Black triangle (UFO)

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An artist's concept of a black triangle object

Black triangles are a class of unidentified flying object (UFO), with certain common features which have reportedly been observed during the 20th and 21st centuries. Media reports of black triangles originally came from the United States and United Kingdom.[1]

Reports generally describe this class of UFOs as large, silent, black triangular objects hovering or slowly cruising at low altitudes over cities and highways. Sightings usually take place at night. These objects are often described as having pulsing colored lights that appear at each corner of the triangle.[2]

Black triangle UFOs have been found to be visible to radar, as was the case with the famous Belgian UFO wave. During these incidents, two Belgian Air Force F-16s attempted to intercept the objects only to be outmaneuvered; a key conclusion of the Project Condign report was that no attempt should be made on the part of civilian or RAF Air Defence aircraft to outmaneuver these objects except to place them astern to mitigate the risk of collision.[3] This entire Belgian UFO wave, however, has been disputed by skeptics.[4][5]

UK Ministry of Defence Report Findings[edit]

UAP Formation of the Triangle Type[6]

Declassified research (subject to a Freedom of Information request) from the UK Ministry of Defence report Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in the UK Air Defence Region,[7] code named Project Condign and released to the public in 2006, draws several conclusions as to the origin of "black triangle" UFO sightings. Their researchers conclude that most, if not all, "black triangle" UFOs are formations of electrical plasma, the interaction of which creates mysterious energy fields that both refract light and produce vivid hallucinations in witnesses that are in close proximity. Further it suggests that "the majority, if not all, of the hitherto unexplained reports may well be due to atmospheric gaseous electrically charged buoyant plasmas" [8] which emit charged fields with the capability of inducing vivid hallucinations and psychological effects in witnesses and are "capable of being transported at enormous speeds under the influence and balance of electrical charges in the atmosphere." The researchers note that plasmas may be formed by more than one set of weather and electrically charged conditions, while "at least some" events are likely to be triggered by meteor re-entry in scenarios where meteors neither burn up completely nor impact, but rather break up in the atmosphere to form such a charged plasma. These plasma formations are also theorized to have the effect of refracting light between themselves, producing the appearance of a black polygonal shape with the lights at the corners caused by self-generated plasma coloration (similar to the Aurora Borealis).[2]

The report states: "Occasionally and perhaps exceptionally, it seems that a field with, as yet, undetermined characteristics, can exist between certain charged buoyant objects in loose formation, such that, depending on the viewing aspect, the intervening space between them forms an area (viewed as a shape, often triangular) from which the reflection of light does not occur. This is a key finding in the attribution of what have frequently been reported as black 'craft,' often triangular and even up to hundreds of feet in length." These plasma formations also have the effect through "magnetic, electric or electromagnetic (or even unknown field), appears to emanate from some of the buoyant charged masses. Local fields of this type have been medically proven to cause responses in the temporal lobes of the human brain. These result in the observer sustaining his or her own vivid, but mainly incorrect, description of what is experienced. This is suggested to be a key factor in influencing the more extreme reports found in the media and are clearly believed by the 'victims.'[9]

Recently un-redacted sections of the report state that Russian, former Soviet republic, and Chinese authorities have made a co-ordinated effort to understand the UAP topic and that Russian investigators have measured (or at least detected) 'fields' which are reported to have caused human effects when they are located close to the phenomena. According to the Ministry of Defence researchers, Russian scientists have connected their UAP work with plasmas and the wider potential use of plasmas and may have done "considerably more work (than is evident from open sources)" on military applications, for example using UAP-type radiated fields to affect humans, and the possibility of producing and launching plasmas as decoys.[10]

On March 30, 1993, multiple witnesses across south-west and west England saw a large black triangle at low speeds. Analysis of the sightings by Nick Pope concluded that the object moved in a north-easterly course from Cornwall to Shropshire over a period of approximately 6 hours.

The sightings report clearly visible objects over densely populated areas and highways, mostly in the United States and Britain, but other parts of the world as well. A geographic distribution of U.S. sightings has been correlated by a currently inactive American-based investigative organization, the National Institute for Discovery Science, which led to a July 2002 report which suggested that the craft may belong to the U.S. Air Force;[11] however, a subsequent report in August 2004 by the same organization (NIDS) found that the rash of sightings did not conform to previous deployment of black project aircraft and that the objects' origins and agendas were unknown.[12]

Other sightings[edit]

1561 Nuremberg Celestial Phenomenon[edit]

The 1561 celestial phenomenon over Nuremberg was a mass sighting of unidentified flying objects or celestial phenomena over Nuremberg, Germany. A broadsheet news article by Hans Glaser on the event reports an aerial battle between various odd-shaped objects, including the appearance of “something like a black spear, very long and thick”. This may or may not be an early reference to the “black triangle” UFO.

Belgian sightings[edit]

The Belgian UFO wave began in November 1989. The events of 29 November were documented by over thirty different groups of witnesses, and three separate groups of police officers. All of 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.[13]

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.[4]

In his September 27, 2016 Skeptoid podcast episode titled "The Belgian UFO Wave," scientific skeptic author Brian Dunning evaluated several aspects of the Belgian black triangle sightings:

  • Regarding the supposed radar locks by F-16s, Dunning stated

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.[5]

  • Regarding the single black triangle photograph, Dunning stated

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[5]

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

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.[5]

Phoenix Lights incident[edit]

One of the more famous appearances of these craft was during the event known as the "Phoenix Lights", where multiple unidentified objects, many of them black triangles, were spotted by the residents of Phoenix, Arizona and videotaped by both the local media and residents with camcorders across multiple evenings beginning on Thursday, March 13, 1997. Some lights drifted as low as 1000 feet and moved far too slowly for conventional aircraft and too silently for helicopters. Some of the lights appeared to group up in a giant "V" formation that lingered above the city for several minutes. Many residents reported one triangle to be over a mile wide that drifted slowly over their houses blocking out the stars of the night sky. Other reports indicated the craft were spotted flying away from Phoenix as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California.

An official report made by the Air Force about the incident concluded that the military had been testing flares launched from conventional aircraft during that time. Eyewitnesses confirmed military jets were scrambled from nearby Luke Air Force Base, but instead of launching flares, they were seen chasing after some of the objects.

The next few nights, in an attempt to recreate the incident, local pilots flew prop-planes over the city in a "V" formation, but the sounds of their engines were easily heard. The original lights made no sound. Flares were also deployed above Phoenix.

2000 – Southern Illinois incident[edit]

The "St. Clair Triangle", "UFO Over Illinois", "Southern Illinois UFO", or "Highland, Illinois UFO" sighting occurred on January 5, 2000 over the towns of Highland, Dupo, Lebanon, Shiloh, Summerfield, Millstadt, and O'Fallon, Illinois, beginning shortly after 4:00 am. Five on-duty police officers around these locales, along with various other eyewitnesses, sighted and reported a massive, silent, triangular craft operating at an unusual treetop level altitude and speeds. One of the police officers even managed to get a single, yet ambiguous polaroid photograph of the object.[14] The incident was examined in various television shows including the ABC special Seeing is Believing with Peter Jennings, an hour-long Discovery Channel special UFOs Over Illinois, an episode of the Syfy series Proof Positive and a half-hour-long independent documentary titled The Edge of Reality: Illinois UFO, January 5, 2000 by Darryl Barker Productions.

Sufjan Stevens sang about this incident in the song "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois" on his 2005 album Illinois.

2004–2006 – Tinley Park Lights[edit]

Three red lights hovered in a triangular formation were seen by several witnesses in Tinley Park and Oak Forest, Illinois, on August 21, 2004, two months later on October 31, 2004, again on October 1, 2005, and once again on October 31, 2006. The lights were captured on video by some witnesses. According to some ufologists, the video evidence suggests that the lights kept the geometrical shape and moved as if they were attached to each other through a dark object. The incident was examined in a Dateline NBC episode on May 18, 2008, and in the episode "Invasion Illinois" of the television series UFO Hunters premiered on The History Channel on October 29, 2008.[15][16][17]

2014 – Kansas and Texas sightings[edit]

In February and March 2014, an aircraft matching the black triangle description was photographed multiple times over Kansas and Texas in daylight. In February 2014, an amateur photographer Jeff Templin snapped pictures of a triangular aircraft while photographing wildlife in Kansas.[18] On Mar 10, 2014, Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett photographed a triangular-shaped aircraft giving off a long contrail over Amarillo, Texas during daylight. Bill Sweetman, Graham Warwick, and Guy Norris of Aviation Week all agree that "the photos show something real."[19]

2017 – Southeastern Wisconsin sightings[edit]

The Kenosha UFO wave began in December 2016. The events of 17 February were documented by multiple groups of witnesses. All of the reports consist of a multiple dark triangular objects in the sky with blinking white and red lights, at around 6:30 pm. The craft was also seen on 19 January 2017 at around 5:00 am barely hovering above the ground. The object was described as dark on the bottom with lights and silvery on top. Other sightings include 28 December 2016 at around 8:00 pm and 24 January 2017 at around 9:00 pm.[20]

2018 — Lothian, Maryland sightings[edit]

Two witnesses report seeing a slow moving triangular craft with blinking white and red lights at about 11:00 PM June 27th, 2018. The craft seemed to be flying low to the ground, almost skimming the tops of trees.[citation needed]

TR-3A Black Manta[edit]

The TR-3A Black Manta is the name of a surveillance aircraft of the United States Air Force, speculated to be developed under a black project. The only evidence for such an aircraft is based on several reported sightings of mysterious flying triangle aircraft over Antelope Valley, an area of desert in southern California. This stretch of desert draws people interested in potential "black project"-related aircraft, because it is close to several known military research and testing areas, such as Edwards Air Force Base in California, and United States Air Force Plant 42.[21]


The TR-3A was said to be a subsonic stealth spy plane with a flying wing design. It was alleged to have been used in the Gulf War to provide laser designation for Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk bombers, for targeting to use with laser-guided bombs. The TR-3 was claimed to have been manufactured by Northrop.[21]

Edgar Fouché claimed in 1999 in a BBC documentary he was former Area 51 employee,[22][23] able to describe another more exotic tactical reconnaissance aircraft called the TR-3B Astra, a successor or cover for the TR-3A built by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, which would also be a spaceplane of a new kind using a top-secret gravitational shielding engine called the magnetic field disruptor (MFD).[24] Besides being an unconfirmed claim, the physical description of the MFD engine is often said to be pseudoscientific and "impossible".[25]

How the TR-3 designation came up in publications is unclear. It is clearly not a continuation of the R-for-Reconnaissance series, since ER-2 (NASA designation for U-2 aircraft modified for Earth science studies) stood for "Earth Resources", not "Electronic Reconnaissance". It is, therefore possible that TR-3 is merely a corruption of Tier III, a name given to a cancelled large reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying wing designed around the time of alleged sightings of the Black Manta, circa 1988–1990. The Tier III Minus program that resulted in the unsuccessful Lockheed Martin RQ-3 DarkStar was a scaled-down derivative of the original Tier III.

TR prefix would also be fitting for Tactical Reconnaissance as opposed to Strategic Reconnaissance (SR) as in the SR-72.

Potential candidates for TR-3[edit]

Because there is little evidence to support TR-3's existence, only sightings and "experience" stories by real people and also the web discussions on it, it is possible that the mysterious flying wing sightings associated with Black Manta could be a technology demonstrator for a potential new-generation tactical reconnaissance aircraft.[21] This contention is supported by United States Air Force (USAF) sources in the late 1980s confirming that the United States had no short-term plans to develop a low-observable U-2 successor.[26]

Another candidate for the alleged spy plane is a design from Teledyne Ryan, patented in the United States on April 26, 1977, under number 4,019,699.[27] This aircraft of low observability, as it is called, was invented by Robert W. Wintersdorff and George R. Cota, employees at Teledyne Ryan, a firm specialized in building unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. On May 10, 1977, a design of an aircraft was patented by Teledyne Ryan under number Des. 244,265,[28] and closely resembles the earlier mentioned example. This design was made by Waldo Virgil Opfer. The first design is unmanned, the second one manned. Whether one of these designs is related to the above-mentioned TR-3 is not positively identified, but it is a coincidence that TR also stands for Teledyne Ryan. Teledyne Ryan was acquired by Northrop Grumman in 1999.


  1. ^ "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense Region: Executive Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  2. ^ a b "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), p. 7". 2007-02-20. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  3. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), p. 11". 2007-02-20. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  4. ^ a b "The Belgian UFO Wave of 1989–1992 – A Neglected Hypothesis" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Dunning, Brian (2016-09-27). "Skeptoid #538: The Belgian UFO Wave". Skeptoid. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  6. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), p. 1". 2007-02-20. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  7. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region". 2007-02-20. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  8. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Volume 3 Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), p. 2" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  9. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), pp. 7–8". 2007-02-20. Archived from the original on 2011-09-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  10. ^ "UAP In the UK Air Defence Region: Volume 3 Executive Summary, Defence Intelligence Staff (2000), p. 3" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-08-06. Retrieved 2011-09-13.
  11. ^ "David, L. 2004, Sept. "Flying Triangle" sightings on the rise, MSNBC".
  12. ^ "NIDS Report August 2004". Archived from the original on 2007-10-19. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  13. ^ "The Belgium UFO Wave". Archived from the original on 2014-08-24.
  14. ^ "January 5, 2000, St. Clair Co., Illinois Flying Triangle Case Analysis". Darryl Barker Productions. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  15. ^ " Lights in sky over Tinley Park have UFO believers looking up". 17 February 2007. Archived from the original on 17 February 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  16. ^ Dekker, Julie. "Remembering the 'Tinley Park lights'". Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  17. ^ "Tinley Park UFO sightings — discuss". Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  18. ^ "Texas mystery aircraft also photographed over Kansas". Deep Blue Horizon Blogspot, 17 April 2014. Retrieved: 19 April 2014.
  19. ^ "Mystery Aircraft Over Texas". Aviation Week, 28 March 2014. Retrieved: 19 April 2014.
  20. ^ "ndxLocOut". Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  21. ^ a b c Pope, Gregory T. (December 1991). "America's New Secret Aircraft" (PDF). Popular Mechanics. Vol. 168 no. 12.
  22. ^ Edgar Fouché in "Riddle of the Skies", episode 2, BBC (1999).
  23. ^ Riddle of the Skies BBC documentary in the IMDB
  24. ^ Edgar Albert Fouche's Autobiography
  25. ^ TR-3B, Fouche and lies
  26. ^ "Stealth Recce," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 28 November 1988, page 19.
  27. ^ "Aircraft of low observability". Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  28. ^ "Aircraft". Retrieved November 14, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • "TR-3A Evolved From Classified Prototypes, Based on Tactical Penetrator Concept" Aviation Week & Space Technology, June 10, 1991. p 20-21
  • “Triangular Recon Aircraft May be Supporting F-117A” AW&ST, June 10, 1991. p 20. William Scott
  • "America's New Secret Aircraft" Popular Mechanics, December 1991. p. 32-5. Gregory T. Pope
  • "Possible Black Aircraft Seen Flying In Formation with F-117As KC-135s." Aviation Week, March 9, 1992. p. 66–67
  • Popular Science, March 1993
  • "Stealth Watchers" Wired, Issue 2.02 February 1994. Phil Patton (article)
  • Google Patent Search, patent Des. 244,265, issued May 10, 1977 (description)
  • NBC Nightly News, August 6, 1997 segment showing U-2 with triangle on undercarriage (CIA, USAF)

External links[edit]