The F-16 - UFO chase map for March 30-31, 1990
BELGIUM 1990: A CASE FOR RADAR-VISUAL UFOS?
Ó Tim Printy 2000
Updated May 2009
Setting the Stage
In late November of 1989, the country of Belgium underwent, what is commonly referred to as, a "UFO Wave". Over the next six months, hundreds of UFO reports were filed. Many of these reports included descriptions of silent, or nearly silent, triangular shaped UFOs. Although it was not the only shape reported, it was this triangular shape that became the trademark of the Belgian UFO wave. The Belgian UFO group, SOBEPS (Societe Belge DEtude Des Phenomenes Spatiaux), collected, investigated, and compiled these reports into a complete study of the phenomena. What they wrote about the Belgian UFO wave is only half the tale. As with all UFO sightings, the exotic stories originally told are less exotic when examined carefully.
The origin of the Belgian UFO wave can be traced to one event on November 29, 1989. That evening, two Eupen gendarmerie were driving on patrol towards the town of Kettenis (NE of Eupen). At 5:20 PM, 35 minutes after sunset, they reported seeing a bright light to the right of their vehicle. Looking out the window, one of the officers noticed the light was a triangular shaped craft with three downward pointing spotlights at each apex. This object continued to move to the Northeast and parallel their vehicle's path. As the policemen sped up, they were able to meet up with the object and get a closer look. Their description was that of a dark triangular shape barely visible against the fading light. At each point of the triangle, were three lights and a red flashing light was at the center of the craft. The triangle was not a perfect equilateral triangle because its base was estimated at 30-35 meters but the length was only estimated at 25. It pivoted overhead and headed back towards Eupen at a speed of roughly 50-60 km/hr. The two officers turned their vehicle around and gave pursuit via a parallel road. Meanwhile, they checked in at headquarters, which made inquiries with the military. The military at Bierset and Elsborn both denied any maneuvers in the area. Upon returning to Eupen, they checked in with the desk, where they learned of the military's response. Wishing to learn more, the police officers left the station and reacquired the UFO south of town over Lake Gileppe. This time it appeared to be more like a bright light. According to Wim Van Utrecht, they "had the unclear impression that, every now and then, there were beams of light shooting out from the sides" (Stacey and Evans 167). For 45 minutes, the police officers observed this display and by 7:23 PM, the UFO disappeared in the direction of the town of Spa. In addition to this report, there were several others that night. Many reported the same triangular shaped UFO around the time the officers made their report. While the officer's reported no noise, others reported a buzzing sound as the UFO flew over their heads. By late evening, the reports ceased but only for the evening. The stage had been set for more reports as news of this event spread in the media.
Investigation by Wim Van Utrecht suggested that the initial sightings of a slow moving craft could have been a lighted blimp carrying spotlights underneath (Note: Thanks to Wim for correcting my previous version to make it more accurate). There appears to be only circumstantial evidence of this but witnesses did report noises similar to a blimp or low flying aircraft and Van Utrecht points out, "three white lights and a red flashing light are consistent with standard lighting configurations for aircraft" (Stacey and Evans 168). Meanwhile, Renaud Leclet suggests the officers saw a helicopter:
At 5.20 p.m., on the N68 road, Hubert von Montigny and Heinrich Nicoll were in their patrol vehicle near Kettenis, when they were surprised to see a craft with three lights laid out in triangle moving at low altitude. The gendarmes initially thought they were seeing a helicopter, but as they did not hear any noise, they changed their mind for a UFO… It is at least what SOBEPS tells in VOB 1, p.17, where it is said: “It is the silence of the craft that astonishes most the two gendarmes, they do not hear anything that exceeds the noise of the car and of the road traffic”. Let us notice that several vehicles overtook the gendarmes and that the
noise they made would already have been enough to mask that of a helicopter....But in reading the daily newspaper Le Soir of December 1, 1989, one discovers another version of the facts: during the sighting, the two gendarmes were struck by the weak noise of the craft, that was only a light humming, comparable to an electric motor noise. This contradiction is of the utmost importance! Why such a change in the testimony reported well afterwards by SOBEPS? Mere error or embarrassing detail for the UFO hypothesis? The existence of a noise was also confirmed by Werner Walter, a German skeptical ufologist. During an interview given by gendarme Nicoll to the CENAP ufologist, the witness confirmed to have heard a noise “like that of a shaver or a mower”...
An investigation by Mr Vantuyne on December 9, 1989 confirms that one of the two witnesses did hear a light buzz and that the structure behind the lights was dark green (22). This colour is typical of military helicopters.
And last but not least, on page 4 of SOBEPS Flash N°1 of February 1990, describing the sightings of November 29, 1989, it is said that gendarme Peter Nicholl (not to be confused with Heinrich Nicoll) “clearly distinguished at the back of the craft something that revolved like a turbine and he heard a fan noise”. The media did not speak about this turbine, nor about the fan noise heard by Peter Nicholl. SOBEPS, after having published these statements, will not make any mention of the turbine in its two books, but it will nevertheless speak about a “shaft support for an airship propeller”… The strange variations or disappearances of important details in SOBEPS publications are really astonishing!
The two witnesses seem to have focused on the overall structure of the craft but reported, according to VOB 1, that the adjacent corners at the triangle base were cut. The first report by the two gendarmes was published in the German-language Belgian daily newspaper Grenz Echo of December 1, 1989. However there was no mention of a triangular body behind the lights as SOBEPS asserts in VOB 1, p.17, where the two gendarmes speak about a platform equipped with three huge headlights. (Leclet 11)
What is clear is that there was some noise from the UFO and the triangular object behind the lights was added by connecting the lights together. It seems plausible that a helicopter could have been the source of the UFO that evening. The lighting configuration does appear to match those with standard aircraft as noted by Van Utrecht.
Even more interesting is that Van Utrecht reports the sighting south of town closely coincides with the setting of the planet Venus, which set in the direction of Spa to the southwest, at the time indicated.
Venus as viewed from Eupen, Belgium on the night of November 29, 1989 at 7:00 PM. Venus would set at 7:30PM (image obtained from Orion's "The Sky")
Venus was near greatest brilliancy (which occurred roughly two weeks later) and is listed as having a magnitude of -4.5, which is extremely bright.
Could such events be misinterpreted by experienced police officers? One can not say for sure but Allan Hendry wrote much about how accurate witnesses were when observing UFOs. He catalogued 1307 UFO sightings and determined that 1,158 of these were definitely identified (many of the remainder seemed to have some explanation but identification was never positively made). Out of these 1,158, Hendry catalogued 1,024 as "Nocturnal Lights". The two biggest IFOs were Stars/Planets and Advertising Planes! These reports of advertising airplanes seemed to sound a lot like the sighting north of Eupen:
"Three white lights followed by red lights that moved "all over" very quickly, converged, and hovered over a woods" (Hendry 39)
"something out of Star Wars" (Hendry 93)
"an arrow with a red body and a blue arrowhead" (Hendry 36)
"a silver boomerang shape" (Hendry 36)
"triangle" (Hendry 36)
As for the "beams of light" for the Venus sighting, we have the following statement by Hendry:
People have seen "spikes," "beams," "appendages," and other sparkles shooting out in all directions from bright stars. (Hendry 28)
Of course, we do have the situation that two police officers could not be wrong. Hendry also addressed this. His reported "failure rate" for Police Officers was 94%, the highest in his list of witnesses who misperceived known objects as UFOs. Doctor Elizabeth Loftus also notes that police officers are known to be no better than the average person off the street. Writing in Psychology Today, she stated:
...One common misconception is that police officers make better witnesses than the rest of us...This faith in Police testimony is not supported by research. Several years ago, psychologist A.H.Tinker and E. Christopher Poulton showed a film depicting a street scene to 24 police officers and 156 civilians. The subjects were asked to watch for particular people in the film and to report instances of crimes, such as petty theft. The researchers found that the officers reported more alleged thefts than the civilians but that when it came to detecting actual crimes, the civilians did just as well. More recently, British researcher Peter B. Ainsworth showed a 20 minute videotape to police officers and civilians. The tape depicted a number of staged criminal offenses, suspicious circumstances and traffic offenses at an urban street corner. No significant differences were found between the police and civilians in the total number of incidents reported. Apparently neither their initial training nor subsequent experience increases the ability of the police to be accurate witnesses. (Loftus 24)
Therefore, Van Utrecht could be right about his interpretation of what the witnesses saw that night. However, this was only the beginning of the "wave". There were numerous sightings over the next five months, each adding onto the one previous. SOBEPS continued to collect all these sightings and constructed their summary of these UFO sightings to present to the scientific community. Writing about this summary, scientists from the Univesity of Liege noted many things wrong with the reports:
The Belgian scientific community and specially the astronomers have followed the development of this UFO story since its beginning two years ago. The first events were reported at a time when many astronomers were busy observing several comets, among other things. Moreover, Western Europe was blessed with nice weather, so that the night sky was particularly well examined by many expert observers. A very impressive Venus hung for several months in the evening sky. There was also a rather intense activity at the local airport, with frequent AWACS patrols. And, as usual, lots of aircrafts crossed the Liege area, with, at any time, a minimum of 3 or 4 to be seen
Some of these accounts, as well as others, were relayed by the media. Video tapes of aircrafts at night, showing only their lights were visible. The snowball effect rapidly developed. Witnesses appeared, reporting triangles in the sky, while frustrated astronomers, albeit logging many more hours of observations (with sophisticated equipment), continued to see satellites, meteorites, aircrafts (at times as triangles of light spots). Apparently SOBEPS accepts the fact that Belgian UFOs adopted the international conventions for the lights on their flying crafts. That three lights could form a triangle seemed to have impressed SOBEPS analysts. Meanwhile the public became "ripe" for a "serious" brain-storming by SOBEPS
All these accounts are compiled in the biased SOBEPS book. A typical example of the scientific philosophy of the SOBEPS can be found in a UFO sighting during the February 90 lunar eclipse.
Hundreds of people were in the field, observing the sky, and they saw the Moon, but also planets, stars, satellites and aircrafts. But from inside the bathroom of a nearby house, one person glimpsed some fast-moving light close to the Moon. She got another brief glimpse from another window. This witness was retained in the SOBEPS compilation. The poor folks who had perfect observing conditions, who knew something about the sky, and who saw a plane instead of a UFO, are not given consideration
We have looked at the SOBEPS report, and we found that it is in no way a scientific work. It does not bring the tiniest bit of evidence in favor of alien visitors. Discovering evidence of extra-terrestrial life would be a tremendous feat in the history of mankind, but SOBEPS-like works do nothing toward such a discovery. On the contrary, there is some risk to bring bad publicity to serious projects like SETI. A conclusion that might be drawn by some, is that the Belgian UFO wave is just a well-orchestrated commercial affair, with deliberate exploitation of human credulity (Corbin)
Photographs and Videos
With any "wave" there are always the photographs and videos to present as evidence. Unfortunately, most of this type of evidence is severely lacking in the Belgian Wave. Only one photograph seems to have passed the screening process and it shows no details other than triangular shaped UFO with lights. The image is highly cropped and there is little to be used to verify its accuracy/authenticity. Wim Van Utrecht was even able to duplicate the image indicating it may be a hoax (but not necessarily). Additionally, a video was produced showing three lights moving across the sky. Van Utrecht notes the following about this video
The images, shown on television in many countries, depict the well-known configuration of three white lights and a central red flashing light. But the truth is that heis recording did not remain a mystery for long. SOBEPS, after first endorsing the document, made follow-up inquiries which revealed that the films showed an ordinary airliner preparing to land at Zaventem airfield. I later learned that the witness also claimed to have encountered UFOs and 'space beings' on many other occasions, both before and after he took his video. (Stacey and Evans 171)
This may seem like the whole evidence for UFOs was shot down but the big evidence presented by UFOlogists is that there was one night that a UFO was seen and tracked by radar. This was a major moment for UFOlogy. A classic Radar-Visual case that the Belgian Air Force initially described with an extensive report and news conference. To understand what happened, we first must understand several concepts about some of the mechanisms involved that night.
How does RADAR work?
Radar was first developed in the early to mid 1900's when it was discovered that radio waves will bounce off of targets and return back to the transmitting antenna. During World War II, Radar development took astonishing leaps and by the late 1940s radar was a useful tool found on navy ships and at many airbases around the country. Even aircraft were carrying these devices. But how does Radar work?
Radar uses pulses of extremely high-energy radio waves sent from an antenna in a given direction. Each pulse is only a few microseconds in duration and then there is a delay, until another pulse is sent out. During the delay, the Radar "listens" for any returning pulses that were initiated by the pulse of energy striking a target. The time between pulses will determine how far the Radar can search. Radio waves travel at the speed of light and therefore are very fast. It takes only 6.18 microseconds for a radio wave to travel one nautical mile. A radar nautical mile, the time it takes to go one nautical mile and travel back to the antenna, is 12.36 microseconds. Using these values, the Radar can determine the range to any target and, knowing the direction the antenna is pointed, can plot the "echoes" on a display. This display, shown so often in movies and television, is called a Planned Position Indicator (PPI). As the antenna sweeps about, the Radar is shooting radio waves in pulses outward and checking for returns in between each pulse. The circuitry places all returns on the PPI as a dot corresponding to the size of the targets reflected energy. This is the way the basic Radar system works.
The antenna of radar can define what type of radar is being used. Most often, one visualizes the radar antenna rotating about looking for targets. This is called Search Radar. However, sometimes the antenna does not move. There are "phased arrays" which are used in a manner such that the antenna is fixed but the beams are redirected electronically to cover a wide area of the sky. A signal antenna facing in one direction can cover roughly 120 degrees of sky in this manner. Three antennas will provide complete coverage. One can usually find such systems in military use such as on the Navy's Aegis Missile Cruiser and Air Force missile tracking systems. Another form of radar uses a moving antenna but the antenna is designed not to rotate in regular intervals but to follow a target. One can find this most often on guided missile tracking systems and in aircraft. It is referred to as tracking radar.
While standard radar measures the distance, direction, and altitude, Doppler radar can instantly measure the speed of the echo. It does this by measuring the frequency of the radio wave at transmission and comparing it to the returned signals frequency. One can compare this change in frequency to the change in tone a train makes as it approaches and recedes away from a position. As an object moves away, it's frequency drops. The faster it drops, the faster it moves away. The opposite change in frequency occurs as the object approaches the antenna/observer. Again, the amount of frequency shift will determine the speed of the target.
Knowing that almost anything can produce a reflection, many radar units will incorporate a Moving Target Indicator (MTI). This will filter out stationary targets like weather, birds, ground objects, etc. such that they do not appear on the PPI. This way the important moving targets can be tracked and not be hidden within a plethora of targets from these other sources. There are many other filters used by radar operators but these are not always effective. Often radar echoes appear even though the filter should remove it.
Air Traffic Control radar is slightly different than military radar. The Operators still use the same concept but each airplane has a transponder attached to it. The radar receives a radio signal from the target that designates information about the plane (including altitude) and enhances the signal displayed on the PPI. The use of a transponder registers important information for the Air Traffic Controller to use. Although transponders are widely used by commercial aviation, some aircraft will not have one and may not even register on the ATC radar. This can cause a problem when UFO investigators attempt to confirm whether or not a UFO registered on radar.
Another problem for radar is that many things will produce an echo. Birds, insects, rain, and other natural objects can produce echoes. Even the radar system itself can produce phantom targets. Simple electronic noise in the transmitter/receiver can be displayed on the screen as a false target. Additionally, the radio waves can be affected as they leave the antenna. The radio wave can be "bent" by the earths atmosphere (a process called Refraction). Radar will use the normal refraction in the earths atmosphere to help increase the range of the radar. However, if certain conditions exist in the atmosphere, the radio wave can be severely affected. It may even result in an echo being produced because the wave is bent towards the ground and returned to the antenna. Such an echo will appear on the scope and move even though there is no physical object actually there.
THE F-16 RADAR
Events during the Belgian UFO wave involved the use of F-16A interceptors to locate UFOs. The planes were equipped with a Doppler type search and tracking radar system. In 1990, the common radar system in use was the AN/APG-66 for F-16s (Note: Some of the descriptions are based on the AN/APG-68 data a more advanced radar for the F-16 but the operations are similar to the AN/APG-66). The radar has several modes of operation. They are RWS (Range while search), TWS (Track while scan), VS (Velocity search), and ACM (Air Combat Mode). Each is used under various conditions:
RWS - Can sweep in three arcs (120, 60, and 20 degrees) with the nose of the aircraft being the center of the arc. The RWS mode is the primary search mode but the aircraft can only sweep above and below the nose a distance of about 5 degrees. This can be adjusted but the maximum height of the beam is no greater than this. When the target is displayed on the scope, we see a horizontal line that shows the artificial horizon and two vertical bars that show the width of the beam (in the full sweep of 120, the bars are all the way out to the sides). The only information presented by the radar at this point is the heading of the aircraft and the altitude of the target. As the beam sweeps back and forth, the targets appear as blocks. Each new block will show the present location of the target. Older blocks will fade away after three sweeps. These fading blocks are called "target histories". For one target, one may see the block from the most recent sweep and three others from previous sweeps. This gives the pilot a visual feel for what the target is doing in relation to his aircraft.
In RWS, a target can be tracked "locked" but only one. This is called the SAM (Situation Awareness mode). The sweep of the arc will decrease but the beam continues to sweep. The target now appears on the HUD
TWS - Has two arcs (50 and 20 degrees). In RWS, only one target can be tracked. In TWS, up to 16 targets can be tracked. The beam continues to sweep through its arc and up and down. The targets are designated by the radar computer and updated without histories being displayed. The disadvantage of the TWS is that it can lose targets more readily than RWS.
VS works to determine the "closure rate" and will display this on the radar screen. It has the same sweep arcs as the RWS mode.
ACM is something completely different. It is used to point or "cue" weapons systems. The scan in the four ACM modes are:
HUD - 30 X 20 degree scan area
Vertical scan - 10 X 60 degree scan area
Slewable scan - movable 20 X 60 degree scan area
Boresight scan - narrow beam pointed out the nose of the aircraft.
In all cases, when a target enters the ACM sweep area, the F-16 radar locks onto it.
It is important to understand these concepts when one examines the evidence of the night of March 30-31, 1990. Videos of the F-16 radar display were displayed as evidence of UFO tracking but one must understand the system involved prior to looking at these images. Many just show diamond shaped targets inside a display with some numbers being displayed. However, most of the images show that the pilots had the widest setting of their beam (the bars are at the edge of the screen indicating they were at the 120 degree sweep mode most of the time).
There is one other mode that can be used. It is actually a sub-mode of all the others. It is similar to boresight and is called the single target track mode (STT). In this case, all other targets are ignored and the radar is devoted to tracking the locked target. In this case, the beam is locked onto the target. This mode was apparently used several times by the pilots during the events of March 30-31, 1990 (There is reference to a target track mode in the summary) once a UFO echo was discovered and was "locked".
Interesting to note is that the AN/APG-66 was upgraded in the 1990s to the AN/APG-66(V)2 for many reasons. One of these reasons was "enhanced operational performance (including and improved mapping capability and a reduced false alarm rate)" (Streetley 247)
The Night of March 30-31, 1990
Throughout the five-month period, there was a working relationship between the Belgian Air Force (BAF) and SOBEPS. The BAF became concerned about unidentified aircraft flying through their airspace and, like the USAF in the late 1940s/early 1950s, wanted to get an answer. By late March, F-16 interceptors had already been scrambled on several UFO sightings in December but with no positive results being obtained. On one occasion, it turned out that lights from a local disco produced the UFO reports. As a result of these false starts, the BAF set minimum requirements for these UFO scrambles. It would require reports from reliable witnesses in conjunction with other evidence to warrant such use of manpower and material. These conditions were met late on the evening of March 30, 1990.
At 2300 local time, a police officer in the village of Ramilles reported seeing UFOs to the west-southwest. Two military radars confirmed that an unknown contact had appeared to be in the same area of the observation. The Gendarmie from Wavre (SSE of Brussels) went to investigate and verified the sighting. According to the report, the witnesses were seeing bright lights that formed a triangle and another smaller triangle of lights was seen in the same area. Radar stations at Glons and Semmerzake did track a target but never more than one. The Glons Radar is an air defense radar station located near Liege (60 miles to ESE of Brussels) and Semmerzake is a military ATC station located some 30 miles west of Brussels. The targets tracked were to the SW of Brussels near Nivelles (there appears to be an airbase called Beauvechain located here and is quite often referenced in the transcript). This makes the Semmerzake radar nearest the targets and the Glons radar installation some 60-70 miles away. As distance increases, resolution on radar also decreases. The two radars were some 80-90 miles apart and trying to match targets. While the Glons radar was an air defense network radar, the Semmerzake radar was a more common traffic control radar used by the military. Resolution capabilities for this radar would not be as precise. For the Glons and the Semmerzake radar to be able to positively identify these targets as the same echo at such distances apart is difficult. According to Auguste Meessen and the BAF report, this is what happened. Although the visual observations of multiple UFOs did not match the singular echo, Glons directed the launching of two F-16 interceptors around midnight.
Looking at the summary report gives a certain impression not so readily obtained when looking at the transcripts of the flight. We know the pilots were scrambled to investigate the contact that was supposed to be the same as the visual sightings by the Gendarmie. However, reading the transcript, we discover the pilots could not see this contact on radar or visually, despite flying by the target! At 0007, the pilots are talking to control and discover that their first target is at 310 degrees azimuth and 15nm away. When asked for an altitude, control does not have one! The planes travel at 9000 feet. Eventually the controlling station gives an altitude of 10,000 feet and gives direction for an intercept. The F-16s rapidly close at a rate of roughly 7nm/min. This equates to roughly 420 knots, which is the air speed of the F-16. Although we do not know the exact speed at this moment, it certainly appears the radar contact they were sent to intercept was moving very slow or was stationary. As the planes close, we hear Glons pointing out that the target is slow moving. The planes then pass by the target (supposedly the target is overhead) but the pilots see nothing and track nothing on radar. This continues for some time as the pilots move about. By 0013, Glons has lost contact and all the pilots can show for it is a flashing light on the ground. This later turns out to be a smokestack.
At 0013, Glons finds another target. The pilot locks and gets an altitude of 9000 feet and speed of 970 nm/hr which then drops to 310 nm/hr. However, as the pilots close we discover that the contact is fading in and out. Again, the pilots overshoot the target and see nothing. The pilots maneuver several times to the target tracked by radar and actually pass underneath the target at 0015. Not once do the pilots see anything resembling a UFO and the UFO remains elusive to radar. The pilots continue to fly loops southwest of Brussels until 0029 when they move to the east towards Wavre.
At 0030, the pilots track a new target. This target is somewhat elusive and the pilots appear to track several targets near Wavre. During this period, it is know that the wingman locked onto the lead F-16! By 0031, a contact had been identified at 5000 feet and the pilot has established a lock. However, the pilot quickly loses this contact as well. Glons directs them to a new contact to the East of the two aircraft but this too eludes the tracking ability of the F-16 fighters. By 0033, Glons and the F-16s can not locate any targets.
The next series of contacts start around 0039 and produces another last lock-on. At one point, the pilots and Glons can not even agree on the distance to the target. Surprisingly, the altitudes of the contacts are still near 10,000 feet. Again, the target is described as slow moving. This time closure rate is at 4 nm/min. The pilots have the UFO pass in front of them by no more than a 3 NM. Again, the pilots see no UFO despite being a distance close enough for visual recognition. Despite all the maneuvering that follows, the pilots can only see an airplane beacon from civilian traffic in the distance. Again, Glons and the F-16s lose contact with the UFOs.
The last series of contacts are brief to the NW. The pilots appear to be closing and the contact simply disappears before the pilots can close.
According to the report, three contacts were made on the second series between 0013 and 0015. The longest was 19.9 seconds (The others were 2.3 and 3.4 sec). Five contacts can be ascribed to third contact series. The longest is 27.5 seconds (shortest 0.1 sec, others 8,9.3 and 11.4). Four contacts can be ascribed to series four. These are 45.9, 16.2, 11.4, and 9.5 seconds. The last series has only one contact lasting 11.2 seconds. The fourth contact series is probably the best but the pilots do not see it despite it passing in front of them.
We also have one lock-on data table that last 22.5 seconds. Despite the UFOs reporting to have immediately responded to "lock-ons" we see that the response is not that immediate in this case. It takes the UFO 4 full seconds to go into evasive maneuvers! It then flies straight for another 4 seconds at a speed of 560nm/hr. The headings keep varying as the UFO tries to "evade" and the UFO increases altitude towards the jets (not very smart flying to the same altitude as the jets). Shortly thereafter, the UFO takes the only positive evasion maneuver and dives for the earth at tremendous speed (roughly 1000nm/hr). The pilots then receive a break lock as the altitude drops to 0000 (roughly 200-500 feet above surface or less). No ground observers in the area, see or hear anything. No sonic boom and no crash (indications are that it either stopped suddenly by the earth or by incredible braking abilities). The data that this presents indicates nothing significant.
What really happened that night was examined by Auguste Meessen over the 1990s and by the BAF. Initially the data from the F-16s appeared promising and exciting. However, after examining the data carefully, it was determined that all the contacts could be explained. What produced the contacts? According to Auguste Meessen, he feels that cells of warm humid air produced these false echoes. He suggests that these convection cells were the source of all the false echoes seen by the ground stations. The F-16 data indicates that the contacts they recorded were also of this nature. The phenomenal speeds were simply problems with the doppler radar interpreting the speeds relative to the F-16s own motion. In some of the instances of lock-ons, the radar tapes showed the contacts at a NEGATIVE ALTITUDE. Meessen wrote, "It was evidently impossible that an object could penetrate the ground, but it was possible that the ground could act as a mirror." (Berlinner, Galbraith, and Huneeus 141-2)
There is documentation provided by Professor Meessen. The weather that night was unusual but not for the normal means of anomalous propagation. While there was a slight temperature inversion, which is the usual source of false echoes, there were also areas of high humidity and high winds at the 10,000-foot level. Meessen suggests that the high humidity was a major factor, but it is known that turbulent atmospheric conditions can also produce such echoes. Both factors appear to have played a factor in producing false echoes that night. In addition to false echoes, these atmospheric conditions played a role in the visual observations. Professor Meessen personally interviewed the witnesses and determined that what they saw was simply stars and planets. The bright stars Sirius, Procyon, Rigel, and Betelgeuse were located in the southwest. Additionally, the planet, Jupiter, as well as the first magnitude stars Castor, Pollux, Aldeberan, and Capella were easily visible as well. Any combination of bright stars would produce the triangle shape reported. Meessen particularly notes Sirius as the source of the original report. Any star, seen under turbulent/humid atmospheric conditions would scintillate madly and give the impression of a UFO emitting colors, beams, changing shape, and bobbing about a fixed point in the sky. According to the BAF summary,
These lights are distinctly more intense than stars and planets, they don't move and are located at the apexes of an equilateral triangle. Their color is changing: red, green and yellow Captain Pinson describes the observed phenomenon as follows: the bright points have the dimension of a big star(*); their color changes continually. The prevailing color is red; then it changes itself in blue, green, yellow and white, but not always in the same order. The lights are very clear, as if they were signals: this enables to distinguish them from stars. (Stewart)
The radar contact initially reported appeared to be to the southwest of Wavre. The F-16s were directed to this but all they could see was a smokestack light. The location reported closely matches the location of a power generating station/factory on my map of Belgium (it appears to be a short distance to the WSW). Is it possible that the rising heat plume created a temperature inversion column that affected the radio waves passing through it and generated a false contact? Or is it possible that the soot rising from the smokestack was reflecting the radio waves? Professor Meessen writes that smokestacks can produce their own microclimates and form false echoes. The coincidence of this stack with the initial contact can not be ignored. The altitude of the contact was given as 10,000 feet but the column would rise upward until broken up by the high altitude winds (50/60 knots at 10,000feet). Also, the reported noted that the radar contacts drifted in the general direction of the wind:
The first observation of the slow motion of the UFOs has been made roughly in the same direction and with the same speed as the wind. (Stewart)
It seems that the launching of the F-16s was merely the result of misperceptions of stars and the false echo produced by a factory!
The summary, written in mid-1990, made some very interesting conclusions about these events. Each can be addressed.
In contradiction with other pointed out UFO sightings, for the first time a radar contact has been positively observed, in correlation with different sensors of the Air Force (CRC, TCC, RAPCON, EBBE and F-16 radar), and this in the same area as visual observations. This has to be explained by the fact that the March 30-31 UFOs have been noticed at +/- 10000 feet altitude, whereas in the former cases there was always talk of visual contacts at very low altitude. (Stewart)
While this may sound incredible, the lack of true visual confirmation of the UFO brings into question what was seen on radar. The altitude seems to match the regions of high altitude winds giving the indication that the winds could have caused some of these contacts. Also, all of the radar did not record the same contacts at the same time as shown by the above discussion.
The visual evidences, on which this report is partially based, come from gendarmes in duty, whose objectivity cannot be questioned. (Stewart)
The BAF was not aware of the fact that police officers can easily make and often do make mistakes. Hendry and Loftus both made this perfectly clear.
The UFOs, as soon as seen by the F-16 radar in the "Target Track" mode (after interception), have drastically changed their parameters. (Stewart)
This may be the case but when one examines the data from one of the lock-ons, we discover the UFO did not respond instantaneously. It actually took over four seconds to respond from time of "lock-on". Also, the focusing of the radar beam in STT mode would cause any false targets to behave erratically or even disappear. Again, the lack of true radar-visual confirmation brings into question what was being reported.
The fighter pilots never have had visual contact with the UFOs. This can be explained by the changes of luminous intensity, and even the disappearance of the UFOs, when the F-16 arrived in the neighborhood of the place where they were observed from the ground. (Stewart)
However, the witnesses who saw the UFOs never reported such maneuvers and the UFOs were visible to them even though the F-16s were nearby.
The hypothesis according to which it was an optical illusion, a mistake for planets, or any other meteorological phenomenon, is in contradiction with the radar observations, especially the 10000 feet altitude and the geometrical position of the UFOs between themselves. The geometrical formation tends to prove a program. (Stewart)
The 10,000 foot altitude is interesting and there may be an answer with this. Meessen's later evaluations indicate the cause was due to unusual meteorological conditions. The geometrical formation is not that special. ANY three lights form a triangle unless they are in a straight line! To dismiss planets and stars demonstrates that the BAF did not really look into this aspect. Meessen did arrive at this conclusion.
The first observation of the slow motion of the UFOs has been made roughly in the same direction and with the same speed as the wind.
The direction differs by 30 degrees from the direction of the wind (260 degrees instead of 230 degrees). The hypothesis of sounding balloons is very improbable. The UFOs altitude during all this phase remained 10000 feet, whereas the sounding balloons go on higher and higher, up to burst at around 100000 feet. It is difficult to explain the bright lights and changes of color with such balloons. It is very improbable that balloons stay at the same altitude during more than one hour, while keeping the same position between themselves. In Belgium, during the radar observation, there was no meteorological inversion in progress. The hypothesis according to which it could be other balloons must be absolutely dismissed. (Stewart)
Of course, balloons do not seem to be culprit in this case. The fact that the wind played a role is directly indicative of a meteorological source for the strange echoes.
Though speeds greater than the sound barrier have been measured several times, not any bang has been noticed. Here also, no explanation can be given. (Stewart)
This in itself should rule out any actual physical craft. The lack of sound from such an event defies known physical laws. While a craft from outer space may be able to execute such speeds, the outside environment can not be manipulated as easily. If such a craft could do this, it certainly would not allow itself to be tracked by something as archaic as radar. Even our own Stealth aircraft can avoid leaving a trace on radar.
Recently, I have been informed that the suppression of sonic booms is possible and that there is research on the matter. There have been patents filed for such inventions but this was in the late 90s. This points out that it was not of terrestrial origin. No known aircraft in 1990 could have suppressed a sonic boom. Any alien craft would have to have the technology but then how did they have the ability to suppress a sonic boom but not have the ability to mask their appearance visually or by radar? Even today, our defense department is evolving aircraft with chameleon-like surfaces to mask their appearance in the sky. If one were to suggest that an alien craft had one of these technologies it stands to reason they would have all. This means that no UFO event would have been seen or heard visually or electronically. This points out the great inconsistency in such an argument about the ETH for this event.
Though the different ground witnesses have effectively pointed out eight points in the sky, the radars have registered only one contact at the same time. The points have been seen at a distance one from another sufficient for them to be distinguished by the radars also. (Stewart)
This should eliminate any indication of a radar-visual confirmation. The radar did not match the visuals reported!
THE END OF THE BELGIAN UFO MYTH
It seems that many of the events that took place in Belgium in 1989-1990 were simply misperceptions of ordinary objects. One can not conclusively state that no alien spaceships were seen during this period but a vast majority of the sightings can be explained, including the most spectacular parts of the "wave". The writings of Meessen indicate that he was in search of evidence for a UFO but could not find anything that can be considered significant evidence backed by visual observations. He did find two tracks that he considered unique when examining the radar data but these tracks were not extremely unusual and could have been unidentified aircraft. There were no UFO reports to match the tracks and the tracks do not perform beyond the means of known aircraft. If this is the evidence of alien visitation during the period, then it is very weak. Looking at the data being presented there appears to be nothing to indicate that anything closely resembling an alien spaceship was actually seen during the wave. There are tantalizing reports but these do not seem to stand up under close scrutiny.
The 1989-1990 Belgian Wave is cemented in UFO folklore. Evidence to the contrary will not be examined by many UFOlogists. In writing about the Belgian UFO wave in his 1998 book, Project Moon Dust, Kevin Randle never once mentions the studies of Meessen or Salmon/Gilmard. Meessen is mentioned but only in a way to refute that the Stealth F-117 was involved somehow. The rest of Meessens evaluations are ignored. However, books written by European authors seem to be less spectacular and more in keeping with the known facts. This is probably due to the information flow and the interaction between UFOlogists in the area. British UFO author, Jenny Randles mentions these studies in her book UFO:Danger in the Air and she also gives the impression that the UFO reports were nothing more than misperceptions (although she suggests that F-117 operations could be the source for some of the events - something the USAF denies was the case). Despite the downplaying by such Europeans as Wim Van Utrecht, Jenny Randles, Peter Brookesmith, Eduardo Russo, Jean-Pierre Pharabod, and others, we discover that American UFOlogists have firmly engraved the Belgian wave into UFO history. Like the Roswell case, when an event such as this has been established as the model UFO event, it is beyond reproach. Authors will quote old data written early on instead of looking at more recent evaluations made by those who personally investigated the case. The admittance of a classic UFO case as being explained is almost unthinkable. Various arguments such as proving the existence of such weather conditions or the need for unusual coincidences become the counter argument. The proponents of an unusual craft meanwhile do not consider the likelihood of such a vehicle flying through the earth's atmosphere as being more absurd. For them, to remove the Belgian wave from the UFO history would be the equivalent of proclaiming a priceless religious artifact a hoax.
Berliner, Don, Marie Galbraith, and Antonio Huneeus. UFO BRIEFING DOCUMENT: THE BEST AVAILABLE EVIDENCE. Dell Publishing, New York, NY. 1995
Corbin, Michael. Paranet UFO echo posting. "Belgian UFO." 26 November 1991
Hendry, Allan. THE UFO INVESTIGATORS HANDBOOK. Sphere Books Ltd, London, UK. 1980.
Leclet, Renaud. The Belgian UFO wave of 1989-1992 - A neglected hypothesis. unpublished manuscript available WWW: http://gmh.chez-alice.fr/RLT/BUW-RLT-10-2008.pdf
Loftus, Elizabeth. "Eyewitnesses: Essential but Unreliable". Psychology Today February 1984
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Louie, Gilman and Peter Bonanni. FALCON 4.0. Microprose USA November 1998 (Although a flight simulation program handbook, it has a wealth of data on the F-16 radar
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Non-Meteorological Echoes. Online WWW: http://www-cmpo.mit.edu/Radar_Lab/Gallery/txt_clutter.html
Meessen, Auguste. "THE BELGIAN SIGHTINGS." International UFO Reporter May/June 1991.
Meessen, Auguste. "Analyse approfondie des mystérieux enregistrements radar des F-16." Inforespace December 1998.
NAVY ELECTRONICS AND ELECTRICITY TRAINING SERIES MODULE 10: INTRODUCTION TO TRANSMISSION LINES, WAVE PROPAGATION, AND ANTENNAS. Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC), Pensacola, Florida. September, 1998.
NAVY ELECTRONICS AND ELECTRICITY TRAINING SERIES MODULE 18: RADAR PRINCIPLES. Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center (NETPDTC), Pensacola, Florida. September, 1998.
Randle, Kevin. Project Moon Dust. Avon Books. New York, NY. 1998.
Randles, Jenny. UFO: DANGER IN THE AIR. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. New York, NY. 1999.
University of Illinois. Clear Air Returns. Online WWW: http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/%28Gh%29/guides/rs/rad/basics/cltr.rxml
USNI Military Database. AN/APG-66. Online WWW: http://www.periscopeone.com/demo/weapons/sensors/airradar/w0003465.html
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