The 1967 Cuban Jet Incident
NE of Cuba
March 1967

MiG-21, 'Fishbed'/'Mongol'

Barry Greenwood & Lawrence Fawcett:
An amazing development surrounding a decade-old report re-emphasized the strong national security nature of the UFO phenomenon. This report is the 1967 Cuban jet incident. 

The story became known to CAUS in the form of a statement by a security specialist who was assigned to the 6947th Security Squadron centered at Homestead Air Force Base, a unit of the U.S. Air Force Security Service (AFSS). The specialist had attended a lecture in 1978 by nuclear physicist and UFO researcher Stanton T. Friedman and informed Friedman of the incident at the conclusion of the talk. Friedman asked for additional details, which were provided later in the form of a typed statement by the specialist. 

The 6947th Security Squadron's mission was to monitor all Cuban Air Force communications and radar transmissions. One hundred of the squadron's men were assigned to Detachment "A," located at Key West Naval Air Station. This forward base against attack from Cuba was on Boca Chica Key, a tropical island in the Florida Keys, east of Key West and about 97 miles from the nearest Cuban coastline. Several of these units were scattered geographically to enable direction-finding equipment to locate fixed or mobile land-based radar sites and communications centers and to plot aircraft movements from flight transmissions. 

One day in March, 1967, the Spanish-speaking intercept operators of Detachment "A" heard Cuban air defense radar controllers report an unidentified "bogey" approaching Cuba from the northeast. The UFO entered Cuban air space at a height of about 10,000 meters (about 33,000 feet) and sped off at nearly Mach 1 (nearly 660 mph). Two MIG-21 jet fighters were scrambled to meet it. 

The single seat MIG-21 UM E76 is the standard, top-of-the-line fighter supplied to Soviet bloc countries such as Cuba (MIG stands for Soviet aircraft designers Mikoyan and Gurevich). It is capable of Mach 2.1 (1,385 mph) in level flight, service ceiling of 59,000 feet, and combat radius of more than 300 miles on internal fuel. 

The jets were guided to within five kilometers (three miles) of the UFO by Cuban ground control intercept radar personnel. The flight leader radioed that the object was a bright metallic sphere with no visible markings or appendages. When a try at radio contact failed, Cuban air defense headquarters ordered the flight leader to arm his weapons and destroy the object. The leader reported his radar was locked onto the bogey and his missiles were armed. Seconds later, the wingman screamed to the ground controller that his leader's jet had exploded. When he gained his composure, the wing man radioed there was no smoke or flame, that his leader's MIG-21 had disintegrated. Cuban radar then reported the UFO quickly accelerated and climbed above 30,000 meters (98,000 feet). At last report, it was heading south-southeast towards South America. 

An Intelligence Spot Report was sent to NSA headquarters, since AFSS and its units are under NSA operational control. Such reports are standard practice in cases of aircraft losses by hostile nations. NSA is required to acknowledge receipt of such reports. But the 6947th's Detachment "A" did not get one; so it sent a follow-up report. 

Within hours, Detachment "A" received orders to ship all tapes and pertinent data to NSA and to list the Cuban aircraft loss in squadron files as due to "equipment malfunction." At least fifteen to twenty people in the Detachment were said to be fully informed of the incident. Presumably, the data sent to NSA included direction-finding measurements that NSA might later combine with other site's data to triangulate the location and altitude of the MIG-21 flight paths. If the AFSS equipment in Florida was sensitive enough, the UFO could have been tracked by its reflection of the Cuban ground and airborne radar. 

Friedman sent the statement to Robert Pratt, a reporter who worked for the National Enquirer. Pratt, in turn, sent the statement to Robert Todd, CAUS Research Director, desiring to verify the accuracy of the story. 

Todd sent information requests concerning the Cuban incident to the Air Force, CIA, NSA, and the Navy between February and July of 1978, all without success. On March 10, the CIA suggested that Todd "check with the Cuban government for records on the incident." Todd notified both the NSA and the Air Force, on July 14, that because neither agency wished to cooperate, he would contact the Cuban government for further information. Since he thought both agencies hinted that he might have classified data, Todd asked that they "provide advice as to what information in the attached statement should not be transmitted" to the Cubans. Todd gave them a twenty-day deadline for replies, but he did not have to wait long. 

On July 28, 1978, between 5:30 and 6:00 P.M., Todd's mother answered a knock at the door. Two men, one older than the other, asked for Todd. When Todd came downstairs, one of the men asked if he was Robert Todd. He replied, "yes." The men then flashed their identification cards. Todd knew what it was about as soon as he saw "FBI." Todd and the two agents went into the living room, while Todd's parents kept their St. Bernard dog occupied outside. The two men read Todd his rights and then asked him to sign a paper which said that this had been done. Todd waived his right to silence because he felt that he did not have anything to hide. One of the men then began to read the espionage laws, but Todd told them that he was already familiar with them. They told Todd that the laws carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Both agents hinted at the possibility some indictments would be issued. 

Todd, who earlier advised the NSA and the Air Force he might write to Cuba for details of the violent MIG-21 encounter with the UFO, said the agents asked him if he had ever written to a foreign government. Todd said that he had written to the Soviet Union, but explained that it was an innocent query. The older FBI agent told Todd that the Bureau had been asked by the NSA to investigate this matter because NSA has no law enforcement functions. 

The two agents sat on opposite sides of him as they conducted the interview. Todd told us that he felt like a ping pong ball; one of them took the hard line and the other took the soft line. They indicated that they knew or had copies of Todd's July 14 letter to the NSA with the attached security specialist's letter. They asked Todd to identify the source of the letter. Todd told them a researcher (Friedman) had obtained the statement and passed it on to a reporter, who, in turn, passed it on to Todd. The question was asked several times because the younger agent kept confusing the "researcher" with the "reporter." Todd eventually identified. They next pressed Todd about the researcher, and when Todd refused to identify him, the agents pressed him to reveal if he was on the East or West Coast. Todd told them the West Coast. One agent asked Todd if information in the source's statement was ever published. Todd said that it had not been published to his knowledge. At the time, he did not know that Friedman had released the story to UPI. 

Todd was not without some questions of his own; he wanted to know if any information in the source's statement was classified and at what level. The older agent, who Todd said had a granite face and wore a white suit, replied, "Some of the information is classified. Most of it is bullshit." 

The question of tapping Todd's phone arose. At one point, Todd told the agents that based on the information they had given him, it seemed they had sufficient justification for a wiretap on his telephone. They both smiled. 

Todd told both agents that under the authority of the Freedom of Information Act, he was going to demand the FBI file on its investigation of him. Surprisingly, they said they couldn't send the information that Todd had just given them because it was classified! Todd told them, "I have read enough FBI documents to know they always refer to the subject by saying captioned as above.'" He wanted to know how they were going to caption this one: "Internal Security" or "Espionage"? One of the agents replied that it was neither; it would fall under "Counterespionage." 

When the two agents were leaving, they met Todd's parents, who had been in the dining room during the last half hour of the session. Todd's mother asked if her son was in trouble. One of the agents said no, that Todd was the "man on the end of a string." In recounting the incident, Todd stated that the agent said it straight-faced, and he thought he meant every word. His mother told them, "You ought to get the top guy." A bemused Todd thought, "She was a big help." 

Todd informed CAUS that he had been visited by the agents, so CAUS contacted Paul B. Lorenzetti, spokesman for the FBI field division in Philadelphia, on July 31. When questioned about the Todd visit by agents of the FBI, Lorenzetti stated, "I'm not aware of anything about the Todd investigation," but he added, "I'm not cleared to gain information in such investigations. I have very little contact with the security end of anything." Pressed for more information, Lorenzetti reiterated, "I just don't have any knowledge of any of this," and he suggested a "call back later after I have got security to look for it." On August 1, CAUS again called Lorenzetti, who put special agent Roger Midkiff on the line, but first explained, "I've already given him instructions, if there is a pending investigation, he is not to make any comments. That is the official policy of the Bureau, as far as the Attorney General's guidelines are concerned." 

Agent Midkiff said that if there was an investigation, there might be some official statement on it when it was complete. CAUS also called FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and talked to spokesman John Perks, who stated that he, too, knew nothing about an investigation of Todd. "I don't have any knowledge of this; we're going to have to check," he said. Later that day, Perks' superior, Tom Coll, called CAUS and said, "We never confirm who we've talked to or who we haven't talked to. We never do that." Coll said near the end of his call, "Whether we have had agents talk to him or they haven't, I don't know. But even if I did, we wouldn't confirm or deny it." 

CAUS called the NSA at its headquarters in central Maryland and talked to Charles Sullivan, spokesman for the NSA. Sullivan stated, "If the way for the NSA to salvage the situation was to use what we will call the "ways and means" technique of reducing the impact; that is, the incident is unimportant, but the methods of receipt are classified. 

Todd filed a request with the Air Force to obtain copies of his FOIA case file on the matter (all documents generated as a result of his requests). The Executive Officer of the USAF's Office of the Judge Advocate General, Col. James Johnson, replied in a September 14 letter stating: 

"You have requested confirmation of the classification of the 'statement' attached to your letter of 14 July 1978 addressed to Mr. Nelson. You are advised that the Air Force can neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of this statement, nor the existence of any records concerning the incident described therein [emphasis added]. However, if authentic, I am advised the statement would be classified Secret in its entirety." 

Col. Johnson advised Todd that he could only have letters which Todd had sent and received, excluding the "security analyst's" statement, which Todd had anyway. Johnson finally proceeded to describe ten documents which related to Todd's request and were classified under the national security provisions of the FOIA. They are: 

          a. Memorandum for Record on USAFSS/DAD (Air Force Security Service/ Directorate of Administration) letter of March 24,1978. 

b. HQ USAFSS/CS letter, 5 May 1978 to HO USAF/JACL (Air Force Judge Advocate General, Litigation Division).
c. HQ USAF/JACL letter of 22 May 1978 to HO USAF/SPIB (Air Force Security Police, Classification and Safeguarding Branch).
d. HQ USAF/SPIB letter of 25 May 1978 to HO USAF/JACL.
e. HQ USAF/JACL letter of 19 June 1978 to the following Air Force offices:
(1) Intelligence (IN)
(2) Security Police (SP)
(3) Judge Advocate General (JA)
(4) Information (SAF/Ol)
(5) Assistant Vice Chief of Staff (CVA)
(6) General Counsel (SAFIGC)
(7) Administrative Assistant to the Secretary (SAF/AA)
f. HO USAF/JACL letter of 23 June 1978 to HO USAF/IN (Air Force Intelligence)
g. HG AFIS/INS (Air Force Intelligence Service, no translation available for "INS") letter of 28 June 1978 to HQ USAF/JACL.
h. HQ USAF/JACL Memorandum of 29 June 1978.
i. HQ USAF/JACL letter of 21 July 1978 to HQ USAF/IN.
j. HQ AFIS/INS letter of 1 August 1978 to HQ USAF/JACL.
These events as described clearly indicate that the Cuban incident was most probably authentic, that Robert Todd and CAUS were onto a big story, and that the government experienced a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the story got out. Todd honestly tried to follow up the original story as any intelligent person would, when having such a story virtually dropped into his lap. The inquiries were structured specifically to spare the government undue embarrassment. Yet the reaction was to "sic" the FBI on Todd with the purpose of scaring him out of his wits. Such tactics do not work well in a democratic society, and whoever decided to take this course was ill advised. The story remains a baffling mystery, and one wonders how many more of these incidents lie in state in the NSA's files, among others.  <>

Source: CLEAR INTENT, 195-201