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By Enigma Labs

On the morning March 16, 1967, a security guard at a U.S. nuclear missile installation in central Montana reported seeing unidentified flying objects, one of which passed over the launch facilities, or silos,  on Malmstrom Air Force Base.  A short time later, the deputy commander of the Missile Combat Crew was briefing his superior officer when the alarm horn sounded. Over the next half-minute, all ten of their missiles reported a “No-Go” condition. One by one across the board, each missile had become inoperable.¹

Lt. Robert Salas, a member of the missile crews, said that the security guard first reported seeing “strange lights in the sky.” Ten minutes later Salas received another call. “This time he was clearly frightened, extremely frightened,” Salas later recalled to a reporter. “He was looking right at the thing, a glowing red object, oval-shaped and about some forty feet in diameter and it was hovering over the gate.”²

There were no press reports to confirm what Salas heard. A week later, on March 23, the Billings Gazette reported several persons had seen unidentified flying objects over nearby Great Falls and other nearby towns on the night of March 22. “Malmstrom AFB officials said nothing was spotted on base radar and it did not have any planes in the air,” the story concluded.³

The report piqued local interest. Three years before, a group of children reported a glowing white egg-shaped flying object landed near Helena, a two hour drive south of Malmstrom. The Air Force concluded that the story was a hoax, while parents of the children insisted they believed it.⁴

In 2001, researcher John Greenewald obtained five quarterly histories of the 341st Strategic Missile Wing, under the Freedom of Information Act. The reports documented the unit’s activities from January 1, 1967 to March 30, 1968, including the response to what was dubbed “the Echo flight incident.” 

They revealed that Strategic Air Command headquarters had immediately ordered “a complete engineering analysis of this problem. ”⁵ A technical team determined that loss of strategic alert occurred in an extremely short period of time, “estimated to be between 10 to 40 seconds.”⁶ But the investigators “were unable to determine a logical cause for the incident.”⁷

“Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of fault were disproven,” according to the history. The base personnel who were questioned reported that “no unusual activities or sightings were observed.” The 801st Radar Squadron, also based at Malmstrom, “gave a negative report on any radar or atmospheric interference problems.”⁸

More inconclusive tests ensued over the next six months.  “One of the primary theories [sic] of the Echo Flight incident was connected with some type of adverse power effect,” the history reported.  “All tests conducted toward this end proved negative results.”⁹

Eight years later, in November 1975, Malmstrom AFB personnel reported “lights in the sky and sounds similar to jet aircraft.” At the same time  radar operators picked up seven signals at altitudes from 9,500 to 15,500 feet. According to documents obtained by Greenewald, two F-16 interceptor jets were scrambled but “the objects could not be intercepted,” after sightings “turned west [and] increased speed to 130 knots.”  The “sighted objects turned off their lights upon arrival of the interceptors,” Malmstrom personnel reported, “and back on upon their departure.”  

The natural Northern Lights phenomenon sometimes caused radar anomalies, the report noted, but a check with weather officials “revealed no possibility of Northern Lights.” The cause of the November 1975 event, the report concluded, was UNKNOWN.¹⁰

References

2. “UFO sighting still gripping; 50 years later, missileer recalls 'strange lights in the sky,” Great Falls Tribune, February 27, 2017, p. 3
3.“UFOs Are Sighted Again,” Billings Gazette, Mar 22, 1967, p. 6.
4.“Air Force Terms Saucer Story Hoax;” “Parents Claim Story No Joke,” Billings Gazette,, May 6, 1964, p. 1 
5. History of 341st Strategic Missile Wing, 1 January 1967 to 31 March 1967, p. 33
6. History of 341st Strategic Missile Wing, 1 January 1967 to 31 March 1967, p. 35
7.History of 341st Strategic Missile Wing, 1 January 1967 to 31 March 1967, p. 42
8.History of 341st Strategic Missile Wing, 1 January 1967 to 31 March 1967, p. 38
9.History of 341st Strategic Missile Wing, 1 October 1967 to 31 December 1967, p. 58
10.“Memorandum for the Record,” National Military Command Center, November 8, 1975, https://www.theblackvault.com/documentarchive/unidentified-flying-objects-over-malmstrom-afb-november-1975/
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