'UFO' blip leaves airport officials foxed
21 Mar 2009


KOLKATA: An unidentified flying object blipped on the city radar in the wee hours of Thursday, a little after mysterious objects were photograph-ed hovering in the London sky. The blip that lasted for 15 minutes on the Bay of Bengal left airport and IAF officials foxed. While some suspect an unscheduled aircraft strayed into Indian airspace, others termed it a UFO. The Directo-rate General of Civil Aviation has ordered an investigation.

The unidentified aircraft or object was spotted on the airport radar at 3.45 am on Th-ursday. Sources said there was only a Cathay Pacific overfli-ght scheduled for the time and in that direction. “But the fli-ght showed a separate blip. What’s more, we had communication problems with the Ca-thay Pacific pilot during the time the mystery blip was on screen,” said an air controller.

IAF clarified that it had no exercise scheduled over the Bay of Bengal at that hour, and that none of its aircraft in the region were airborne then.Though the blip may have been due to either a snag in the 11-year-old radar or the reflection of moonlight from a school of fish, what worries security agencies is the possibility of unauthorized aircraft entering Kolkata region. On December 17, 1995, a Latvia-registered AN-26 aircraft had entered India undetected and dropped arms in Purulia.

“If a foreign aircraft had ventured into Indian airspace, it is IAF’s role to scramble and counter it,” an AAI official said. The London sighting on Thursday has hyped interest in the Kolkata UFO. Given the 5.5-hour time zone difference between India and UK and the 11-hour flight time, science fiction buffs drew a link between London’s ‘flying saucers’ and the mystery blip at the airport.
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Unidentified? Yes. UFO? Not just yet
22 Mar 2009,

KOLKATA: Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it a... UFO? But wait. Don't go looking for little green Martians just yet. It's just that the blip on the primary radar of the city airport in the wee hours of Thursday is still unidentified.

Whether it was also a flying object is anybody's guess, but chances are that it was something more prosaic: merely a glitch on an ageing radar.

Around 3.45 am on Thursday, air traffic controllers at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport noticed an unusual blip on the radar. It originated over Bay of Bengal, around 37 nautical miles east of the airport. Suspecting it to be a non-scheduled aircraft, the controllers tried to communicate with it, but were unsuccessful. The blip moved South-West and disappeared 15 minutes later.

IAF radars at Pakur and Kalaikunda radar stations, however, did not pick up any such signal. This, however, does not mean much as the radars had failed to pick up the Antonov An-32 aircraft, which had dropped unauthorized arms in Purulia in 1995.

More than 48 hours later, airport officials, Indian Air Force personnel and Directorate General of Civil Aviation which has conducted a probe are none the wiser about what the blip actually was. Airports Authority of India (AAI) technicians, however, believe it could have been a glitch in the old radar.

"The upgraded version of the advanced surveillance radar (ASR) doesn't display false blips. If the airport had been equipped with the advance version, and it displayed a blip, we could have surely declared whether it was an aircraft or UFO. Presently, it remains a mystery for us," an official said.

The ASR version IX, which is in use at Kolkata airport, is more than 11 years old. It is awaiting replacement during the modernization of the airport by a version XI.

ATC officials acknowledged that radars and other communication equipment were ageing, and sometimes misleading. The only cause for discomfort is that unlike usual snags, when such false blips remain stationary, the blip on Thursday morning was moving. "It wouldn't be a surprise if an aircraft had stealthily breached Indian airspace," conceded an airport official.

IAF, on its part, has denied any movement at that time. "We don't conduct sorties so late in the night. Usually, we don't operate flights over the sea after dark except in emergencies," said an IAF officer.

The failure to explain the incident has caused concern in security circles, with intelligence officers pointing to the Purulia arms-drop case. "If a foreign aircraft had ventured into Indian airspace, it is the IAF's role to scramble aircraft and counter it," a source said.

The incident occurred on the same day that a British man in Leverington, Cambs, said he had clicked UFO pictures, according to agencies.