; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

UFO Incident: SAC RB-47H Electronic Reconnaissance

On July 17, 1957 over the Gulf Coast area of the United States, an USAF RB-47 (SAC - Strategic Air Command), equipped with electronic countermeasures (ECM) gear and manned by six officers, was followed by an unidentified object for a distance of well over 700 mi. and for a time period of 1.5 hr., as it flew from Mississippi, through Louisiana and Texas and into Oklahoma. The object was, at various times, seen visually by the cockpit crew as an intensely luminous light, followed by ground-radar and detected on ECM monitoring gear aboard the RB-47:

The Report

On board an RB-47H aircraft equipped with sophisticated electronic countermeasures equipment, over the Gulf of Mexico.

The crew consisted of:

Lewis D. Chase, pilot, Spokane, WA
James H. McCoid, copilot, Offutt AFB
Thomas H. Hanley, navigator, Vandenberg AFB
John J. Provenzano, No. 1 monitor, Wichita, KS
Frank B. McClure, No. 2 monitor, Offutt AFB
Walter A. Tuchscherer, No. 3 monitor, Topeka, KS

These six men were on a training/test exercise in an RB-47H electronic countermeasures reconnaissance aircraft. The RB-47, while originally developed as a bomber, was also used extensively as a reconnaissance aircraft. One was shot down by the Soviet Union while on such a mission in 1960.

This particular mission began at Forbes AFB in Topeka, Kansas as an exercise including gunnery exercises over the Texas-Gulf area, navigation exercises over the open Gulf, and Electronic CounterMeasures exercises on the return trip across the south-central U.S.

The men participating were soon to depart for Germany and duty there. It should be noted that the ECM equipment was not radar. It did not emit a signal and then pick up reflected echoes off of an object. Rather, it detected electromagnetic signals that were actually emitted by an object itself. The purpose of this was to detect and locate enemy radar installations. On this aircraft, the #2 monitor consisted of a direction finder with antenna on the lower rear of the aircraft, and the #1 monitor consisted of a direction finder with antennas on each wingtip of the aircraft. The #3 monitor was not involved in the events of July 17, because its range did not include the frequencies involved. The first contact with the unknown object was before 4:00 AM CST. The first two parts of the mission had been completed, and the aircraft was just leaving the airspace over the Gulf of Mexico near Gulfport, Mississippi, when Frank McClure, on the #2 ECM monitor, detected an airborne signal to the right rear of the aircraft, out over the Gulf of Mexico. The signal was of a type usually confined to ground-based radar installations. It was at 2800 megacycles, a common frequency for S-band search radar. McClure at first thought that his scope must be 180° out of alignment and that he must be picking up a ground-based radar station in Louisiana, which would actually be to the left front of the aircraft. As he watched, the signal moved up the scope, as it would if the scope was 180° out of alignment. However, he was amazed to see that, after it had moved up the scope on the right-hand side of the aircraft, it then crossed the path of the RB-47 and proceeded to move down the scope on the left-hand side. In other words, whatever was emitting the signal flew a ring around the RB-47, which was flying at approximately 500 mph. Even if the scope was 180° out of alignment, the signal source still moved completely around the aircraft, which no ground radar could do. McClure said and did nothing at this time, not mentioning the signal to the other crew members. The signal faded as they flew north.

The RB-47 made a scheduled turn to the west over Jackson, Mississippi and the crew was preparing to begin a series of simulated ECM operations against Air Force ground radar units, when suddenly the pilot, Lewis Chase, saw a light coming in from the left, at approximately the same altitude as the RB-47. At first he thought it was another plane, but it was only a single white light, closing fast. He gave the command to prepare for evasive maneuvers, but the light flashed across from left to right so fast that no such action could have been taken. It then blinked out at a point to the right front of the aircraft. Both Chase and Copilot James McCoid observed this. At this point, approximately 4:10 AM CST, they were approximately over Winnsboro, Louisiana.

Chase told the other crewmembers what he had seen, and McClure now told him about his earlier signal reading. At 4:30 AM, McClure set his scope to detect signals near 3000 mcs again, and he detected a strong signal at the same location in relation to the RB-47 that Chase had last seen the light. He and Provenzano checked the alignment of the #2 monitor by tuning in on known ground radar installations and found it to be in perfect working order. At 4:30 AM, Provenzano tuned his own monitor, #1, to 3000 mcs, and found that his equipment detected a signal at the same location. What's more, he and McClure found that the signal was staying in the same position, keeping pace with the RB-47, which was still flying at 500 mph. This meant that it was not a signal from a ground-based radar.

The Unknown Companion

By this time they had reached the Duncanville, Texas area. At 4:39, Chase spotted a huge light to the right front of the RB-47 an about 5,000 feet below the aircraft's 34,500 feet altitude. The weather was perfectly clear. At 4:40, McClure reported two signals, at 40° and 70°. Chase and McCoid reported seeing red lights at those locations. Chase contacted radar Station Utah at Duncanville, Texas and requested permission to abandon his flight plan and pursue the lights, which he received. At 4:48 AM, radar station Utah requested the position of the signals that McClure was receiving, and they immediately confirmed that their radar had detected the objects at the same location. As the RB-47 attempted to pursue, the object appeared to stop suddenly. Chase could see that they were gaining on it, and they over shot it.

At 4:52 it blinked out, and simultaneously vanished from McClure's scope and the ground radar! Chase put the aircraft into a port turn, and the object suddenly blinked on again, simultaneously reappearing on McClure's scope and the ground radar at 4:52! They began to close to within 5 miles of the object, when it suddenly dropped to 15,000 feet and then blinked out again, once again vanishing from the scopes and ground radar. At 4:55, Chase radioed Utah radar station that they had to break of pursuit and continue with their scheduled flight plan due to low fuel. At 4:57 McClure picked up the signal again, and at 4:58 Chase made visual contact again. As they headed into Oklahoma, McClure continued to receive a signal, now from the rear of the aircraft, until it finally faded as they neared Oklahoma City. The Director of Intelligence, 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, stated in his report that he had: ...no doubt the electronic D/F's coincided exactly with visual observations by aircraft cmdr numerous times, thus indicating positively the object being the signal source.

What can be detected on ECM direction finding devices, can be seen visually, and can be detected on ordinary ground-based radar all at the same time? What can be detected by all the sensors and can also fly rings around a jet travelling at 500 mph?

Project Bluebook said that the sightings in Dallas - Fort Worth area were an ordinary jet airliner. They couldn't explain the abrupt, simultaneous disappearance and reappearance of the object from radar screens, ECM scopes, and visual detection. They also couldn't explain the events that occurred over Mississippi and Louisiana. It's odd that the Utah radar station couldn't tell an airliner from an unknown.

The Condon Committee toyed with several explanations, but found none to be satisfactory, finally classifying this case as unknown.


Condon Report Case Study: RB-47


The crew of a B-47 aircraft described an encounter with a large ball of light which was also displayed for a sustained time for both airborne radar monitoring receivers and on ground radar units. The encounter had occurred ten years prior to this study. Project Blue Book had no record of it. Attempts to locate any records of the event, in an effort to learn the identity of the encountered phenomenon, failed to produce any information. The phenomenon remains unidentified.


At a project-sponsored conference for air base UFO officers, held in Boulder in June 1967, one of the officers revealed that he personally had experienced a puzzling UFO encounter some ten years previously. According to the officer, a Major at the time of the encounter, he was piloting a B-47 on a gunnery and electronic counter-measures training mission from an AFB. The mission had taken the crew over the gulf of Mexico, and back over South Central United States where they encountered a glowing source of both visual and 2,800 mHz. electromagnetic radiation of startling intensity, which, during part of the encounter, held a constant position relative to the B-47 for an extended period. Ground flight control radar also received a return from the "object," and reported its range to the B-47 crew, at a position in agreement with radar and visual observations from the aircraft.

According to the officer, upon return to the AFB electronic counter-measures, graphic data, and radar scope pictures which had been taken during the flight were removed from the plane by Intelligence personnel. He recalled that an Intelligence questionnaire regarding the experience had later been completed by the B-47 crew; however, the "security lid" shut off further information regarding the encounter. The crew learned nothing more regarding the incident, and the pilot occasionally had wondered about the identity of the phenomena encountered ever since his experience.


When no report of this incident was found in Blue Book or Air Defense Command records, this project undertook to obtain leads to the location of data recorded during the event through detailed interview of all available members of the B-47 crew. Of the six crew members, the three most closely involved in the encounter were the pilot, co-pilot, and the officer who had been in charge of the most involved radar-monitoring unit.

Details of the encounter, as best they could be recalled, were obtained by interview with the pilot and, later, with the two other officers at another air base. A11 remained deeply impressed by the experience, and were surprised that a report of it was not part of Blue Book files. Their descriptions of the experience were generally consistent, although the pilot did not mention that the navigator also had received a radar return from the object in question, as was recalled by the other officers. (The navigator, on duty in Vietnam, was not available for interview). The two other crew members, each of whom had operated a radar monitoring unit in the B-47 during the UFO event, were involved to a lesser extent in the incident, and were not located for interview.

The crew's description of the experience follows:

Time: Early morning, Fall 1957.
Place: Over South Central United States
Plane's altitude: About 30,000 ft. during the first part of the encounter.
Nature of Mission: (Pilot): Combined navigation, gunnery, and electronic counter-measure training mission. (Other Crew): Check-out of plane and equipment, including electronic counter-measures equipment, prior to European assignment.
Weather: Witnesses recalled seeing, from 30,000 ft. altitude, lights of cities and burn-off flames at gas and oil refineries below. They have no recollection of other than clear weather.

Radar monitoring unit number two, in the back end of the B-47, picked up a strong signal, at a frequency of about 2,800 mHz., which moved up-scope while the plane was in straight flight. (A signal from a ground station necessarily moves down-scope under these conditions, because of forward motion of the airplane). This was noted, but not reported immediately to the rest of the crew. The officer operating this unit suspected equipment malfunction, and switched to a different monitoring frequency range. The pilot saw a white light ahead and warned the crew to be prepared for a sudden maneuver. Before any evasive action could be taken, the light crossed in front of the plane, moving to the right, at a velocity far higher than airplane speeds. The light was seen by pilot and co-pilot, and appeared to the pilot to be a glowing body as big as a barn. The light disappeared visually, but number two monitor was returned to the frequency at which the signal was noted a few moments earlier and again showed a target, now holding at the "two-o'clock" position. The pilot varied the plane's speed, but the radar source stayed at two o'clock. The pilot then requested and received permission to switch to ground interceptor control radar and check out the unidentified companion. Ground Control in the area informed the pilot that both his plane and the other target showed on their radar, the other target holding a range of ten miles from him.

After the UFO had held the two o'clock position and ten-mile range through various test changes in aircraft speed, the number two monitoring officer informed the pilot that the target was starting to move up-scope. It moved to a position dead ahead of the plane, holding a ten-mile range, and again became visible to the eye as a huge, steady, red glow. The pilot went to maximum speed. The target appeared to stop, and as the plane got close to it and flew over it, the target disappeared from visual observation, from monitor number two, and from ground radar. (The operator of monitor number two also recalled the B-47 navigator's having this target on his radar, and the target's disappearing from his radar scope at the same time). The pilot began to turn back. About half way around the turn, the target reappeared on both the monitor and ground radar scopes and visually at an estimated altitude of 15,000 ft. The pilot received permission from Ground Control to change altitude, and dove the plane at the target, which appeared stationary. As the plane approached to an estimated distance of five miles the target vanished again from both visual observation and radar. Limited fuel caused the pilot to abandon the chase at this point and head for his base. As the pilot leveled off at 20,000 ft. a target again appeared on number two monitor, this time behind the B-47. The officer operating the number two monitoring unit, however, believes that he may have been picking up the ground radar signal at this point. The signal faded out as the B-47 continued flight.

The co-pilot and number two monitoring officer were most impressed by the sudden disappearance of the target and its reappearance at a new location. As they recalled the event, the target could be tracked part of the time on the radar monitoring screen, as described above, but, at least once, disappeared from the right side of the plane, appeared on their left, then suddenly on their right again, with no "trail" on the radar scope to indicate movement of the target between successive positions.

The monitoring officer recalled that the navigator, who reported receiving his own transmitted radar signals reflected from the target, not only had a target on his screen, but reported target bearings which coincided exactly with the bearings to the source on the monitoring scope. He also indicated that the officer Operating the number one radar monitoring unit, which was of a different type, having a fixed APD-4 antenna instead of a spinning antenna as used with the number two unit, and covering all radar ranges, also observed the same display he observed on unit two. The sixth crew member, operating number three radar monitor, which covered a lower frequency range, was searching for something to tie in with the signals being observed on the other scopes, but found nothing.

The following questions are raised by this information:

1. Could the number two monitoring unit have received either direct or reflected ground radar signals which had no relation to the visual sighting?

The fact that the frequency received on number two, about 2,800 mHz., was one of the frequencies emitted from ground radar stations (CPS6B type antennas) at an airport and other airports near by, makes one suspect this possibility. The number two monitoring officer felt that after the B-47 arrived over South Central U. S., signals from GCA sets were received, and this confused the question of whether an unidentified source which emitted or reflected this wave length was present. On original approach to the area, however, a direct ground signal could not have moved up-scope. Up-scope movement could not have been due to broken rotor leads or other equipment malfunction, for all other ground signals observed that night moved down-scope. A reflected signal would require a moving reflector in the region serving as apparent source, the movement being coordinated with the motion of the aircraft, particularly during periods when the UFO held constant position relative to the moving aircraft. Since the monitor scans 360o, if a reflected beam were displayed on the scope, the direct radar beam also would be displayed, unless the transmitter were below the horizon. As the event was recalled by the witnesses, only one signal was present during initial observations. If the UFO actually reflected radar signals transmitted from the B-47, and appeared in the same position on the navigator's scope as one, the number two monitoring scope, reflection of 2,800 mHz. ground signals from these same positions seems extremely unlikely.

2. Could the visual observations have been misinterpreted airplane lights, airplane afterburners, or meteors?

The persistence of the phenomenon rules out meteors. Observed speeds, plus instant re-position and hovering capabilities are not consistent with the aircraft hypothesis.

3. Were the visual observations necessarily of the same phenomenon as the radar observations?

Coincidence of disappearances, appearances, and indicated positions suggest a common cause.

3. If the reported observations are factual and accurate, what capabilities and properties were possessed by the UFO?

a. Rapid motion, hovering, and instant relocation.

b. Emission of electromagnetic radiation in the visible region and possibly in the 2,800 mHz. region.

c. Reflection of radar waves of various frequencies. (From airborne radar units as well as 2,800 mHz. ground units). Failure to transmit at the frequency of the number three radar monitor.

d. Ability to hold a constant position relative to an aircraft.

4. Could the observed phenomenon be explained as a plasma?

Ten scientists who specialize in plasma research, at our October 1967 plasma conference regarded an explanation of this experience in terms of known properties of a plasma as not tenable.

Further investigation of this case centered around efforts to trace reports of this event submitted by the crew after the B-47 returned to the AFB. Recollections of the nature and manner of submission of such reports or records were in sharp divergence. As the pilot recalled the incident, the landing plane was met by their Wing Intelligence personnel, who took all filmed and wire-recorded data from the "back-end" crew. The crew was never extensively questioned about the incident. Days or weeks later, however, the crew did receive from Air Defense Command, a lengthy questionnaire which they completed including sketches of what they had seen and narrative descriptions of the event. The questionnaire also had a section to be completed by the ground radar (GCI) personnel. The pilot could not recall where or exactly when the completed questionnaire had been sent.

In contrast with this recollection, the co-pilot and number two monitoring officer said that no data whatsoever had been recorded during the flight. The #1 monitoring unit was equipped for movie filming of its display, and #2 was equipped for wire recording of data. Since the flight had been merely for the purpose of checking equipment, however, neither film nor recording wire was taken aboard. Both these officers recalled intensive interrogation by their Intelligence personnel immediately after their return to the AFB. They did not recall writing anything about the event that day or later. According to their account, the B-47 crew left for England the following day, and heard nothing more of the incident.

Since it appeared that the filmed and recorded data we were seeking had never existed, we renewed the effort to locate any special intelligence reports of the incident that might have failed to reach Project Blue Book. A report form of the type described by the pilot could not be identified or located. The Public Information Officer at ADC Headquarters checked intelligence files and operations records, but found no record of this incident. The Deputy Commander for Operations of the particular SAC Air Wing in which the B-47 crew served in 1957 informed us that a thorough review of the Wing history failed to disclose any reference to an UFO incident in Fall 1957.


If a report of this incident, written either by the B-47 crew or by Wing Intelligence personnel, was submitted in 1957, it apparently is no longer in existence. Moving pictures of radar scope displays and other data said to have been recorded during the incident apparently never existed. Evaluation of the experience must, therefore, rest entirely on the recollection of crew members ten years after the event. These descriptions are not adequate to allow identification of the phenomenon encountered (cf. Section III Chapters 2 & 6, and Appendix Q). Report: Roy Craig, in the Condon Report, 1968

Click for video - The RB-47 UFO Incident, Duncanville, 1957 The Story and Analysis


About the RB-47

The B-47 "Stratojet" was the first all-jet operational bomber in the Air Force and was the backbone of the Strategic Air Command bomber fleet in the 1950s. It was a medium range bomber that could be refueled in flight manufactured by Boeing Aircraft Company (primary), Douglas and Lockheed. It had 6 General Electric J-47-GE-25 turbojet engines, a maximum speed of 600 miles per hour, and a range of 4000 miles.

The RB-47E / RB-47H was the photomapping, weather and electronic reconnaissance version of the B-47 and was also one of its best versions; it first flew July 1953. It was designed to check weather along projected bombing routes, photograph enemy installations and monitor defensive radar systems during the period 1954 to 1964. It was used in missions above North Korea, China, and also over the Soviet Union for the most sensitive reconnaissance missions of the Cold War.

NOTE: One of the most documented (though classified) UFO encounter cases...though little has been reported to the public previous to the internet age. I'd be interested in some commentary from the readers...Lon

Project Blue Book case file #10073, National Archives and Record Administration (NARA, www.nara.gov), Washington D.C., files of 1957
The Other Side of Truth: The Paranormal, The Art of the Imagination, and the Human Condition
Ufos Explained
"Twenty-Two Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations" American Association for the Advancement of Science, 134th Meeting, General Symposium, Unidentified Flying Objects, by James E. McDonald, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, December 27, 1969
The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial
The Other Roswell: Ufo Crash On The Texas-Mexico Border
UFO's: A Scientific Debate