Ian Ridpath’s UFO skeptic pages

    Project Condign: the UK Ministry of Defence’s secret UFO study (1996–2000)

In May 2006 a secret study of UFOs that had been undertaken for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) between 1996 and 2000 was publicly released. The report is titled ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Defence Region’ and was code-named Project Condign.

The author of the report, whose identity was not disclosed, was an MoD contractor with high security clearance and evident scientific training. He was given free access to all material on UFOs retained by the MoD and was able to speak openly about whatever he found.

The report was not written for publication and remained so secret that only a handful of people were ever shown it when it was completed in 2000. It was released after an application under the Freedom of Information Act by Dr David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, England, who discovered its existence. Without Dr Clarke’s sleuthing this report might well not have been released for another 25 years, if ever.


The full report covers three volumes and totals 460 pages. Throughout it, the term UAP, meaning Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, is used in place of UFO. The report confirms earlier findings that the main causes of sightings are misidentification of man-made and natural objects.

More controversially, the report’s author became persuaded that atmospheric electrical effects such as ball lightning and other forms of plasma might well account for many of the otherwise unexplained sightings. Most skeptics would accept that some small percentage of reports may be due to such electrical effects, but they are just one among many hundreds of possible explanations.

More significantly, the report notes: ‘No artefacts of unknown or unexplained origin have been reported or handed to the UK authorities, despite thousands of UAP reports. There are no SIGINT, ELINT or radiation measurements and little useful video or still IMINT.’

It further concludes: ‘There is no evidence that any UAP, seen in the UKADR [UK Air Defence Region], are incursions by air-objects of any intelligent (extra-terrestrial or foreign) origin, or that they represent any hostile intent.’

This, therefore, is the truth about UFOs that many believers allege the government has been withholding from them.

© Ian Ridpath. All rights reserved

Content last revised 2021 January