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COMETA (COMité d'ÉTudes Approfondies; "Committee for In-Depth Studies") was an unofficial French UFO study organisation from the late 1990s, composed of high-ranking officials and military officers. The study was carried out over several years by an independent group of auditors and former auditors at IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de défense nationale; "the Institute of Advanced Studies for National Defence"), a French military think-tank, and various other experts. The group was responsible for the COMETA Report (1999) on UFOs and their possible implications for defence in France.
The report concluded that about 5% of the UFO cases they studied were utterly inexplicable and the best hypothesis to explain them was the extraterrestrial hypothesis. The authors also accused the United States government of engaging in a massive cover-up of the evidence.
Although it drew on government-funded research, the COMETA Report was not solicited by the French government in any manner whatsoever. Immediately afterwards, however, French magazine VSD referred to it as an "official report", a label it has continued to carry in UFO-nut circles.
IHEDN also took pains to disassociate itself from the report. "According to Lieutenant-Colonel Pierre Bayle, head of the Communication Service of IHEDN, 'The Institute for Advanced Studies in National Defence wishes to make it clear that statements made by these individuals only engage them, and them alone, and are in no way a reflection of the thoughts of IHEDN, which has no special element of information on this topic.'".
COMETA Report membership
The COMETA Report was prefaced by General Bernard Norlain of the Air Force, former Director of IHEDN. The preamble was by André Lebeau, former President of CNES (Centre National D’études Spatiales; "National Center for Space Studies"). The group was presided over by General Denis Letty of the Air Force, another former auditor of IHEDN.
Other members included:
- General Bruno Lemoine, Air Force (former auditor of IHEDN)
- Admiral Marc Merlo, (former auditor of IHEDN)
- Michel Algrin, Doctor in Political Sciences, attorney at law (former auditor of IHEDN)
- General Pierre Bescond, engineer for armaments (former auditor of IHEDN)
- Denis Blancher, Chief National Police superintendent at the Ministry of the Interior
- Christian Marchal, chief engineer of the National Corps des Mines and Research Director at the National Office of Aeronautical Research (ONERA)
- General Alain Orszag, Ph.D. in physics, armaments engineer
Outside contributors included Jean-Jacques Velasco, head of SEPRA at CNES, François Louange, President of Fleximage, specializing in photo analysis, and General Joseph Domange, of the Air Force, general delegate of the Association of Auditors at IHEDN.
The report drew largely on the research of GEPAN, later called SEPRA (and currently GEIPAN), a section of the French space agency CNES, unique in being the only official French government-sponsored organisation to investigate UFOs. French skeptics have criticised the quality of GEIPAN's work.
GEPAN was founded in 1977 due to the wave of UFO sightings in France in 1954. Its name changed to SEPRA in 1988. The Gendarmerie was instructed to channel reports of UFO sightings to SEPRA, giving them a large collection of such reports, and SEPRA could call on the scientific and technical resources of CNES, e.g. in the Trans-en-Provence case, considered one of the best-documented UFO sightings of all time.
In 2005, SEPRA was replaced by GEIPAN, which published the UFO archives of CNES on its website, as well as the COMETA report. They claimed at least 13% of observations in the files were unexplained, and 22% as of December 2012.
- Rossoni, D., Maillot, E., & Déguillaume, E. (2007). Les ovnis du CNES – 30 ans d’études officielles. (extracts from the book in French).
- ufo - UFOS at close sight: the 1954 French flap sightings catalogue