The ‘UFO' sighting near Imphal airport in Manipur, India, which led to the shutdown of the airspace for approximately three hours, occurred on November 19, 2023. The unidentified aerial vehicle was first noticed at around 2 pm local time by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel. This led to the immediate closure of the ‘controlled airspace' and the halting of flight operations. Approximately 500 passengers on three outbound flights were stranded due to this incident. Two flights were diverted, and three were delayed as a result.
The air traffic control (ATC) and people on the ground reported seeing drones, after which two Air India and one IndiGo flight were instructed not to take off. Two incoming flights were diverted during this period. Airport Director Chipemmi Keishing issued a statement confirming the disruption of flight operations due to the sighting of an unidentified flying object within Imphal's controlled airspace.
The unidentified flying object was visible to the naked eye and was seen moving westwards of the airfield until 4 pm. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was notified of the situation, and after receiving clearance from them, commercial flight operations were resumed. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Indian Air Force have jointly initiated an investigation to determine more details about the incident.
In response to the sighting, the Indian Air Force scrambled two Rafale fighter jets from a nearby airbase to search for the unidentified flying object. These aircraft, equipped with advanced sensors, conducted low-level flying over the suspected area but did not find anything. The IAF's Eastern Command, headquartered in Shillong, activated its Air Defence response mechanism as part of their response to the incident. The Eastern Command stated that the small object was not seen after the initial sighting.
This incident reflects the swift and coordinated response of the airport authorities and the Indian Air Force to potential aerial threats, underscoring the importance of airspace security, especially in regions with strategic significance like Manipur, which borders several states and an international border with Myanmar.