It is probably the closest Australia has come to scrambling fighter jets to intercept a UFO.
Documents that have just become available under the 30-year rule at the National Archives of Australia reveal how two RAAF Mirage jets were placed on the second highest level of alert to determine the cause of unidentified radar contacts seen on screens at Mascot.
The ”X Files” viewed in Canberra also give details of other unexplained sightings, some of which are supported by witness statements to police.
In the Sydney alert, the papers stamped ”restricted” tell how operation ”Close Encounter” was launched by No.3 Control and Reporting Unit at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle on June 30, 1983, after the phenomenon was first noticed earlier in the month.
Senior air controllers at Mascot said the contacts were mostly located between 70 and 150 nautical miles north of Sydney at ”alleged speeds of 1100-6500 km/h that suggested high altitude”.
The papers state that no scramble was to occur in the round-the-clock operation unless confirmation of any reported tracks was made on the radar screens at RAAF Williamtown or any radar other than Sydney.
At the same time, three senior air defence controllers were dispatched to Sydney to investigate and plot every contact and ”control interceptors against these contacts if a reasonable chance of interception presented itself”. But then one of the defence controllers, a squadron leader, asked whether a comparison had been made of the contacts on the screens of Mascot’s Area Approach Radar Centre and those in a ”workshop across the corridor”. Soon after, tests showed that the ”unidentified objects reported by Sydney were generated entirely by radar interference known colloquially as ‘running rabbits’ ”.
Squadron leader K. Keenan, in his six-page report, said operation Close Encounter cost 66½ days of overtime, 1000 kilometres was travelled by a staff car and a C130 Hercules transport aircraft ”may have been diverted to Sydney airport” to deliver one of the defence controllers.
He wrote: ”The lines of communication, extending as they did across the width of an entire corridor, seem to have been insufficient for the purpose.”
He added rather dryly: ”Fortunately there was no temptation to launch aircraft and add to the fuel bill occasioned by use of the RAAF Datsun.” A cautiously worded statement was released as a result ”in a manner that would not embarrass departmental personnel” which blamed ”random atmospheric conditions”. Other reports in the X Files give details of an ”unidentified physical feature” of circles on Milo Station at Adavale, Queensland, in 982. The file refers to photographs that apparently were taken, but they were not among the papers.