Terror In The Skies: The 1976 Tehran UFO Incident

A declassified document released by the National Security Administration recounts the night in 1976 when a UFO nearly caused an international incident in the skies over Iran.

September 14, 2021
Statement by Captain Henry S. Shields and the “1976 Iran Incident”

Air Force files on the Tehran UFO incident in 1976

Photo by: United States Air Force

United States Air Force

Air Force files on the Tehran UFO incident in 1976

It was just after midnight on September 19, 1976, when the Iranian Air Force command post at Mehrabad International Airport began receiving phone calls about strange objects in the sky.

Callers said the object looked birdlike, or they described it as a helicopter with a light on it. The night supervisor who answered the phone tried to convince the callers it was “just stars” in the sky, but then he took a look outside.

There was something visible to the naked eye north of the airport. The Iranian Air Force quickly scrambled a jet from a nearby base to investigate further.

The unidentified flying object appeared to be about 70 miles away, and though the jets were capable of flying up to 1000 miles per hour, the pilot could not catch up to the UFO. As the pilot tried to get closer to the object, he realized that his instrument panels quit working. According to the declassified NSA document, the panels began working when pilots turned away from the UFO.

The UFO appeared to have bright, strobing multicolored lights that made it hard to see how big the object was or what it was shaped like.

A second jet was scrambled from the base, and the UFO appeared to fire a bright, multicolored object at the jet. Eventually, that object fell from the sky and was believed to have landed in a dry lake bed before radar began picking up a beeping coming from the vicinity.

A search of that lake bed did not recover any flying craft.

The report generated by the Iranian Air Force was shared with the U.S. intelligence agencies as the two countries did have a diplomatic relation at the time. That report stayed classified until 2020. Officials wondered if the object had a terrestrial explanation—could it have been the Soviet Union who was offering extensive economic support to neighboring Iraq?

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