How to look for records of... UFOs

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

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 do I need to know before I start?

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.

Online records

UFO reports and correspondence (1950-2002)

Browse the digital records available on our website.

Records available only at The National Archives in Kew

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

UFO reports, correspondence and parliamentary business (1950-1995)

Search Discovery, our catalogue in DEFE, AIR, FCO and BJ for records of UFOs, using keywords such as ‘UFO’, ‘unidentified flying’ and ‘saucers’.

Records in other archives and organisations

Records held locally

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2,500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue using keywords; you may need to refine your results using the filters.

Other resources


Read the article on Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) on Your Archives.


Visit The National Archives’ bookshop for a range of publications on UFOs.