UFO Watching SR-71?
Kingsley Field, Oregon
The SR-71 "Blackbird"
I had worked all day, one wintry day and, due to an acute lack of personnel, was just shifting back to the LRR room to do another (eight hour) duty shift there. This site not only had two height finders, it had two different height finders. The one that I liked was a much-needed modification of the old reliable AN/FPS-6, which was designated to measure altitudes from 0 to 78,000' manually, and 75,000' in the automatic mode. The other height finder was an AN/FPS-26, originally designed to take the place of the FPS-6, but having a much narrower band-width and thereby being much harder to find the target with a vernier (left-to-right, off beam of only .5-degree). To search for the target, once positioned automatically, to target azimuth by the slower McChord AFB computer, an operator only had 15 seconds to properly position the height "line" and hit the proper buttons to "feed" the data back to McChord, on a height request, only 30-seconds on a "special" request to which many other bits of information had to be added by console "button" selection. The FPS-6 beam width was 1.3-degrees, the FPS-26 only 0.6-degrees.
I had just settled in on my job at the LRR (bet. 3:00 & 4:00 PM), when the duty officer at the (now shut down) BUIC site called and told me to return to my console and reactivate my telephone communications panel, as some "jerk" down the mountain (in the town adjacent to Kingsley AFB, Klamath Falls, Oregon) wanted to call in a CIRVIS report. (FI Note: Blue Book had shut down in 1969. However, this was a CIRVIS report filed in the early 70's. CIRVIS = Communication Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings). I was the only non-com on site that ever filled out one before.
Klamath Falls, Oregon, rests in a high mountain valley at about 4,300' above sea level. The valley is basically open to the south all the way to Mt. Shasta, while a pair of mountains lie to the west with a low "saddle" in between. Haymaker Mountain has a fire tower on it and lies just to the north of our Mt. Keno. There is a narrow slot out of town to the north over Klamath Lake. To the east is a logged-off mountain that is called many things, but I think it's name was Gauldy. It seems this guy's children had been out tobogganing with several other children, and the fog overhead to them had closed down farther (to us on the mountaintop, 6,700' it was "undercast", completely obscuring the valleys, a common occurrence there) and rounding a bend on the southwestern foothills almost stumbled into a "flying saucer". The children had become frightened, had huddled down to watch from around/behind a boulder or boulders. They were late and the father had gone to look for them. He found them and "it" and said, while they seemed too terrified to move from their hiding place, he felt "pissed off" for there was something, important to him, that he was missing on TV. He walked right up to it and began hammering on its underside with a big chunk of rock. The results apparently frightened him, for he said it "retracted" its three "landing gear" and just hung there for "several minutes". He said it was a bright silvery color, about 30' across, and saucer-shaped on the bottom. The top, he assumed, was also saucer-shaped, though indistinct and vague in the fog. He did say there was a terribly brilliant, amber, rotating beacon on the top "somewhere". He thought it was an Air Force experimental craft and was genuinely hostile over the phone for the fright it had given his children. (The object, when stationary, had an extremely low-pitched sound similar to a distant, terribly-large compressor, which changed pitch up and went-up-off-audible when it started to move away. (Infra-sound? Real or doppler effect?) When I queried him as to its present location, he stated that it sort of drifted off into the fog, overhead, in a westerly direction.
I informed McChord from the console wing panel and then was told of a call now coming in, at the LRR to put a height finder into manual and search the area of Klamath Falls and to the west. I had a lot of (3) "green" troops assigned to me, one on duty then, and I left the BUIC room to return to the LRR room. The Senior Director had been listening to the report and he left, taking two other officers with him from the nearby break room and went to the west windows. One of the officers came running back to the BUIC room and reactivated the Senior Director's console (I heard him run) but do not know what transpired in the room nor any of his conversation(s) or with whom. I selected Short Range on the height finder (the only way to pick up a moving target from ground clutter at close range...look for something moving) 0-54 miles on this particular scope. The scope picture itself was nearly twelve inches wide by high and the antenna swept with a rocking motion 22 sweeps per minute). A normal target on normal range would look much like half a flat toothpick hanging brightly on the scope and painting XX times a minute, as long as you tracked the right azimuth. To find the target's height, you merely bisect the target directly in half with your superimposed "cursor" and you have the object's correct height within 75' of accuracy. Of course the common range is something like 220 nm, so if you expand the picture and shorten the range your target becomes about 1/4" wide and leaves a kind of fading fuzzy trace behind it, if it is moving.
One of the officers came back to the "darkroom" from the windows and kept saying, "It's a saucer! Find it! Find it!" And looking over my shoulders! I was tracking a blip that looked much like the blip of any Western Airlines (Hughes) F-27, but matched the area (almost on top of us). One thing that looked like an anomaly at the very beginning of the track, was climb-rate verses speed. Ground speed was around 240 knots while climb rate was something phenomenal just to watch. All the while Reno (Fallon AFS) was tracking the same thing and now they called us, for at 170-degrees and 140 miles from our location the object began going straight up from about 32,000', a distinct impossibility for an F-27 turboprop. It stopped at 107,000', and I mean stopped! The time now was around 7:00 PM Mountain Time. I got off duty at midnight and it was still there, same azimuth, same range, same altitude. And, believe it or not, as though immobile it posed no threat, forgotten by the Air Defense Command.
The next night, when I arrived for my standard 4-12 shift at the LRR, I had a call from Fallon AFS waiting for me before I even had a chance to get my jacket off. It was the same person that I had talked to the night before during the incident and, he informed me, at once, that it was still there on his radar, not having moved one iota since its arrival the previous night. He and I both talked to a friend at McChord AFB Height Section, who had not worked the night before, but whom I had met and was fairly close friends with. He being both curious and sympathetic, had Fallon and Keno both assigned to manual-mode and watch the target.
Around 2030 hours the phone rang and the guy from Fallon said he had picked up a tip of something dropping, vertically down toward the target, about ten miles further west. This put it off azimuth for us, but in a direct line for him. I slipped the antenna a bit sideways and there it was sliding down into my coverage very slowly. Both blips appeared to be around the same size, but then, at that range an F-4 and a C-141 would paint as the same size on this radar. This one, the new one, was a slightly longer blip and my counterpart at Fallon concurred, but they tend to be longer at a greater range, too. The object, however, was now co-altitude closing at barely 20 knots, quite a feat at that altitude considering the original separation was about 5-degrees and 10 nm. The new object never actually merged with the first blip, rather showed a separation of something less than a mile, hard to judge with a radar on long range, at 10 nm. The objects stayed there, together for a period of time, then in three sweeps of the antenna had disappeared, straight up.
The friend at McChord AFB had done some checking of several logs while we (at Fallon and Keno) were in Manual Mode and had found where, on two separate occasions, during the day shift, fighters had been taken out of an ITA (Intercept Training Area) near Lakeview and vectored in on this target. They were, by then, "clean" birds (clean meaning they had jettisoned their tip-tanks) in the ITA which serve two purposes:
1. Would allow them speed, maneuverability & operations at
Very High Altitude, ie., in excess of 100,000'.
The logs stated, on neither occasion, none of the four pilots had any visual contact, though the computer would have taken them to within 2.5 miles of the target. You must understand, at that altitude, to maintain flight integrity, the interceptors ground speed would have to have been around Mach 2 and a 30' target, if so it was, would not have been much to see. Understand that this is what was logged on the air-to-ground communications. Understand also that nowhere was it mentioned that to actually get that close the aircraft onboard weapons system would have had to have a "lock-on", meaning that there WAS something there. The interceptors employed on both occasions were the F-106, two flights of two per flight. Be advised also that during the same time frame, Beale AFB, California, was carrying on operational flights with the fantastic SR-71 Blackbird and the hover site of these objects was very near that location.
I never knew if the officers at my radar site had actually seen a saucer or were just joking about what they saw, or saw nothing. When you don't see something yourself, how can you confirm it? I do know I personally observed on my radar.