Project Condign

Project Condign was a study of the UFO phenomenon undertaken by the UK Ministry of Defence in the late Nineties, and published in 2000. The formal title of the study was “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region”.

Nick Pope was instrumental in the setting up of this study, but is not the author of the final report, as has sometimes been alleged by the UFO community. The study had its roots in work done in 1993 and 1994 by Nick Pope and his opposite number in the MoD’s Defence Intelligence Staff, who both felt that the standard practice of investigating UFO sightings individually should be supplemented by trend analysis, looking for patterns that might be useful in better understanding the phenomenon. Thus, Project Condign was designed as an intelligence assessment of the phenomenon as a whole.

A noteworthy part of the study (and of the MoD’s more general work on the subject at the time) was the replacement of the term “UFO” with “UAP”. This was done to reframe the internal MoD debate on the issue and to escape from the pop culture baggage associated with the former term. It was also part of a wider policy shift whereby the phenomenon was viewed in terms of the threats and opportunities that might derive from a better understanding of the phenomenon, whatever its true nature. Both these points were adopted by the US government’s AATIP program, where the MoD influence can be demonstrated not only by US use of the term UAP, but also by the similarities in Project Condign and AATIP language in relation to the “novel military applications” that the UK and the US were discussing in relation to the phenomenon.

To keep Project Condign ‘off the radar’ it was undertaken in the private sector, by the mechanism of amending an existing defense contract.

Project Condign’s final report was declassified and released in May 2006 (with certain portions redacted) and Nick Pope was authorized by the MoD to give unclassified briefings to the media about the aims, methodology and conclusions of the program.