of Defence. "I wish to obtain copies of emails generated by the Department of Defence between 1 January 2021 and 16 June 2021, which refer to the terms "unidentified drone;" "unidentified aircraft;" "Unidentified object;" or "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena." On 13 July 2021, the Department's response, in short, was "No records were found."
|Chief of Airforce, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld|
Today, the Australian ABC news carried an account concerning statements about UAP made by Chief of Airforce, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld. This arose in the context of a Senate Estimates Committee hearing.
The ABC reported, that Green Senator Peter Whish-Wilson asked Hupfeld a question about the June U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence's preliminary UAP report. Hupfeld responded that while he had no formal knowledge of the findings in the report he was aware of the report via media accounts.
Air Marshall Hupfeld stated that:
"...he had not seen any reports of 'Unidentified Aerial Phenomena' - or UAPs - in Australian airspace."
"I'm not familiar with, nor have seen any reports or information regarding UAPs in an Australian airspace context, and there's no air-force-led task force that looks into the phenomena."
Asked whether the Jindalee radar system could detect UAP's he replied:
"It's not possible for me to determine whether the JORN would see something like an unusual airborne phenomenon, without knowing the construction materials, and other performance parameters of such an object, if indeed it was an object."
Update: 2 November 2021
A transcript of the relevant Senate Estimates Committee, dated 27 October 2021 has been published. The relevant section is as follows:
Senator WHISH-WILSON: I'm not sure exactly who to ask to respond to these questions, because they may well not have been asked before. I was wondering if I could have someone senior from the Air Force— particularly a pilot, if that's possible.
CHAIR: Who knows how to fly a plane! Senator Payne: We'll do our best to find you a pilot from the Air Force. I'll call the Chief of Air Force; there's a plan!
Senator WHISH-WILSON: The Chief of Air Force would be great, if that's possible. Senator Payne: He's a pilot; I've seen him fly.
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I am a pilot. I used to fly aeroplanes—not currently now. I think I've got the information you might need, pending your question.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: I know we have close ties with the US. We share intelligence. My questions relate to the release of the report on 25 June 2021 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Preliminary assessment: unidentified aerial phenomena. This is an issue that has been raised in Congress; the Department of Defense has submitted a report. It's become a significant matter of public interest. I suppose my first question is: are you aware of that report?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not formally aware of the report. I think there was an article in the newspapers and commentary about that at some stage. But I'm not quite sure of the content of the report.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Okay. Just as a matter of interest, what questions did you think I was going to ask?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I thought you were going to ask questions about aircraft, but it sounds like you're going to ask questions about UFOs.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: We'd be very interested to hear your views on this. Yes, it has been reported in the media extensively both here and internationally. I'll just read you a few statements or the executive summary from that report. It basically talks about UAPs as being something that the US Department of Defense is taking seriously, and that the Pentagon has a taskforce assigned to better understand the data interpretation of recent sightings. The report says: 'UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security.' Then it goes on to talk about the 144 cases that the Pentagon looked at. Only one was clearly explainable; the others remain unexplained. It says that, after carefully considering the information, the taskforce reported that UAPs largely witnessed firsthand by military aviators were 'collected from systems that were considered to be reliable.' It went on: 'Most reports described UAP as objects that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.' Could I ask whether the Australian Air Force or the Australian military also have a taskforce looking at UAPs? Is this something that you're familiar with at all in your brief?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not familiar with nor have I seen any reports or information regarding UAPs in an Australian airspace context. There's no Air Force led taskforce that looks into this phenomena.
WHISH-WILSON: We don't do any monitoring of this at all?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: There have been no reports that I'm aware of, Senator.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: No informal reports from pilots or across other military activities?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: None from any aircrew or aviation organisation that I'm aware of. The only experience that I have in this was over 40 years ago when some reports were made and we launched Mirage aircraft. The phenomena turned out to be errors on the radar screens in our normal civil air-traffic control system, but no physical objects were detected.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Does the characterisation of the DOD, in relation to their report, of both intent and advanced technology concern you? Basically, they're saying they can't explain what these things are, but they would like to better understand them.
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I can't answer for another sovereign nation. That is a matter for the US and the Pentagon and the Department of Defense in the US.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Would it be possible for you to see if, across the other services, there has been any kind of reporting system in relation to this in Australia?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: Certainly, I can take that on notice. But I feel confident that, as the airspace control authority within Australia, if there had been any detections or items such as this, I would have been aware of them. But I can take that on notice to double-check.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Okay. Typically, would something like Jindalee be able to pick-up fast-moving objects, or is it more designed to look at ships and—
Air Marshal Hupfeld: Senator, the Jindalee Operational Radar Network is designed to detect aircraft and some ships. I won't go into the details of the nature of that detection, as we would then be getting into very classified areas. It's not possible for me to determine whether the JORN would see something like an unusual airborne phenomenon without knowing the construction, materials and other performance parameters of such an object, if, indeed, it was an object.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: As a pilot, have you seen any of the video footage that's been released by the US military? It's unclassified and it's been reported on by either the New York Times or the Washington Post. Even The Conversation here in Australia, which, as you know, is quite a respectable, conservative media outlet, has written a report. They're not saying they agree that these things may be more than aberrations, but they are saying, 'Finally, there's a mature conversation now happening around UAPs and we're trying to better understand them.'
Air Marshal Hupfeld: Through professional curiosity, I did look at some of the videos that were attached to those media reports. They were interesting but not compelling to me. I don't believe everything that I read in the media.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: No, nor do I. It's certainly something we learn in Canberra. It's just interesting. Do you think it would be possible for pilots to spoof that kind of thing?
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not sure what you mean by 'spoof'. Are you talking about the—
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Obviously the video has come from US Air Force pilots. I think there are 80 different sources, and the DOD and Pentagon are taking this seriously.
Air Marshal Hupfeld: I'm not really able to comment on that. There are too many variables to even form a view.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: Thank you for that. If you could just take that on notice, that would be excellent.
Senator Payne: I can say with some confidence that after over two decades of participating in the Senate estimates process this is the first occasion on which in any capacity I have had the opportunity to observe a conversation and a question-and-answer session on such an issue. So thank you so much for bringing it to our attention.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: My pleasure, Senator Payne. I do notice our key ally is taking this very seriously. Senator Payne: I heard you.
Senator WHISH-WILSON: It is now emerging as a matter of public interest. So I'm glad you appreciate that. Senator Payne: I listened with great interest. I'm glad we could find you a pilot.
Update: 4 November 2021
On 28 October 2021, the Senator was interviewed by Brian Carlton on Triple M, Hobart, Tasmania, 107.3FM. They discussed the Senator's appearance on the Senate Estimates Committee of 27 October 2021. I noted the following points:
1. The Senator thought that as the U.S. and Australia are close allies that we may be doing something to look at UAP.
2. The Senator was surprised that the Chief of Air had not read the June 2021 Office of the Director of National Intelligence UAP report.
3, 20 years ago, a friend of the Senator's who served in the Special Forces in Iraq and East Temor, told the Senator a story. Early one morning, he was on an exercise on a boat, at an undisclosed location. The boat was followed by a metallic object. In July 2021, after the DNI report came out, the Senator was in Western Australia and had a beer with his mate. Talking about UAP his mate asked if he remembered him telling the Senator about the UAP from 20 years back? The Senator did and then decided he would ask some questions in Australian parliament.
4. The Senator will put some detailed questions to follow up his Senate Estimates questions.
5. He believes someone in the Australian DOD should have spoken to US sources about the subject.