Britain’s official UFO investigation unit and hotline were closed down at the start of December.
Since then reports of strange sights in the skies sent to the MoD have been kept for 30 days before being thrown out, the newly released policy document shows.
This stance was adopted so defence officials would not have to publish the information in response to freedom of information (FoI) requests or pass it to the National Archives.
The memo, dated November 11, 2009, sets out the MoD’s reasons for shutting its UFO unit and ceasing to invite details of sightings. It notes that the number of reports received soared last year, taking up extra resources and diverting staff from “more valuable” defence-related activities.
The MoD recorded 634 UFO sightings in 2009, the second highest annual total after 1978, when there were 750, according to UFO expert Dr David Clarke. This compares with an average of about 150 reports a year over the past decade.
Dr Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, got the memo through an FoI request. “This is the final rubber-stamping of the decision; they want totally to wash their hands of the UFO business altogether.”