Without warning, the orange UFO swooped toward them. The crew of the RAF Vulcan bomber banked hard and radioed they were being chased across the Atlantic by a large mysterious object.
The incident was classified as a UFO sighting and the details were immediately locked away. Now, 30 years later, the extraordinary encounter is among thousands of previously secret cases contained in the British government's "X-Files" that officials are to release in their entirety.
The cases, many from a little-known defense intelligence branch tasked with investigating UFO claims, will be published by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to counter what officials say is "the maze of rumor and frequently ill-informed speculation" surrounding government and its alleged involvement with UFOs.
The public opening of the MOD archive will expose the once highly classified work of the intelligence branch DI55, whose mission was to investigate UFO reports and whose existence was denied by the government until recently. Reports into about 7,000 UFO sightings investigated by defense officials -- every single claim lodged over the past 30 years -- are included in the files, whose staged release will begin in spring.
The decision to release the full catalog of UFO investigations was taken last month after the Directorate of Air Space Policy, the government agency responsible for filtering sensitive reports, gave permission for the biggest single release of documents in MOD history.
Now the government fears a repeat of the unprecedented demand and the Web site crash experienced by the French national space agency in March when it released its own UFO files. Government IT experts are believed to have drawn up contingency plans to avoid a repeat scenario when Britain's dossiers are finally made public.
Among the first tranche of UK cases will be the official government files into the famous Rendlesham incident, dubbed "Britain's Roswell" after the US incident when a flying saucer is said to have crash-landed in the New Mexico desert 60 years ago.
On a foggy night in 1980 several witnesses reported a UFO apparently landing in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk. Statements claimed the craft was covered in markings similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics and aliens emerged from it. Although a man later confessed to having staged the incident as a hoax, the files will clear up continuing speculation as to whether radiation was detected at the site after the event.
Another case reported to the intelligence branch DI55 -- Britain's version of the "Men In Black" -- chronicles a series of reports sent to RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, by the crew of a Vulcan bomber on exercise over the Bay of Biscay early on May 26, 1977.
According to documents seen by this reporter, five crewmen, including the captain, co-pilot and navigators, watched "an object" approach their aircraft at 13,000m above the Atlantic. The mysterious craft then appeared to turn and follow their precise course from a distance of 6.4km. Initially, the crew said the object resembled landing lights "with a long pencil beam of light ahead" but as it turned towards them the lights suddenly went out leaving a diffuse orange glow with a bright fluorescent green spot in its bottom right-hand corner.
Then, according to signals sent back to Scampton, the crew noted a mystery object "leaving from the middle of the glow on a westerly track ... climbing at very high speed at an angle of 45 degrees." The Vulcan's navigator recorded interference on his radar screen from the direction of the UFO which continued for 45 minutes as the plane headed back to Britain.