The United States Air Force began investigating unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in the fall of 1947 under a program called Project Sign, which later became Project Grudge, and in January 1952 became Project Blue Book. As you might expect, the USAF developed a reporting protocol for these projects.
Starting in 1951, the succession of Air Force documents that provided UFO reporting guidance is summarized below:
Headquarters USAF Letter AFOIN-C/CC-2
This letter, entitled, “Reporting of Information on Unidentified Flying Objects,” dated 19 December 1951, may be the original guidance document for UFO reporting. So far, I have been unable to find a copy of this document. The Project Blue Book archives contain examples of UFO reports from 1952 citing AFOIN-C/CC-2.
Air Force Letter AFL 200-5
The first reporting protocol I could find was Air Force Letter AFL 200-5, “Unidentified Flying Objects Reporting,” dated 29 April 1952, which was issued on behalf of the Secretary of the USAF by Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the USAF.
- Defines UFOs as, “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type.”
- UFO reporting is treated as an Intelligence activity (denoted by the 200-series document number)
- Provides brief guidance on report content, which was to be submitted on AF Form 112, “Air Intelligence Information Report,” and not classified higher than RESTRICTED.
- The local Commanding Officer is responsible for forwarding FLYOBRPTS to the appropriate agencies. FLYOBRPT is an acronym for FLYing OBject RePorT.
- Responsibility for investigating UFOs was assigned to the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. ATIC was a field activity of the Directorate of Intelligence in USAF Headquarters.
- AFL 200-5 does not indicate that it superseded any prior USAF UFO reporting guidance document, but it is likely that it replaced USAF letter AFOIN-C/CC-2, dated 19 December 1951.
Download AFL 200-5 at the following link:
How to Make FLYOBRPTs
In 1953, the AITC issued “How to Make FLYOBRPTs,” dated 25 July 1953, to help improve reporting required by AFL 200-5.
This guidance document provides an interesting narrative about UFOs through 1953, explains how to collect information on a UFO sighting, including interacting with the public during the investigation, and how to complete a FLYOBRPT using four detailed data collection forms.
- Ground Observer’s Information Sheet (9 pages)
- Electronics Data Sheet (radar) (5 pages)
- Airborne Observer’s Data Sheet (9 pages) and,
- Supporting Data form (8 pages)
This report showed that the USAF had a sense of humor about UFO reporting.
Download “How to Make FLYOBRPTs” at the following link:
Air Force Regulation AFR 200-2
In 1953, the Secretary of the Air Force, Harold E. Talbott, issued the original Air Force Regulation AFR 200-2, “Unidentified Flying Objects Reporting”, dated 26 August 1953.
- Superseded AFL 200-5, dated 29 April 1952
- Defines procedures for reporting UFOs and restrictions on public discussion by Air Force personnel
- Change 200-2A was issued on 2 November 1953
- Between 1954 and 1962, the USAF issued several subsequent versions of AFR 200-2, as listed below.
AFR 200-2, “Unidentified Flying Objects Reporting (Short Title: FLYOBRPT)”, dated 12 August 1954.
- Superseded AFR 200-2 dated 26 August 1953 and Change 200-2A
- Identifies the USAF interest in UFOs as follows: “Air Force interest in unidentified flying objects is twofold: First as a possible threat to the security of the United States and its forces, and secondly, to determine technical aspects involved.”
- Defines an expected report format that is less comprehensive than the guidance in “How to Make FLYOBRPTs.”
- Clarifies that Headquarters USAF will release summaries of evaluated data to the public. Also notes that it is permissible to respond to local inquiries when the object is positively identified as a “familiar object” (not a UFO). In other cases, the only response is that ATIC will analyze the data.
- Download this version of AFR 200-2 at the following link:
AFR 200-2, “Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO),” dated 5 February 1958
- Supersedes the version dated 12 August 1954
- Broadens the USAF interest in UFOs: “First as a possible threat to the security of the United States and its forces; second, to determine the technical or scientific characteristics of any such UFOs; third, to explain or identify all UFO sightings…”
- Updates report formats and provides additional guidance on reporting
- Download this version from the CIA website at the following link:
AFR 200-2, “Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO),” dated 14 September 1959
- Supersedes the version dated 5 February 1958
AFR 200-2, “Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO),” dated 20 July 1962
- Supersedes the version dated 14 September 1959
- Superseded by AFR 80-17
Air Force Regulation AFR 80-17
In 1966, the USAF issued AFR 80-17, “Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO),” dated 19 September 1966
- Supersedes AFR 200-2 dated 20 July 1962.
- Two changes were issued:
- AFR 80-17, Change 80-17A, dated 8 November 1966
- AFR 80-17, Change 1, dated 26 October 1968, superseded AFR 80-17A, 8 November 1966
- No longer considers UFO reporting as an intelligence activity, as denoted by the 80-series number assigned to the AFR
- Places UFO reporting under the Research and Development Command. This is consistent with recasting ATIC into the Foreign Technology Division (FTD) of the Air Force Systems Command at Wright-Patterson AFB.
- Broadly redefines UFO as “any aerial phenomenon which is unknown or appears out of the ordinary to the observer.”
- Orders all Air Force bases to provide an investigative capability
- Change 80-17A assigned University of Colorado to conduct an independent scientific investigation of UFOs. Physicist Edward U. Condon would direct this work.
Download AFR 80-17, with change 80-17A and change 1 here:
Project Blue Book’s final report
In late October 1968, the University of Colorado’s final report was completed and submitted for review by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The panel approved of the methodology and concurred with Edward Condon’s conclusion:
“That nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.”
In January 1969, a 965-page paperback version of the report was published under the title, “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects.”
On 17 December 1969, Air Force Secretary Robert C. Seamans, Jr., announced the termination of Project Blue Book.
You’ll find a good history by of the U.S. Air Force UFO programs written by Thomas Tulien at the following link: