The idea of UFOs sightings being dismissed as weather balloons has been around since the Roswell crash of July 1947. Today, it’s a cliché like the phrase “swamp gas,” once used by J. Allen Hynek to explain UFOs in Michigan in 1966.
After the Roswell Daily Record reported a flying saucer, the military soon arrived to debunk the story.
Then in 1994, Congressman Steven Schiff requested that Congress’s investigative branch, the General Accounting Office, GAO, launch a study to prove allegations that the Air Force “suppressed” information. Schiff had moved to get the GAO involved after receiving what he called “runaround” and “astounding” lack of response from the Defense Department.
“Generally, I’m a skeptic on UFOs and alien beings, but there are indications from the runaround that I got that whatever it was, it wasn’t a balloon. Apparently, it’s another government coverup,” Schiff said.
Project Mogul and Surveillance Balloons
Subsequently, the Air Force released a new statement suggesting the craft wasn’t actually a weather balloon but a classified project top-secret balloon called Project Mogul.
“The weather balloon story was not true, but it wasn’t to hide the fact that little green men had visited Earth,” wrote David Crookes for Space. “The wreckage was actually that of a classified project that flew microphones on high-altitude balloons so that sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests could be detected. Called Project Mogul, it was said to have run between 1947 and 1949. What’s more, the balloons were claimed to have been made up of unusual material — the type that could easily be confused for a UFO. So, case closed? Not at all.”
In part due to the changing narrative, public suspicion of a coverup only grew. For UFO enthusiasts, information like the following in the Washington Post was impossible to ignore:
“Much of the speculation stems from claims by William Haut, a former Air Force public affairs officer, who said that on July 2, 1947, he was told to prepare a news release reporting the Air Force had recovered parts of a flying saucer and then was told to change the story to report a weather balloon.
Also, a nurse reportedly told a local funeral home director that she witnessed the autopsies of the spacemen, whom she described as having oversized heads and beetle-like features. The nurse subsequently died in a plane crash.”
Flash forward to today; the whole weather balloon story is taking another strange twist.
The Pentagon’s ‘New’ Secret Weapon: Balloons?
Recently, Popular Mechanics released an article describing “badass balloons,” as the “Pentagon’s new secret weapon.” They make no mention of Project Mogul but do reference Project Genetrix, a similar spy balloon program from 1957.
As with Project Mogul, these balloons are meant to gather information over enemy territory. However, now they are advanced to the point they can do much more, like deploy swarms of drones. Using laser-based sensors to measure winds, they can move over a desired area for many days.
Taking Bets on UFO Reports
In appearance, the balloons, also called Stratollites, can be mistaken for UFOs, an expectation of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA’s Alexander Walan. DARPA is the research and development agency of the US Department of Defense.
“We were placing bets on how long it would take us to start getting UFO reports,” Walan told Popular Mechanics.
In 2017, a World View balloon exploded near Tucson after a testing accident. The explosion on the launchpad rattled and damaged nearby buildings.
Video by KGUN9:
Notably, as seen below, the wreckage looked like a big pile of plastic, not a UFO so much.
Video by KGUN9:
COLD STAR balloons and UFOs
Of particular interest to those interested in UFO phenomena, the article discussed project COLD STAR and its “UFO problem.”
The Covert Long Dwell Stratospheric Architecture balloons have onboard AI and can remain hidden from radar. Further, a curved and streamlined “gondola” can also help the balloon go undetected.
“The ideal shape might look more like an egg than a typical balloon basket,” writes David Hambling.
As the balloon floats slowly at 80,000 feet, it could still be spotted in the sunlight, appearing like “a bright blob.”
Thus, it’s fully expected that new UFO reports will include sightings of these advanced egg-shaped objects. However, a weather balloon will still not be capable of moving like a flying saucer or a Tic Tac as described by Navy pilots. Today, excusing UFO reports as weather balloons may seem sickeningly nostalgic, even if it’s more likely than in the 40s.
See a World Video Stratollite launch below:
Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube with “At Fort Worth Army Air Field, Major Jesse A. Marcel posing with debris on July 8, 1947” via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)