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6          UFO Myths : Stephenville, January 8, 2008

             UFO Myths: A Special

                  Investigation into

             Stephenville and Other

                   Major Sightings

                   Continued from Page 5

          What's in the sky? Some skeptics, like McGaha,
          believe that the Stephenville, Phoenix and many
          other sightings can be attributed to military
          aircraft and evasion or illumination flares.
                 Flares have a long association with UFO
          sightings. One night in late February 1942, the
          sky over Southern California lit up with strange
          blinking lights near various defense plants. In
          what has become known as the Battle of Los
          Angeles, the Navy unloaded four batteries of
          antiaircraft artillery at what turned out to be a
          balloon carrying a red flare.  A decade ago,
          mysterious lights seen by thousands of Phoenix
          residents were actually leftover flares dumped
          by A-10 pilots with the Maryland Air National
                 Some Erath County residents dismiss
          the flare theory. "I've seen military flares," Allen  Jan. 8, 2008, the first--and until June 2008, the  come out and tell the truth. If they have the
          says. "They are not even the same color as the  only--F-35 test plane, the  AA-1, was in Fort  capability of putting on a show like that all they
          ones I saw." But evasion-flare technology       Worth, but it was not in the air that night. "It's  have to do is tell us. We'd get out our lawn chairs
          evolves rapidly, as the military tries to keep one  restricted to daytime flight," Kent says, so that  and watch."
          step ahead of the increasingly sophisticated    chase planes can monitor it.                          But the Air Force's legitimate need for
          tracking capabilities of antiaircraft missiles. At     Stephenville is only the latest in a long  secrecy extends beyond its black programs. It
          one time evasive maneuvers consisted of sharp   list of UFO incidents that are likely based on  releases information about all domestic flights
          turns against the sun.  When missiles got       military operations, starting with the Battle of  on a case-by-case basis, says Capt. Rose
          smarter, pilots began dropping bright flares;   Los  Angeles.  Whether the recent  Texas       Richeson, of the USAF  Air Education and
          infrared seekers homed in on the decoys while   sightings were flight exercises involving      Training Command. "Usually we don't mind
          warplanes fled from the field of view.          evasion flares or tests of an existing plane, a  talking about training," she says. "But we would
                 But today's missiles can track far more  new plane or a UAV, any military activity in the  not talk about specifics if it were a matter of
          than the heat signatures of engines.  They can  area is likely to remain unexplained for awhile.  national security, or give details about training
          pick out targets among decoys by discerning a   We now know about the secret programs behind   methods or mission scenarios that could be used
          warplane's movement and shape. Spectral         the UFO sightings of decades ago. But what of  by enemies of the United States."
          sensors on missiles can even detect the color   programs that are still secret?                       Meantime, Stephenville has settled
          differences between a jet engine and a flare. In       In the past, many projects sponsored by  uneasily into its newfound notoriety as a UFO
          response, the military has deployed a variety of  DARPA, which was behind the original Stealth  site. Some locals have become skeptical about
          flares that can move under their own power and  and UAV research, have begun as secret black   the motives of MUFON. "Who funds it?" asks
          change color.                                   programs before showing up as public white     Steve Allen. And a certain amount of backbiting
                 People in Erath County are certainly     ones. One example: stratospheric sensors       has set in among some of the eyewitnesses. Lee
          familiar with warplanes. During my visit, I get a  developed for high-altitude airships under the  Roy Gaitan worries that some locals who have
          taste of the 3200-square-mile Brownwood         ISIS program, which may have existed for years  reported sightings are "just not credible" and
          MOA in action. Helicopters and jets fly day and  before it was made public in 2004. (Its funding  cast doubt on his genuine account. "Some
          night. One afternoon, while I'm driving to      for 2007 was $24.7 million.)  These sensors    people stretch a story," Huse says. Others resent
          Dublin on Highway 377, a  T-38  Talon           could be used on huge wing- or boomerang-      the way they have been depicted. "I made the
          supersonic jet trainer rips past only a few     shaped blimps that can fly at altitudes of more  mistake of saying it was as big as a Wal-Mart,"
          thousand feet above the road.                   than 60,000 ft and hover unmanned for months.  Allen says. "People have been teasing me about
                 The MOA is well-known to the leading     "There have been many sightings of large, slow-  it ever since."
          civilian authority on  Texas airspace, Steve    moving triangle-shaped airships," says Steve          "I didn't call them flying saucers or
          Douglass.  The author of Military Monitoring    Douglass, "starting with a sighting near       extraterrestrials," Huse says. "All I said was that
          and an expert consulted by  Aviation  Week,     Antelope  Valley, Calif., in 1990." For many   it was unidentified flying objects, and I'm
          Douglass has been tracking operations from his  years airliners and ground observers have      sticking to that. I couldn't identify them." People
          base in Amarillo for a quarter century. He is part  reported boomerang-shaped craft near Groom  in Erath County, Huse says, aren't nuts or hicks.
          of the so-called interceptors network, the plane  Lake.                                        "We are just ordinary people who happened to
          spotters caricatured in the film Broken Arrow as       The tethered "aerostat" lighter-than-air  look up." []
          "those guys in lawn chairs" staking out runways  craft, which appeals to many agencies as a so-
          and bases. "Brownwood is used by Navy, Air      called poor man's satellite, also may trigger   Fact*oids:
          Force and  Army units," Douglass says,          sightings. The Air Force uses these surveillance
          "including  Apache helicopters, B-1s, C-130s    systems along the U.S.-Mexico border to           •  Jelly fish are over 95% water and have
          and F-16s. There are AWACS from Tinker AFB      support antidrug operations. The departments of     no heart, blood, brain, or gills.
          in Oklahoma City and KR-135 tankers from        Defense and Homeland Security are evaluating      •  Twenty-five million gallons of water can
          Altus in southwest Oklahoma. The airspace is    unmanned inflatables 500 ft long.                   fall during a 20-minute thunderstorm.
          especially active these days, with the new F-35        The military's secrecy exasperates some    •  Quinine, used to cure malaria, comes
          tactical fighter being assembled at a factory in  Stephenville locals, even veterans. "It's been 30  from  the leaves of the cinchona plant.
          Fort Worth and tested in the MOA." Lockheed     years since I was in the Air Force," James Huse   •  Robert Ludlow was the tallest recorded
          Martin spokesman John Kent confirms that on     says, "but I don't understand why they wouldn't     man at 8 ft. 11.1 in (272 cm).
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