Sketch made by member of the public after alleged UFO sighting in 1985 (Catalogue reference: DEFE 25/1925)

This is a brief guide to researching records of UFOs. The surviving records consist mainly of documents relating to official policy, Parliamentary business (including responses to Parliamentary Questions), correspondence between the public and the Ministry of Defence, and UFO sighting reports.

  • What records can I see online?

    • UFO reports and correspondence (1950-2002)

      Browse the digital records available on our website.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held locally

      The National Archives' catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue using keywords; you may need to refine your results using the filters.

Related guides

Did you know?

In 1947 a private pilot reported seeing nine strange objects moving at speed across the sky 'like a saucer skipping on water' over Washington State, USA. This was the first report of 'flying saucers'.

UFO is an abbreviation for the US Air Force term 'unidentified flying object'. To the military forces the term means something in the sky that can be seen but not recognised, rather than something 'extraterrestrial'. Some branches of the Ministry of Defence prefer the term UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena).

Official reporting, analysis and recording of UFO sightings began in the early 1950s. Until 1967 Ministry of Defence policy was to destroy UFO files at five yearly intervals, so many records have been lost. Since 1970 most surviving Ministry of Defence UFO files have been reviewed for eventual release at The National Archives because of public interest in the subject.