1976 Tehran UFO Incident was a radar and visual sighting
of an unidentified flying object (UFO) over Tehran, the
capital of Iran, during the early morning hours of 19
September 1976. During the incident, two F-4 Phantom II
jet interceptors supposedly lost instrumentation and communications
as they approached, only to have them restored upon withdrawal;
one of the aircraft also supposedly suffered temporary
weapons systems failure, while preparing to open fire.
incident, recorded in a four-page U.S. Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA) report distributed to at least the White
House, Secretary of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff, National
Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA), remains one of the most well-documented military
encounters with anomalous phenomena in history, and various
senior Iranian military officers directly involved with
the events have gone on public record stating their belief
that the object was not of terrestrial origin.
approximately 0030 hours local time (2100Z), 19 September
1976, the Imperial Iranian Air Force command post at Tehran
received four reports by telephone, from civilians in
the Shemiran city district, of unusual activity in the
night sky. The callers reported seeing an object similar
to a star, but much brighter.
the command post found no helicopters airborne to account
for the reports, they called General Yousefi, assistant
deputy commander of operations. General Yousefi at first
said the object was only a star, but after conferring
with the control tower at Mehrabad International Airport
and then looking for himself to see a very bright object
larger than a star, he decided to scramble one F-4 Phantom
II jet fighter from Shahrokhi Air Force Base in Hamadan,
approximately 175 miles (282 km) west of Tehran (for location
see map above).
0130 hours (2200Z), the F-4, piloted by Captain Mohammad
Reza Azizkhani was launched and proceeded to a point 40
nautical miles (74 km) north of Tehran. It was noted that
the object was of such brilliance that it could be seen
from 70 miles (110 km) away. When the aircraft approached
to approximately 25 nautical miles (46 km) from the object,
the jet lost all instrumentation and communications capabilities,
prompting Azizkhani to break off the intended intercept
and turn back toward Shahrokhi; upon the evasion, both
systems resumed functioning.
0140 hours, a second F-4 was scrambled, piloted by Lieutenant
Parviz Jafari. Jafari would eventually retire as a general
and participate on 12 November 2007, at a National Press
Club conference demanding a worldwide investigation into
UFO phenomena. (see also below) Jafari's
jet had acquired a radar lock on the object at 27 nautical
miles (50 km) range. The radar signature of the UFO resembled
that of a Boeing 707 aircraft. Closing on the object at
150 nautical miles (280 km) per hour and at a range of
25 nautical miles (46 km), the object began to move, keeping
a steady distance of 25 nautical miles (46 km) from the
F-4. The size of the object was difficult to determine
due to its intense brilliance. The lights of the object
were alternating blue, green, red, and orange, and were
arranged in a square pattern. The lights flashed in sequence,
but the flashing was so rapid that they all could be seen
the object and the F-4 continued on a southerly path,
a smaller second object detached itself from the first
and advanced on the F-4 at high speed. Lieutenant Jafari,
thinking he was under attack, tried to launch an AIM-9
sidewinder missile, but he suddenly lost all instrumentation,
including weapons control, and all communication. He later
stated he attempted to eject, but to no avail, as this
system, which is entirely mechanical, also malfunctioned.
Jafari then instituted a turn and a negative G dive as
evasive action. The object fell in behind him at about
3 to 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) distance for a short time,
then turned and rejoined the primary object.
again, as soon as the F-4 had turned away, instrumentation
and communications were regained. The F-4 crew then saw
another brightly lit object detach itself from the other
side of the primary object and drop straight down at high
speed. The F-4 crew expected it to impact the ground and
explode, but it came to rest gently. The F-4 crew then
overflew the site at a decreased altitude and marked the
position of the light's touchdown. Jafari would later
comment that the object was so bright that it lit up the
ground and he could see rocks around it. The object had
touched down nearby Rey Oil Refinery on the outskirts
of Iran. Then they landed at Mehrabad, noting that each
time they passed through a magnetic bearing of 150 degrees
from Mehrabad, they experienced interference and communications
civilian airliner that was approaching Mehrabad also experienced
a loss of communications at the same position relative
to Mehrabad. As the F-4 was on final approach, they sighted
yet another object, cylinder-shaped, with bright, steady
lights on each end and a flashing light in the middle.
The object overflew the F-4 as they were on approach.
Mehrabad tower reported no other aircraft in the area,
but tower personnel were able to see the object when given
directions by Jafari. Years later, the main controller
and an investigating general revealed that the object
also overflew the control tower and knocked out all of
its electronic equipment as well (see below).
next day, the F-4 crew flew out in a helicopter to the
site where they had seen the smaller object land. In the
daylight, it was determined to be a dry lake bed, but
no traces could be seen. They then circled the area to
the west and picked up a noticeable "beeper"
signal. The signal was loudest near a small house, so
they landed and questioned the occupants of the house
about any unusual events of the previous night. They reported
a loud noise and a bright light like lightning.
investigation of the landing site, including radiation
testing of the area was apparently done, but the results
were never made public. Since this event occurred before
the fall of the Shah, any records in Tehran itself may
the report there was a form from the DIA which assessed
the quality of the report. The form indicated in checked
boxes that the content was of high value, that the report
was confirmed by other sources, and that the utility of
the information was potentially useful to them. The form
from the DIA also stated the following:
outstanding report. This case is a classic which meets
all the criteria necessary for a valid study of the UFO
a) The object was seen by multiple witnesses from different
locations (i.e., Shamiran, Mehrabad, and the dry lake
bed) and viewpoints (both airborne and from the ground).
b) The credibility of many of the witnesses was high (an
Air Force general, qualified aircrews, and experienced
c) Visual sightings were confirmed by radar.
d) Similar electromagnetic effects (EME) were reported
by three separate aircraft.
e) There were physiological effects on some crew members
(i.e., loss of night vision due to the brightness of the
f) An inordinate amount of maneuverability was displayed
by the UFOs."
of some participants
1994, the Sightings TV program tracked down and interviewed
various principals involved in the incident. Nearly all
expressed the opinion that they were dealing with a high-technology
pilot of the first jet interceptor, Yaddi Nazeri, estimated
that the UFO was traveling somewhere between two and three
thousand miles per hour. He said that the object "...was
beyond my speed and power. The [later] F-4... also could
not catch up to the object. That's when I thought, this
is a UFO." Nazeri added that "...no country
had this type of flying object, so I was thinking, this
craft is from another planet."
second F-4 pilot, General Parviz Jafari, said that after
trying to fire a missile and failing, they feared for
their lives and tried to eject, but the eject button also
malfunctioned. At a Washington D.C. press conference
on 12 November 2007, Jafari added details that the main
object emitted four objects, one that headed towards him
and later returned to the main object a short while later,
one which he tried unsuccessfully to fire on, another
which followed him back, and one which landed on the desert
floor and glowed. Following his prepared statement at
the press conference, Jafari was asked if he believed
he had encountered an alien spacecraft and Pirouzi said
he was quite certain that he had. (see below for further
details and references)
Nader Yousefi, the assistant deputy commander of the Iranian
Air Force, said he ordered the two jet interceptions.
He said that, "Because of the experience I had on
19 September 1976, I believe there is something up there.
We just don't know what it is or where it came from."
repeated many of the details of the encounter already
recorded in the DIA document but also added a few more.
Yousefi said that after the second F-4 lost its communications
and weapons systems and took evasive maneuvers, it tried
one last pursuit of the UFO. Even approaching at Mach
2, the UFO easily outdistanced it. The pilots decided
to return to Mehrabad airport. As they were approaching
to land, Yousefi said the control tower phoned him that
the UFO was following the jet back to base.
control tower supervisor, Hossein Pirouzi, told Sightings
that the pilot was in a panic with the large UFO on its
tail. According to Pirouzi and other controllers, the
UFO performed a low-altitude flyby over Mehrabad at about
2200 to 2,500 feet (760 m). It was described as a cylinder-shaped
object as large as a tour bus, with bright steady lights
on each end and a flasher in the middle. During the flyby,
the control tower lost all power, although other parts
of the airport were unaffected. After the flyby, the UFO
took off to the west and was spotted 25 minutes later
over the Mediterranean by an Egyptian Air Force pilot,
then again over Lisbon, Portugal by the pilot, crew, and
passengers of a KLM flight, reporting that it was speeding
westward over the Atlantic Ocean.
following day, an investigation was held in Tehran. The
Iranian Air Force Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General
Abdollah Azarbarzin, conducted interviews with all of
the principals and wrote up a report. Gen. Jafari, the
second F-4 pilot, stated that he was among those interviewed
and an American colonel sat there and took notes. This
information later appeared in the D.I.A. account of the
controller Pirouzi was also among those interviewed. He
recalled a discussion by Azarbarzin's panel at the conclusion
of the meeting. "When they heard our report and the
report of the pilots, they concluded that no country is
capable of such technology, and all of them believed it
was a strange object from outer space."
interviewed by Sightings, Azarbarzin independently confirmed
Pirouzi's statement. He said they concluded that the UFO
had deliberately jammed both the aircraft and control
tower electronics. About the objects that seemed to shoot
out of the UFO, Azarbarzin said, "The pilots called
them fireballs, but we all thought that they were very
powerful waves of electromagnetism, which jammed all the
electronics starting from VHF, UHF, fire control system,
gun radar, gun communications, everything. Everything
also said that the copilot got a good look at the UFO
when the second F-4 came out of its emergency dive and
passed underneath it. He told both Sightings and researcher
Dr. Bruce Maccabee the copilot could see the shape, which
he said was round like a plate or just like a saucer,
with a canopy or cockpit that looked like half a ball
bathed in a dim orange or yellowish light, but with no
all factors were considered, including the extraordinary
rate of acceleration displayed by the UFO, Azarbarzin
concluded that the UFO had outperformed any known human
conclusion was relayed to General Hatemi, the Shah's personal
military advisory, who instructed Azarbarzin to give his
report to the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group
in Tehran (MAAG). In charge of MAAG and chief U.S. Air
Force military advisory to the Iranians was General Richard
Secord. Secord declined to be interviewed. Gen. Azarbarzin
refused to state publicly whether Secord had seen the
report, but another high Iranian Air Force commander,
Mamoud Sabahat, told Sightings that he was present in
Tehran to attend a meeting on the night of the incident.
"This UFO event was the first time in our Air Force's
history that anything had happened like this. It would
have been a usual and customary part of the military system
to put him [Secord] at that meeting."
Azarbarzin also told Maccabee that the complete records
of the investigation had been turned over to the U.S.
Air Force. However, the USAF has steadfastly maintained
that their only record of the incident was provided in
the DIA document originally prepared by a USAF officer
who interviewed the pilot of the second F-4.
his personal opinion, Gen. Azarbarzin told Sightings,
"I believe in UFOs. I cannot ignore their existence.
They want to find some way of contacting the people of
earth. They are trying, and they are going to do it."
Azarbarzin's opinion was echoed by Amir Kamyabipour, former
deputy commander of operations in the Iranian Air Force.
Because of what he experienced first-hand during this
incident, he believes, "UFOs are trying to find some
way to make contact with our world. I am positive of this."
Miscellaneous details and documents
the 1 October 1976 issue of the Iran Times from Washington,
D.C., an apparent firsthand account from Lt. Jafari, the
pilot of the second jet interceptor, was published, based
on a tape of the actual pursuit. The aircraft flew towards
Tehran at over the speed of sound. Jafari said that on
seeing him coming, the UFO increased its speed. 'It was
half the size of the moon as seen from earth,' he said.
'It was radiating violet, orange, and white light about
three times as strong as moonlight.'"
was ordered to return to base if he was unable to get
near, and Jafari cut off pursuit. As he was returning,
he "told air controllers that the UFO had doubled
back on its pursuers, and he was in danger of being forced
down. 'Something is coming at me from behind. ...I think
it is going to crash into me. It has just passed by, missing
me narrowly...' The disturbed voice of the pilot was clear
on the tape."
article also recounted how the pilot spoke of a "bright
round object, with a circumference of about 4.5 meters,
leave the UFO." It also said that the authenticity
of the object had already been confirmed by the two F-4
pilots, several control tower operators, and witnesses
on the ground who reported a "bright body" flit
across the sky while others reported seeing "some
bright thing" fall from the sky.
document later came to light revealing that a very similar
UFO was sighted in Morocco from many locations about 3
to 4 hours later, or 0100 to 0200 hours local time on
19 September. The document was from the American embassy
in Rabat, Morocco to the U.S. State Department, dated
25 September 1976--"Subject: Request for Info. Unidentified
Flying Objects." It recounted that the Moroccan police
had received numerous reports of an object generally flying
parallel to the Atlantic coast at low altitude. It had
a silvery luminous circular or tubular shape and was giving
off intermittent trails of bright sparks and fragments.
It made no noise. One of the embassy's unnamed briefers
said he had seen it himself, and that it appeared to be
traveling slowly like an aircraft preparing to land. At
first it appeared disc-shaped, but took on a tubular appearance
as it got closer.
of State Henry Kissinger responded ten days later and
took the official U.S. policy line on UFOs. Kissinger
claimed the Condon Committee report had shown that all
UFOs could be attributed to natural causes and no further
study was warranted. Kissinger said people had probably
seen a meteor or a decaying satellite part for which there
was no re-entry record.
a search for further information on the case in National
Security Agency records, it was also found that an article
on the Tehran incident had been written in 1978 (see Gallery)
in the classified MIJI Quarterly a periodical published
by the Electronics Security Command at San Antonio, Texas.
The journal contained narrative summaries of all electronic
warfare "meaconing", "intrusion,"
"jamming," and "interference" incidents
(hence the acronym MIJIsee ). The report basically
provided the details in the DIA document, but prefaced
the article as follows:
in his career, each pilot can expect to encounter strange,
unusual happenings which will never be adequately or entirely
explained by logic or subsequent investigation. The following
article recounts just such an episode as reported by two
F-4 Phantom crews of the Imperial Iranian Air Force during
late 1976. No additional information or explanation of
the strange events has been forthcoming: the story will
be filed away and probably forgotten, but it makes interesting,
and possibly disturbing, reading."
explanation and analysis
his book UFOs: The Public Deceived,
J. Klass claimed the witnesses initially
saw an astronomical body, probably Jupiter, and pilot
incompetence and equipment malfunction accounted for the
bright object was first noticed by witnesses in Shemiran,
the northernmost district of Tehran. One of the witnesses
in the northeastern part of Tehran was Gen. Yousefi himself,
who ordered the jet interceptions. The jets were scrambled
from Shahrokhi AFB in Hamadan, about 175 miles (282 km)
west-southwest of Tehran, and vectored to a point 40 miles
(64 km) north of central Tehran. However, Jupiter was
in the east. Thus the UFO was approximately 90 degrees
away from Jupiter at the time. In addition, the second
F-4 chased the UFO from northern to southern Tehran. Again,
Jupiter would be at nearly 90 degrees to the pursuit trajectory.
both F-4's picked up and tracked something on their radar,
impossible for an astronomical object like a star or planet.
Many more details of the encounter do not match Klass'
proposed explanation, such as both F-4's and the control
tower losing their electronics with close approach to
the UFO and a third civilian plane in the region also
Clark commented, "Klass's theory presumes a remarkable
lack of even rudimentary observing and technical skills
on the parts of the Iranian participants. In some ways
it would be easier to credit the notion, for which no
evidence exists either, that the witnesses consciously
fabricated the sighting. Both Gen. Azarbarzin and air
controller Perouzi considered the incident thoroughly
puzzling. So, as the documents indicate, did American
analysts familiar with it."
incident is regarded by a number of UFO researchers to
be one of the premier UFO encounters ever recorded. Some
researchers consider it strong evidence for the extraterrestrial
origins of the UFO because there was a blackout on the
F-4 just when it was going to fire and because of instrumental
breakdowns on two different aircraft while they were on
the chase. A military spy satellite also recorded this
incident. The DSP-1 satellite detected an infrared anomaly
during the time of this event that lasted for about an
to incident in the media
The Sightings TV program covered the incident in 1994,
interviewing many of the participants. (See above)
The Tehran incident was considered one of the ten best
UFO cases in a 2007 Canadian documentary Best Evidence
by film maker Paul Kimball. The list of best cases was
compiled by polling leading UFO researchers.
a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington
D.C. on 12 November 2007, the pilot of the second F-4,
General Parviz Jafari, recounted how he tried to intercept
an "object which was flashing with intense red, green,
orange and blue light." Jafari said that, "Four
other objects with different shapes separated from the
main one, at different times during this close encounter.
Whenever they were close to me, my weapons were jammed
and my radio communications were garbled. One of the objects
headed toward me. I thought it was a missile. I tried
to launch a heat seeking missile to it, but my missile
panel went out. Another followed me when I was descending
on the way back. One of the separated objects landed in
an open area radiating a high bright light, in which the
sands on the ground were visible. We could hear emergency
squash all the way, which was reported by other airliners
flying at the time and continued for another couple of
days. During my interview at H.Q, after the incident,
an American colonel took notes..." When asked if
he thought this was an alien spacecraft, he said he was
quite sure that it was.
Tehran UFO incidents
somewhat similar UFO incident over Tehran occurred in
1978, again involving electromagnetic interference and
U.S. DIA interest. The report was sent by the U.S. Defense
Attache's office to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, part of
the normal routing for foreign intelligence reports. As
in the 1976 case, the distribution list included the Secretary
of State, the NSA, and the CIA. The report was quoted
from the Iranian English-language newspaper Tehran Journal,
dated 18 July 1978.
article said that a UFO had been seen by a number of people
on the night of 16 July, again in the northern part of
Tehran. One witness said he saw the object suddenly emerge
in the sky and hover directly above him. Witnesses said
it was a "strange glowing object" that seemed
to be floating southwestward toward Saveh (about halfway
between Tehran and Hamadan). Witnesses contacted the National
Radio Network and the control tower at Mehrabad, which
confirmed the existence of the object but provided no
further details. The article added, "Officials from
the control tower at Mehrabad Airport and a Lufthansa
aircrew also reported unusual readings on their instruments."
article also briefly mentioned another recent UFO incident
from April 1978. A local pilot said that he and his copilot
had photographed a "glittering" object while
flying between Ahvaz and Tehran. (Ahvaz is about 750 miles
(1,210 km) southwest of Tehran.) He could not release
the photographs until the security division of the civil
aviation authorities gave permission. Apparently there
was also ground radar corroboration. "A Mehrabad
radar control official said that on that occasion they
had detected an object some 20 times the size of a jumbo
jet on their screens." Civil aviation authorities
were said to be investigating, but the results had not
been made public.
Air Force files on the incident