The COMETA Report

by Michael Lauck 

The French think tank paper commonly known as the COMETA Report was released to the public on July 16, 1999. Its official French title is “Les Ovni Et La Defense: A quoi doit-on se préparer?” but it is often called the COMETA Report in English as a reference to the group that authored and issued it. The paper examines UFO evidence, with an emphasis on French cases, and considers security questions raised by the phenomena. It often referred to by researchers and has been cited by journalist and researcher Leslie Kean as a major influence on her work. Among its contributors were French generals, scientists and even a former director of the French space agency, which gives the paper a great deal of credibility and academic weight. The COMETA Report includes an overview of UFO encounters since World War II, with an understandable emphasis on French incidents, and an analysis of the defense implications raised by UFOs. It has since been translated into English.

The Origin of the COMETA Report

The group that authored the report “Les Ovni Et La Defense: A quoi doit-on se préparer?” (or “UFOs and Defense: What Must Me Be Prepared For?”) is commonly referred as COMETA. Their name actually roughly translates as “Committee of In-Depth Studies,” with COMETA as a shorthand title. The group was made up of both military men and scientists. Often the report is wrongly attributed to the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale, “Institute of Advanced Studies for National Defense”) because many of the contributors were associated with the French think tank. COMETA, however, was a separate group created specifically to study the questions related to UFO reports and encounters. In an introductory section of the paper entitled “Consider All The Hypothesis” Air Force General Denis Letty lists the following members of COMETA: Michel Algrin (doctor of political science), Jean Dunglas (doctor of engineering), weapons engineers Pierre Bescond and Alain Orszag, Police Nationale Chief Denis Blancher, Admiral Marc Merlo, Ari Force General Bruno Le Moine, Françoise Lépine of the Fondation pour les Etudes de Défense and ONERA (“National Aerospace Study and Research Office”) Research Director Christian Marchal. Letty’s wording suggests that there are more COMETA members who were not revealed.

Another common misconception about the paper is that it was somehow an “official” report generated by, or at the request of, the French government or one of its agencies. COMETA had no government sanction. It did, though, have several members with high level military and scientific connections. In fact, the preface was written by former IHEDN director General Bernard Norlain (French Air Force) and the preamble was penned by André Lebeau, a former president of the Centre National D’études Spatiales (CNES, France’s official space agency). The report drew from early research by GEPAN (later renamed SEPRA and finally renamed GEIPAN in 2005), which is a section of CNES whose official mission is to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena, but had no official connection with GEPAN or CNES. COMETA provided copies of “Les Ovni Et La Defense: A quoi doit-on se préparer?” to the French President and Prime Minister before its release to the public which has also led to the mistaken belief that there was some type of official government connection.

Breakdown of the Report

The ninety page report is divided into three sections with multiple appendices, as well as introductory sections. Part One focuses on example cases to prove to readers that there is something worth considering in the UFO phenomena. It begins with French military and commercial pilot testimony. The paper then goes on to describe a number of aeronautical incidents from around the world. The episodes described include the 1976 Iranian encounter, an incident at a Russian missile site and other cases from the 1950s through 1990. Four French close encounter cases, ranging in dates from 1965 to 1982, are summarized. Finally, two cases explained by GEPAN/SEPRA investigations are also included in this section. This helps emphasize the fact that unexplained encounters, though worth considering, are relatively rare.

Part Two attempts to summarize what is actually known about UFO. It begins with a survey of the current French reporting system and the methodology of the section of CNES charged with UFO investigation, which at the time was known as SEPRA (Service d’Expertise des Phénomènes des Rentré Atmosphérique). This is followed with a brief examination of organization of UFO research in the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia. The section also contains a discussion of the various theories of propulsion, why conventional technology may fail when in the presences of UFOs and possible explanations of other physical effects reported. Various theories on the origins of UFOs are summarized with an emphasis on the viability of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. The possibility of an alien civilization thriving in the asteroid belt is even mentioned, perhaps to skirt the need for faster than light travel to explain an alien presence.

The final section of the paper tackles the security implications of unknown, possibly extraterrestrial, craft visiting France and the world at large. COMETA does acknowledge that there has not been an overtly hostile act by UFOs towards France but specifically states that “intimidation maneuvers have been confirmed.” Sections ask what can be extrapolated about the forces controlling UFOs from the known facts. It suggests that it is possible that other countries, such as the United States, have greater knowledge of the subject. The COMETA Report touches on several specific scenarios, such as the discovery of an alien base on Earth, as well as theorizing how Earth would treat a less technologically advanced civilization in order to attempt to form a strategy to deal with the UFO phenomena. Among the suggestions made are strengthening the department of CESN responsible for studying UFOs (then SEPRA, now known as GEIPAN), initiating diplomatic action with the goal of cooperating with the United States in UFO matters and assessing the current abilities of agencies to detect craft in space. Political, religious and media implications of the appearance of UFOs are also discussed.

Finally a selection of seven appendices is included. The first addresses French radar contacts with UFOs. Other sections of interest include one on astronomers’ observations of UFOs, a brief discussion of the history of the phenomena and another discussing Roswell and the possibility of intentional disinformation surrounding the case. The final appendix examines some of the socio-political aspects of UFOs including thoughts on why the United States military feels there is a need for secrecy regarding UFOs.

Despite the fact that the COMETA Report was not officially requested or sanctioned by the French government, it remains an important piece of scholarship in the field of UFO study. Many people feel that the academic, military and professional credentials of the committee members alone demand a certain amount of respect be given to the work. Unlike many publications about UFOs, this well researched study can not simply be dismissed as the work of amateur UFO enthusiasts, so-called true believers or people merely trying to profit from publishing the document.

For Further Reading

The COMETA Report, available in English online

UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record by Leslie Kean