Ocala UFO Incident 1978: Military Personel Backed Up By Radar Tracking Had An Alarming UFO Encounter

Pinecastle Electronic Warfare Range Tracking Station, a restricted facility operated by the US Navy, 32 miles east-southeast of Ocala, Florida, was the site of a still unexplained and extremely puzzling UFO incident on the evening of Sunday, May 14, 1978.

More than a dozen military personnel watched a UFO in Ocala in 1978
More than a dozen military personnel watched a UFO in Ocala in 1978

The bizarre event started when a member of the public called from nearby Silver Glen Springs at around 10:05 p.m. to ask if the installation was firing flares. Robert J Clark, the duty officer assured the woman that no such operation was currently underway at the site.

Just a few minutes later, a second call came through, this time by a man who would later be identified as Rocky Morgan. Mr Morgan told the duty officer that he and seven other people, who were all travelling on Highway 19 near Silver Glen Springs had just witnessed an oblong-shaped flying object. Morgan estimated that the UFO was 50 to 60 feet in diameter and its colour was "almost the colour of the moon." He claimed that the unidentified object had a flashing light that was intensely bright at its centre pass right over the top of his car.

Duty officer Clark checked with the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Centre, who confirmed for him that no aircraft were in the area. Clark, along with the airbase controller Gary Collinson climbed up an observation tower next to a van containing the base's radar equipment.

Clark got in contact with external security and directed it to contact TD-2 Timothy Collins, a radar technician. Collins quickly raced to the tower. The personnel already there were all watching a cluster of glowing lights off to the west-northwest. The lights were at eye-level and appeared to be just above an old Civil Defence tower three miles away. It was a quiet night, and the sky was clear, yet none of the witnesses heard any noise coming from the lights, which according to them were attached to a single object.

After watching them through binoculars for a while, Collins went back down to warm up the track radar, which took five minutes, and the acquisition radar, which took twenty minutes. As he was waiting, he searched for the UFO using a periscope on the van and saw it again.

At around 11:20 p.m., radar locked on to the target. The object was located at 0.2 degrees elevation; in other words, it was 50 to 100 feet above the ground - "treetop level," Collins would say. Its image on the radar was "as strong as or stronger than" the image of the tower. The object appeared to be around the size of a jetliner.

Approximately 15 minutes later, the object suddenly vanished from both sight and radar. However, at approximately 11:40, the same or similar object appeared 15 degrees to the north. Collins spotted this visually, but the second, computer-assisted radar did not manage to pick it up for some reason. He also managed to see it through the periscope. Several minutes passed then it suddenly disappeared again from both instrumented and visual observation.

At around midnight, the same UFO or a different one was spotted three miles to the northwest. The object moved at a speed greater than 500 knots for five seconds on a course, then accelerated for two seconds, and then executed a hairpin turn in one second.

When it made that turn, it was 15 miles south of the base - which meant it had covered 15 miles in seven seconds; most of that distance was covered in the last two seconds. The turn was a radical reversal of direction; now the UFO was shooting northward and toward the observer's base. Its speed had slowed down almost instantaneously to just two knots. At this point, Collin's radar once again locked onto the object, but not for long, after just over a minute the object vanished completely, and the sighting was over.

12 or so personnel had witnessed the UFO. One of them, TD-AA Carol Snyder, told a newspaper reporter, "We saw three very blurry lights - red, white, and green. We watched them for about 30 minutes. We couldn't see how fast they were travelling. We were holding the binoculars, and the lights appeared to be bouncing."

The Navy carried out an investigation into the incident out of the Jacksonville centre but came to no conclusions as to what the object or objects actually were.

Allan Hendry of the Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS) interviewed several of the eye-witnesses and gathered radar, astronomical, and meteorological data. He considered, then rejected, various prosaic alternatives before declaring this a case of "high merit" in the CUFOS publication International UFO Reported.

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