Officials at the Ministry of Defence believed aliens could visit Earth for military research - or simply as tourists.

A massive cache of previously secret UFO documents released on Thursday shows that one desk officer believed it was a "matter of priority" for reports of alien landings to be investigated.

"If the sightings are not of this earth then their purpose needs to be established as a matter of priority," he wrote in the 1995 briefing.

"There has been no apparently hostile intent and other possibilities are: a) military reconnaissance b) scientific c) tourism."

He also speculated that the possible number of UFO sightings could be much higher than previously thought, since "some indications that the reported incidents are only the tip of an iceberg and many people do not wish to risk embarrassment and so do not report sightings".

Another file quotes a UFO Intelligence officer, who says that if alien technology exists it should be used for Britain's own advantage.

MORE: Read The Full Highlights From The MoD's UFO Files

"If the reports are taken at face value then devices exist that do not use conventional reaction propulsion systems; they have a very wide range of speeds and are stealthy. I suggest we could use this technology, if it exists," he said.

However, those hoping for a "smoking gun" as to the existence of aliens are likely to be disappointed.

One official in 1979 briefed the House of Lords before a debate, pointing out that the sheer number of planets and stars in the universe meant that it was overwhelmingly unlikely that the Earth would be visited by aliens more than about once per 1000 years.

Another officer writing about the 'daily mechanics' of the UFO desk job at the MoD said that the suggestion of "top secret teams of specialist scientists scurrying around the country in a real life version of the X Files" is "total fiction".

"The closest we have to the post of 'UFO Expert' is probably my own, but this has always been a generalist, nontechnical post with the emphasis on correspondence with the public," the officer said.

"Whilst I have naturally built up some degree of knowledge of various UFO cases as part of my tenure in this post, I often find the best source of information is simply to Google the internet."

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That note was written by the outgoing officer. The post of UFO desk officer was subsequently listed internally and was described as the most junior of the MoD managerial grades. Four applications were apparently received.

But the files also contain details of several 'sightings'.

Some of the documents relate to a series of aliens seen above West Wales in 1977. One hotel owner said a dome-shaped object landed "like the moon falling down" behind his hotel, from which two "silver suited 'faceless humanoids' emerged and began 'making measurements'".

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Another saw a craze for releasing Chinese sky lanterns lead to a spate of reports flooding into the MoD of "golden orbs" seen in the sky.

One woman called the MoD "panicking [and] saying we had to ring her back (She left three messages saying this). She was petrified and so were her friends. She had never seen anything like this before."

Another man from County Durham was more sanguine.

He "saw similar lights but did not think they were UFOs as he didn't believe aliens would want to visit Houghton" reported the MoD.

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