Belgian UFO wave

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The Belgian UFO wave was a series of purported sightings of triangular UFOs in Belgium, which lasted from 29 November 1989 to April 1990.

The sightings[edit]

The Belgian UFO wave began in November 1989. The events of 29 November would be documented by thirty different groups of witnesses, and three separate groups of police officers. All the reports related a large object flying at low altitude. The craft was of a flat, triangular shape, with lights underneath. This giant craft did not make a sound as it slowly moved across the landscape of Belgium. There was free sharing of information as the Belgian populace tracked this craft as it moved from the town of Liege to the border of the Netherlands and Germany.[1]

The Belgian UFO wave peaked with the events of the night of 30–31 March 1990. On that night, unknown objects were tracked on radar, chased by two Belgian Air Force F-16s, photographed, and were sighted by an estimated 13,500 people on the ground – 2,600 of whom filed written statements describing in detail what they had seen.[2] Following the incident, the Belgian air force released a report detailing the events of that night.

At around 23:00 on 30 March, the supervisor for the Control Reporting Center (CRC) at Glons received reports that three unusual lights were seen moving towards Thorembais-Gembloux, which lies to the southeast of Brussels. The lights were reported to be brighter than stars, changing color between red, green and yellow, and appeared to be fixed at the vertices of an equilateral triangle. At this point, Glons CRC requested the Wavre gendarmerie send a patrol to confirm the sighting.

Approximately 10 minutes later, a second set of lights was sighted moving towards the first triangle. By around 23:30, the Wavre gendarmerie had confirmed the initial sightings and Glons CRC had been able to observe the phenomenon on radar. During this time, the second set of lights, after some erratic manoeuvres, had also formed themselves into a smaller triangle. After tracking the targets and after receiving a second radar confirmation from the Traffic Center Control at Semmerzake, Glons CRC gave the order to scramble two F-16 fighters from Beauvechain Air Base shortly before midnight. Throughout this time, the phenomenon was still clearly visible from the ground, with witnesses describing the whole formation as maintaining their relative positions while moving slowly across the sky. Witnesses also reported two dimmer lights towards the municipality of Eghezee displaying similar erratic movements to the second set of lights.

Over the next hour, the two scrambled F-16s attempted nine separate interceptions of the targets. On three occasions, they managed to obtain a radar lock for a few seconds but each time the targets changed position and sped up so rapidly that the lock was broken. During the first radar lock, the target accelerated from 240 km/h to over 1,770 km/h while changing altitude from 2,700 m to 1,500 m, then up to 3,350 m before descending to almost ground level – the first descent of more than 900 m taking less than two seconds. Similar manoeuvres were observed during both subsequent radar locks. On no occasion were the F-16 pilots able to make visual contact with the targets and at no point, despite the speeds involved, was there any indication of a sonic boom.

During this time, ground witnesses broadly corroborate the information obtained by radar. They described seeing the smaller triangle completely from sight at one point, while the larger triangle moved upwards very rapidly as the F-16s flew past. After 00:30, radar contact became much more sporadic and the final confirmed lock took place at 00:40. This final lock was once again broken by an acceleration from around 160 km/h to 1,120 km/h, after which the radar of the F-16s and those at Glons and Semmerzake all lost contact. Following several further unconfirmed contacts, the F-16s eventually returned to base shortly after 01:00.

The final details of the sighting were provided by the members of the Wavre gendarmerie who had been sent to confirm the original report. They describe four lights now being arranged in a square formation, all making short jerky movements, before gradually losing their luminosity and disappearing in four separate directions at around 01:30.[3]


A supposed black triangle, 15 June 1990, Wallonia, Belgium. Claimed to have been taken during the UFO wave. A similar photo was taken in Petit-Rechain on 4 April 1990.[4]

In April 1990, a photo of a triangular object upon which three lights are visible at each corner was taken by an anonymous photographer. Since then, a man named Patrick M. publicly claimed that the picture was a hoax by him.[5]

Skeptics say there is no background in the photograph and no element that would allow calculation of the object's size or distance from the camera. Wim van Utrecht, a Belgian skeptic, has reproduced a copy of the photograph with devices. A computer graphics simulation method[6] to reproduce the photograph was developed by a Belgian mathematician, Thierry Veyt at The University of Liège Laboratory of Astrophysics, wherein the apparent "shake" motion, that results in the lights of the craft appearing blurred or out of focus in the photograph contradicts eye-witness statements. This, along with the anonymity of the photographer and fact that the image was not produced publicly until 4 months after the alleged event, brings the authenticity of the image into question.

For 20 years, the ufological organization Société belge d'étude des phénomènes spatiaux (SOBEPS) claimed that this picture was genuine. But on 26 July 2011, in an interview for RTL, a Belgian TV channel, Patrick M. claimed that it was a hoax.[4][7]

In his September 27, 2016 Skeptoid podcast episode titled "The Belgian UFO Wave," scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning discussed the photographic evidence and reported that the

single photograph turns out to be emblematic of the quality of all the evidence that characterized the Belgian UFO Wave. In 2011, a guy named Patrick Maréchal invited Belgian reporters to his home to show them what he and some buddies had done at work one day when the media hype had been at its peak. They took a sheet of styrofoam, cut it into a triangle, painted it black, embedded a flashlight in each corner, then hung it from a string. Maréchal still had tons of photos that they'd taken trying to get that one that was just right, and that fooled the world[8]

Skeptical explanations[edit]

In 1992, about three years after the first sighting, which occurred on 29 November 1989, in Eupen, Belgian skeptic Marc Hallet wrote an essay about the Belgian UFO wave criticizing the work done by the SOBEPS: La Vague OVNI Belge ou le triomphe de la désinformation,[9] arguing that this UFOlogical organisation was spreading misinformations in the media. Hallet's thesis is that the Belgian UFO wave was mostly a mass delusion, boosted by the work done by the SOBEPS. This mass delusion would have followed Philip J. Klass's law: Once news coverage leads the public to believe that UFOs may be in the vicinity, there are numerous natural and man-made objects which, especially seen at night, can take on unusual characteristics in the minds of hopeful viewers. Their UFO reports in turn add to the mass excitement, which encourages still more observers to watch for UFOs. This situation feeds upon itself until such time as the media lose interest in the subject, and then the « flap » quickly runs out of steam..[8][10]

In 1993, Pierre Magain and Marc Remy published an article in Physicalia Magazine,[11] in which their conclusions don't match those from the SOBEPS. They also state that the Belgian UFO wave would be better studied by people in the human sciences than by physicists.

In The Belgian UFO Wave of 1989–1992 – A Neglected Hypothesis, Renaud Leclet & co. discuss the fact that some sightings can be explained by helicopters. Most witnesses reported that the objects were silent. This report argues that the lack of noise could be due to the engine noise in the witnesses' automobiles, or strong natural wind blowing away from the witnesses.[12]

In his article The Beginning of the Belgian UFO wave, Jean-Michel Abrassart argues that the beginning of the wave does not contradict the psychosocial hypothesis,[13] contrary to what the SOBEPS claimed in his work. In an article published on his website in 2011, The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies, Auguste Meessen[14] replied to several skeptical criticisms (by Roger Paquay and Jean-Michel Abrassart) and still argues that, according to him, the Belgian UFO wave is completely unexplained. Roger Paquay[15] and Jean-Michel Abrassart[16] both wrote rebuttals to the Belgian physicist's article.

In "The Belgian UFO Wave" Skeptoid podcast episode, Brian Dunning discussed the F-16 chase and reported that

The pilots also got intermittent contact with objects, but they appeared and disappeared and moved up and down too fast, including going underground. The pilots never saw anything at all. SOBEPS reported that they obtained radar lock on targets nine times; but the Belgian military only reported three such locks, and upon analyzing the data, all three radar locks were on each other. The other contacts were all found to be the result of a well-known atmospheric interference called Bragg scattering.[8][17]

Regarding the "wave" of eye-witness reports and lack of photographic evidence, Dunning concludes

You read a story in the paper that a UFO was seen flying over your town a night or two ago. You remember that you saw something you took for a bright star or an airplane, thought nothing of it at the time, but this amazing new story makes you realize that what you saw must have been this UFO. You and I might not necessarily make that connection, but it's perfectly reasonable that a lot of people will; and so they follow the instructions in the newspaper article and send a report to SOBEPS. With so many articles over a period of years in a small country, it's no great surprise that SOBEPS reported they eventually received as many as 2,600 in all. The 143 reports Meessen claims for the original November 29 incident were indeed received, but only after more than a week of aggressive and repeated solicitation in the mass media. It is only much later retellings of the story that wrongly assume all 2,600 were reported as people were watching the F-16s chase the UFOs, or that all 143 initial reports came independently on that first night. All the reports were after the fact, and were only made after prompting and solicitation by SOBEPS and the media.

It was simply a psycho-social phenomenon, which is why there is no evidence and only the one questionable photograph. If 13,500 people did all actually see something that they took for a UFO at the time, I guarantee you that more than just a single photograph would have resulted.[8]


Vague OVNI sur la Belgique (UFO wave over Belgium), written by the defunct SOBEPS organisation. Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows 1, Written by A.J. Hartley and Tom Delonge (2016).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Belgium UFO Wave". Archived from the original on 24 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "'Sunday Express' article on Belgium UFO". Sunday Express. 17 September 1995. Retrieved 21 March 2008. 
  3. ^ "Report concerning the observation of UFOs in the night from March 30 to March 31, 1990 –". Retrieved 21 March 2008. 
  4. ^ a b "Le mystère du célèbre OVNI des années 90 élucidé : "Une supercherie"". RTL. August 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Original paper given to the french newspaper Le Soir Illustré and reproduced by Les repas ufologiques parisiens, a french ufo association Le flou de bougé de la photo de petit-rechain par la calcul matriciel
  7. ^ "Classic" UFO Photo from Belgian Wave – the Hoaxer Confesses
  8. ^ a b c d Dunning, Brian. "Skeptoid #538: The Belgian UFO Wave". Skeptoid. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Hallet, M. (1992). La Vague OVNI Belge ou le triomphe de la désinformation. Liège : Chez L’auteur
  10. ^ Klass, P. J. (1986). UFOs : The public deceived. New York, USA : Prometheus Books.
  11. ^ Pierre Magain & Marc Remy (1993). « Les OVNI : un sujet de recherche ? », Physicalia Magazine, vol. 15, n°4, pp. 311–18.
  12. ^ "The Belgian UFO Wave of 1989–1992 – A Neglected Hypothesis" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2010. 
  13. ^ Abrassart, J-M (2010). The Beginning of the Belgian UFO wave. SUNLite, vol. 2, num. 6, pp. 21–23.
  14. ^ Meessen, A. (2011). The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies, pp. 21–23.
  15. ^ Paquay, R. (2011). Answer to "The Belgian wave and the photos of Ramillies". SUNLite, vol. 3, n°3, pp. 20–22.
  16. ^ Abrassart, J-M. (2011). In defense of the psychosociological hypothesis – Another reply to Auguste Meessen. SUNLite, vol. 3, n°4 Archived 28 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine., pp. 9–12.
  17. ^ Wolff, Christian. "Radar Basics: Bragg-Scattering". Retrieved 2 October 2016. 

External links[edit]