Thursday, February 20, 2014

Belgian UFO wave 1989-1992 – Part 3

The 30-31 March 1990 UFO chase

One of the most publicized aspects of the Belgian UFO wave was the 30-31 March 1990 F-16 chase of an unknown radar return. This event constituted an important part of the Belgian wave, as it provided an array of good quality data from multiple credible sources about what was going on in the sky. Furthermore, this led to further cooperation between the Belgian military and the SOBEPS civilian UFO organization. Also, the personal involvement of the military in charge, the then Colonel De Brouwer (who became Major General a few years later) continued through a friendly collaboration with the SOBEPS for a number years afterward. But most importantly, it was further confirmation that whatever was happening, it could not be explained away, and thus re-confirmed the anomalistic nature of the phenomenon.

To understand better the context of that night of March 1990, a general overview of the UFO chase is presented. It is followed by a first assessment of the Belgian UFO wave based on the available data, including the observation spikes previously presented. But first, here is the general chronology of events from the SOBEPS book, in the chapter written by Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991 (with page numbers in parentheses):

On 30 March, around 2300, the Belgian police was called by an off-duty police officer, who observed with his wife and another couple UFOs in formation seen in the night sky in the area general area of Wavre. It was, once again, the “unplanely” appearance and behavior that caught their attention. The objects were described as moving in an unpredictable way, with lights appearing and disappearing, and changing color to include white, blue, red, and green. The witness then called the Beauvechain military base and at that point the lights became slower, and maybe stationary, and turned into a red color. The witness was told to contact Glons NATO radar station instead, as Beauvechain was on minimum manning because it was the weekend, which he did (p. 180). Wavre is about midway between Brussels and Namur, while Glons is about 15 km north of Liege (see map).

At 2305, the Belgian military, in turn, called the police to get confirmation that the call received from the witness was indeed corroborated by the police itself (p. 226). This procedure was established in the weeks prior to the events, given the costs involved in sending airplanes investigating any unknown.

At around 2315, two police officers arrived and met the witnesses. These officers were not only able to confirm the first observation by seeing the lights in the sky, but they also saw two more UFOs with white lights disposed in a triangular formation. Then, an aircraft passed above the UFOs and its lights moved away from each other and turned red. Once the aircraft passed, the lights took back their original formation and color (p. 181). Around the same time, the Glons NATO radar station had a first return with an unknown (p. 226).

At 2325, the police asked other units by radio if they could confirm the observations too, and two other teams (with two and three officers, respectively) corroborated the first observations by visual observations (p. 182-184). The military was then informed by the police that they had more than one visual confirmations, with a total of eight police officers (one off-duty) and three civilians from three different locations.

At 2349, a second ground radar station further west had also a return from an unknown, at Semmerzake (p. 226). Semmerzake is just south of Ghent (please see map).

At 2356, the Belgian military decides that it had enough evidence to warrant further investigation, and two F-16 fighter jets were ordered to scramble and identify the unknown (p. 226). At 0005 (31 March), the two F-16 fighter jets took off (p. 226).


From 0007 to 0054, 9 interceptions in total were attempted by the F-16. There were three brief combat radar locks-on from the F-16, which in each case caused a swift change of behavior from the UFO. No visual contact was ever made by the pilots (p. 226). The police on the ground, however, was in constant communication with the Glons radar station to provide them with visual descriptions of what they were seeing during the chase.

• At 0013, the first combat radar lock-on occurred, but in 3 seconds the object went from 150 to 970 knots (280 km/h to 1890 km/h) and dropped from 9000 to 5000 feet. A few seconds later it returned to 11000 feet and quickly to down to ground level (p. 227).

• At 0030, there is the second lock-on for 6 seconds; the combat radar system very briefly showed a jamming signal on the in-flight screen (p. 227). At the same time, police officers and witnesses on the ground saw the lights of the F-16 turning around in the sky, while most of the UFO lights went off (p. 227).

• At 0037, the last lock-on happened, lasting only a few seconds (p. 227).

• Between 0045 and 0100, the fighter jets still tried several interceptions again, but to no avail (pp. 227-228).

• At 0102, the F-16 fighter jets returned to their base (p. 228).

• At 0106, the police informed the military that a similar observation was made at Joidoigne (p. 228). Joidoigne is about 20 km east of Wavre (see map).

• At 0130, witnesses (including police officers) reported that the last lights in the sky were gone (p. 186).

• Beyond the police officers and the civilian witnesses already noted, at least 7 other reports confirmed the observations of the night (pp. 197-190).

After these events, the Belgian military launched an investigation to understand what happened. This led to the drafting of the Lambrechts Report (from the name of the author, a Major in the Belgian military), and an English version is available here. The Belgian military could not find an explanation to what happened. In June of the same year, the Report was publically released and the Belgian military made all their data available for further analysis by SOBEPS and whoever is interested in studying them.[1]

Human and human-made sensing

The Belgian UFO wave, like any such wave, was made of many events that bring a wide array of data that are baffling. The reports from the observation spike days brought a multitude of data that cannot be easily collated into a coherent picture. There were many different shapes observed, different light arrangements and colors, sometime with noise other times without, etc. The UFO chase ended up raising more questions than producing answers. So, is there any pattern that emerged from these strange events?

One pattern emerging from all this is that what the human senses were able to capture and what the human-made sensors recorded is divergent. The Lambrechts Report underlined two particularly interesting aspects of the UFO chase. One is that “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”[2], and “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. No plausible explanation can be put forward”[3].

On the 30-31 March UFO chase, the SOBEPS did some analysis of its own, and a few interesting points emerged there too. The Glons radar station had an unidentified between about 2315 and 0020, and it was moving from East to West in a relatively straight line at an average speed of 41 km/h, between Brussels and Mons. The Semmerzake radar station confirmed these tracking from Glons (Meessen, 1991b: 364-365). The Belgian military officer in charge of the UFO investigation, De Brouwer, wrote in the SOBEPS book that in spite of having a lock-on on their combat radars, the F-16 avionics did not provide a location for what the radars were sensing, as it should normally do, raising the question as whether the jets were chasing electromagnetic perturbations. Yet, in light of the numerous eye witnesses’ reports, it appeared to him that the F-16s were indeed chasing something real (De Brouwer, 1991: 489). 

Hence, we had a situation where:

1.       The ground witnesses and fighter pilots were dealing with several objects with fast and unpredictable behaviors, while ground radars had a return from something moving slow and in relatively straight line.

2.       The fighter pilots did not see anything visually, and their on board equipment were showing something that produced a return (which guided their pursuit) and yet without identifying any actual physical location for it.

3.       The witnesses noted that the phenomenon continued after the jets were gone around Joidoigne, which is further east of the UFO chase events while the UFO was tracked as moving west towards the French border.

4.       The discrepancy between the ground radar stations and the human witnesses actually happened before. On 21 December 1989, the Belgian Ministry of Defense released a public statement that the visual observations reported to the police did not correlate with radar tracking, and F-16 patrolled the areas in question and had no contact with unknown objects, (the Ministry of Defense confirmed that there were no AWACS, US stealth aircrafts, or military drone in the areas where reporting was coming from (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 126)).

The photographic evidence was overall quite similar in terms of what the human eye could see and what was captured by cameras. Many witnesses thought they had a good shot at what they were seeing, and yet the picture never turned out with anything more than vague lights in the sky. Here are some of the comments from the various witnesses who took pictures: the picture taken were incorrectly developed afterward (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 94); the Camcorder inexplicably did not filmed while the witness thought he was filming (Ibid, 98); the pictures taken showed nothing that could be seen after being developed (Ibid., 99); the film showed an indistinct white light, like a distress flare (Ibid., 98); an imprecise picture was taken, but one could see anything he wanted into it (Ibid., 106).

One of the most interesting photographic events of the wave happened at Trooz, near Liege, on 11 December 1989 (second spike of observations) to a family (three adults and the two teenage kids) who saw a white and powerful but strange light at around 1745. After watching it for several minutes, two of the adults decided to drive to get a closer look. They watched it for another 15 minutes from a high point. Then, they decided to go back home. But the lights came back, and they could see a powerful “search light” in front of an object with two with lights at the extremities showing a triangular shaped object, with a row of red lights at the back. The object was by then right above the house, at an estimated altitude of 50 meters. One of the adults took three pictures of the object before it quickly moved away.  And yet, once the film was developed it was showing only a white vapor on one picture, a trace of something on the second one, and nothing on the third one (Ibid., 84-85)!

These numerous discrepancies between what the human senses could capture and what human-made devices could record, led many pseudo-sceptics quickly to conclude that all this was simply mass delusion, and wishful thinking. And as usual, the pseudo-sceptics did not bother trying to explain how several minutes of up close observations from many witnesses, from different locations, oftentimes not knowing each other could have produced a “mass delusion” (let alone detailed military investigations on the UFO chase). Once more, the anomaly remains an anomal
Yet, these events remain a full-fledge anomaly, however, only if one key implicit assumption is maintained, namely that reality exists only in one unified strata. Science has long proven that this assumption is actually wrong. For instance, the human eye can only see the visible spectrum of light but this does not prevent other forms of light to exist in the ultra-violent and infrared spectrum, each requiring its own specialized piece of equipment to detect. At the more complex level, one can think of the completely different stratum of molecular biology, bio-chemistry, physiology, living being behaviors, and ecology as representing as many different layers of a same reality that cannot be reduced to one another. Multiple layers of reality co-exist and they require their own sensing and analysis to detect and understand.

Based on the large amount of evidence collected through the Belgian UFO wave, it is reasonable to say that “something” happened. Yet, that “something” had both a physical dimension that could be recorded by cameras and radars, and another dimension that could be captured by the human mind. The recordings from cameras and radars were analyzed extensively by the SOBEPS, the Belgian military and others, and the main conclusions are that it was something real but ephemeral, elusive, and possibly not even physically “hard” (De Brouwer, 1991: 489). Yet, what the human mind captured during the Belgian wave was described at length but it remains relatively under-studied. It is where an analysis from the perspective of parapsychology and parasociology might actually shed some light on what happened.


[1] Interestingly, the SOBEPS leadership visited the Glons radar station at the invitation of the Belgian military on 22 January 1990 (Bougard & Clerebaut, 1991: 143).

[2] From the English translation of the report found at

[3] Idem.


Bougard, Michel and Lucien Clerebaut. (1991). "Chronique d'une vague". In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS, pp. 51-296.

De Brouwer, Wilfried. (1991). " Postface".  In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS., pp. 483-492.

Meessen, Auguste. (1991b). "La détection radar". In SOBEPS, Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique: Un dossier exceptionnel. Bruxelles: SOBEPS., pp. 351-396.

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