One of the best documented UFO-aircraft incidents took place over the skies of Tehran, Iran, on the night of September 18-19, 1976, when a UFO was observed flying over the capital’s restricted airspace.
Two U.S.-made F-4 Phantom II jet fighters of the Imperial Iranian Air Force were scrambled, but as the pilots closed in on the target, their communications and weapons systems were suddenly jammed. The incident was confirmed by high ranking officers of the Iranian Air Force and later documented by several agencies of the U.S. military.
Lt. General Azarbarzin, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Operations of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, confirmed in a 1977 interview the strong electromagnetic effect experienced by the two F-4s:
«That is true. They both were scrambled and they locked on the target but they received a very strong jamming. And then they lost almost every avionics system they had on the airplane… The jets couldn’t fire their missiles because they had very strong jamming… this technology it [UFO] was using for jamming was something we haven’t had before and we don’t have it. It doesn’t exist because it was a very wide band and could jam different bands, different frequencies at the same time. It’s very unusual.»
General Nader Yousefi, Base Operations commander and the number three man in the Imperial Iranian Air Force, authorized the scramble mission and was also an eyewitness, as described in a recent TV interview:
«I put down my phone [with the Control Tower] and I ran to my balcony to see if I can see that object. I saw a big star among the other stars, which it was at least twice as large as the normal stars… It was around 12 miles [19 km.], we lost communication and I heard nothing from the pilots, so I was so scared what’s going to happen and what happened to the pilots. I asked from the tower controller to tell them to continue their mission and see if they can get more information from the flying object… and it [UFO] was coming toward them, they try to shoot them down, when they squeezed the trigger it didn’t work and the trigger was inoperative, they couldn’t shoot the missiles.»
The sequence of events can be reconstructed from both Iranian sources and declassified U.S. intelligence documents:
Between 10:30 and 11:15 p.m. on September 18, several calls were received by the Control Tower at Mehrabad Airport, reporting an unknown object hovering 1,000 feet (300 m.) above the ground in the northern section of Tehran. The night shift supervisor, Hossain Perouzi, initially didn’t pay too much attention. The radar system was turned off since it was under repair. After he received the fourth telephone call at 11:15 p.m., Perouzi went to the terrace next to the tower and observed the UFO with binoculars:
«Suddenly I saw it. It was rectangular in shape, probably seven to eight meters [24 to 27 ft.] long and about two meters [7 ft.] wide. From later observations I made, I would say it was probably cylindrical. The two ends were pulsating with a whitish blue color. Around the mid-section of the cylinder there was this small red light that kept going around in a circle… I was amazed. I didn’t know what to think. There definitely was a very strange object there in the sky right over Tehran.»
At 12:30 a.m. on September 19, Perouzi called the Air Force Command post to report the UFO. The Base Commander, in turn, called General Yousefi, who authorized the scramble of an F-4 Phantom jet from Shahrokhi AFB to investigate. The first scramble is summarized in a «Memorandum for Record» from the U.S. Defense Attaché Office (DAO) in Tehran:
«The F-4 took off at 01:30 a.m. and proceeded to a point about 40 nm [45 statute miles or 75 km.] North of Tehran. Due to its brilliance the object was easily visible from 70 miles [110 km.] away. As the F-4 approached a range of 25 nm [29 statute miles or 46 km.], he lost all instrumentation and communications (UHF and Intercom). He broke off the intercept and headed back to Shahrokhi. When the F-4 turned away from the object and apparently was no longer a threat to it, the aircraft regained all instrumentation and communications.»
At 01:40 a.m., Gen. Yousefi authorized a second F-4 scramble piloted by Lt. Jafari, who quickly established radar contact with the UFO. The DAO Memorandum describes the events of the second scramble:
«The size of the radar return was comparable to that of a [Boeing] 707 tanker. The visual size of the object was difficult to discern because of its intense brilliance. The light that it gave off was that of flashing strobe lights arranged in a rectangular pattern of alternating blue, green, red and orange, in color. The sequence of the lights was so fast that all the colors could be seen at once.»
«The object and the pursuing F-4 continued a course to the south of Tehran when another brightly lighted object, estimated to be .5 to .33 the apparent size of the moon, came out of the original object. The second object headed straight toward the F-4 at a very fast rate. The pilot attempted to fire an AIM-9 missile at the object, but at that instant his weapons control panel went off and he lost all communications (UHF and Interphone). At this point, the pilot initiated a turn and negative G dive to get away.»
The aircraft electric system went back to normal once the F-4 reached a certain distance from the UFO. The small object returned to the primary object, but a second one emerged and flew toward the ground. Gen. Yousefi observed the landing from the balcony of his Tehran residence:
«He went down and landed on the ground and now it is a communication between the mothership and that small flying object, and it shows the lights between those two is connected.»
More strange events were still reported that night. A UFO seemed to follow the F-4 as it approached the runway, and a civil airliner experienced communications failure but did not see anything. The DAO Memorandum describes the investigation early that morning:
«During daylight, the F-4 crew was taken out to the area in a helicopter where the object apparently had landed. Nothing was noticed at the spot where they thought the object landed (a dry lake bed), but as they circled off to the West of the area they picked up a very noticeable beeper signal. At that point, where the return was the loudest was a small house with a garden. They landed and asked the people within if they had noticed anything strange last night. The people talked about a loud noise and a very bright light like lightning.»
The trail ends there. Although the Attaché Office added that the area had been checked for possible radiation and that «more information will be forwarded when it becomes available,» the details surrounding the beeper signal and the ground witnesses have not been released. A report published in a 1978 classified U.S. military journal, MIJI Quarterly, basically repeats the facts contained in the original DAO message, although its author begins the article with this interesting remark:
«Sometime in his career, each pilot can expect to encounter strange, unusual happenings which will never be adequately or entirely explained by logic or subsequent investigation. The following article recounts such an episode as reported by two F-4 Phantom crews of the Imperial Iranian Air Force during late 1976. No additional information or explanation of the strange events has been forthcoming; the story will be filed away and probably forgotten, but it makes interesting, and possibly disturbing, reading.»
Recent taped testimonies by Iranian Air Force Generals Nader Yousefi and Mahmoud Sabahat, now retired and living in exile in the United States, reveal that Gen. John Secord, then chief of the USAF mission in Iran, attended a high level briefing with Iranian authorities and the pilots and air traffic controllers involved in the incident. A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) «Evaluation» summarized the salient features of the Iranian incident:
«An outstanding report. This case is a classic which meets all the criteria necessary for a valid study of the UFO phenomenon:
«a) The object was seen by multiple witnesses from different locations (i.e. Shemiram, Mehrabad and the dry lake bed) and viewpoints (both airborne and from the ground).
«b) The credibility of many of the witnesses was high (an Air Force General, qualified aircrews, and experienced radar operators).
«c) Visual sightings were confirmed by radar.
«d) Similar electromagnetic effects (EME) were reported by three separate aircraft.
«e) There were physiological effects on some crew members (i.e. loss of night vision due to the brightness of the object).
«f) An inordinate amount of maneuverability was displayed by the UFOs.»