Beyond the Belgian Flap--UFOs and Europolitics

By J. Antonio Huneeus

For decades, certain American ufological groups have unsuccessfully attempted to get Congress interested in UFOs. Actually, Congressional hearings on this issue did take place in 1966 and 1968, sponsored by the House Armed Services and Science and Astronautics Committees respectively; these occurred at a time when the Air Force was funding Project Blue Book. All efforts to rekindle Congressional UFO interest have failed since then.

Europeans seem to be having more success in the UFO political arena. The European Community's Committee on Energy, Research and Technology (CERT) has recently commissioned Professor Tullio Regge, an Italian deputy to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, to prepare a detailed report on UFOs. This report will recommend whether or not to establish a permanent UFO Research Center attached to CERT or other appropriate continental organization like the European Space Agency (ESA).

We have received news of this development from the reliable European publications, Phenomena, a magazine published by the French UFO group SOS OVNI; and the mass circulation Spanish magazine Max Alla, with extensive coverage of paranormal and ufological topics. In its March/April 1993 issue, Phenomena quotes Regge as saying that "39% of the [UFO] cases don't have a satisfactory scientific explanation." Therefore, "for Mr. Regge, the European Parliament should assume its role of political will to assure that its citizenry is kept informed."

In the June 1993 issue of Mas Alla, well known Spanish journalist and ufologist Javier Sierra provided additional information about Europolitics vis-a-vis the UFO problem. The motion for a CERT report, according to Sierra, was instigated by a Belgian European deputy, Eurodeputy, Mr. Di Rupo, Minister od Education for Wallonia, the French speaking region of Belgium. A powerful UFO wave was reported here between November 1989 and the spring of 1991. Di Rupo was well acquainted with the investigations undertaken by the Belgian Society for the Study of Space Phenomena (SOBEPS in French), a Brussels-based private scientific organization founded in 1971, as well as the official inquiries conducted by the Gendarmerie (national police force) and the Royal Belgian Air Force.

In a move unprecedented for official agencies anywhere in the world, both services cooperated fully with the SOBEPS, releasing many of their files. In late 1991 SOBEPS published a 500-page final report entitled Vague d'OVNI sur la Belgique--Un Dossier Exceptionnel (UFO Wave in Belgium--An Exceptional Dossier), which contained a detailed chronicle and analysis of data collected between November 29, 1989, and May 17, 1991, reviewed below.

THE BELGIAN WAVE

SOBEPS collected over 2,000 eyewitness reports, dozens of videos, and photos of the wave, beginning with a multiple-witness night sighting by several gendarmes on November 29, 1989. Restricted to the French-speaking region of Wallonia, the wave was characterized by a preponderance of triangular-shaped craft sightings, few landings, close encounters with humanoids, and abductions. What made it unique was the remarkable public openness shown by the Gendarmerie and the Air Force, and the degree of cooperation shown toward the media and SOBEPS. This is exemplified by the "Postface" of Vague d'OVNI being written by Major General Wilfried De Brouwer, who played a key role during the wave as Chief of Operations of the Belgian Air Force (BAF).

The wave's most famous case was the night radar/visual and jet scramble incident on March 30-31 1990.

The complete BAF report has not yet been fully declassified, but an abridged version prepared by Major P. Lambrechts of the BAF General Staff, entitle Report Concerning the Observation of UFOs During the Night of March 30 to 31, 1990, was released to SOBEPS. It includes a detailed chronology of events and dismisses several hypothesis--optical illusions, meteorological inversions, holographics projections, and so on.

The incident began when the Gendarmerie telephoned the Glons radar master controller to report "three unusual lights forming an equilateral triangle." Two F-16s were scrambled when the Semmerzake NATO facilities also detected unknown targets. According to the official report, "The aircraft had brief radar contacts on several occasions." As soon as "the pilots were able to secure a lock on one of the targets for a few seconds...a drastic change in the behaviour of the UFOs [occurred]." During one of these locks, "The speed of the target changed [quickly] from 150 to 970 knots and from 9,000 to 5,000 feet [altitude], returning...to 11,000 feet [changing] again to close to ground level." Then-Colonel Wilfried De Brouwer explained that this was fantastic acceleration, equivalent to 40 Gs, which would exclude a human pilot being on board the UFO, since humans can only withstand 8 Gs. (A "G" is a unit of acceleration equivalent to the gravitational pull of the earth, 9.81 m/sec/sec.)

De Brouwer addressed the incident's significance again in his "Postface." He wrote, "We have observed at certain instances a correlation between the data from two on-board radars (F-16s) and at least one ground radar. The detection of identical signals by three different systems in a given moment lead us not to exclude that one or more unidentified device did effectively move within Belgian airspace...in any case, the Air Force has arrived [at] the conclusion that a certain number of anomalous phenomena [have] been produced within Belgian airspace." Military significance, he noted that "...not a single trace of aggressiveness has been signalled; military or civilian air traffic has not been perturbed or threatened. We can therefore advance that the presumed activities do not constitute a concrete menace."

Because the bulk of the Belgian sightings described triangular-shaped objects, European and American researchers and journalists speculated that these were caused by either F-117A Stealth fighters or other innovative U.S. secret military aircraft, like those sighted near test ranges in Nevada and California. This hypothesis was repeatedly denied officially by the BAF, the Ministry of Defense, and the U.S. Embassy in Brussels. Still, the Stealth angle continues to be championed by some publications.

French ufologist Renaud Marhic analyzed the "new rumors" behind the Belgian UFOs in a recent Phenomena article, in which he published the responses sent by Leo Delcroix, Belgium's Minister of Defense, and De Brouwer. "Unfortunately, no explanation has been found to date," wrote Delcroix. "The nature and origin of the phenomenon remain unknown. One theory can be definitely dismissed, however, since the Belgian Armed Forces have been positively assured by American authorities that there has never been any sort of American aerial test flights."

Similarly, De Brouwer wrote to Marhic that , "Unfortunately, all I can say is that the multiple enquiries have not revealed any details, neither about the origin [n]or the nature of the phenomenon. ...[I]t is untrue that the Belgian military authorities can explain the phenomenon in terms of American military aircraft."

De Brouwer's conclusion is a fitting finale. "The day will come undoubtedly, when the phenomenon will be observed with technological means of detection and collection that won't leave a single doubt about its origin. This should lift a part of the veil that has covered the mystery for a long time. A mystery that continues thus present. But it exists, it is real, and that in itself is an important conclusion."

SOBEPS, meanwhile, is launching a proposal for the European Parliament to fund a high-tech van that would be sent to check out UFO hot spots throughout Europe. The details were disclosed in a press conference last March by SOBEPS member Leon Brenig, a physics professor at Free University in Brussels.

At an estimated cost of $330,000, the surveillance van would include sophisticated equipment such as "high definition cameras, radios, pectrometers [sic], light amplifiers and other infrared detectors," reports Phenomena, adding that "the project is close to being submitted to the European Parliament, after which the Executive Commission of the European Community will have to decide on its eventual funding."

THE FRENCH CONTRIBUTION

One of the consultants called by Tullio Regge is Jean-Jacques Velasco, an engineer in charge of charge of SEPRA (Service of Expertise of Atmospheric Reentry Phenomena), attached to the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) in Toulouse. Velasco spoke at a UFO Congress in San Marino (a small European city-state located within Italy) last April, an event which also included Michel Bougard from SOBEPS, Antonio Ribera from Spain and Dr Richard Haines fro the U.S. "I have been requested," said Velasco, "that SEPRA should present to the European Community a dossier including an unexplained case and another which has been explained, where our methodology is clear."

In 1988 SEPRA replaced the GEPAN, a previous CNES bureau established 1977, dedicated to UFOs. Although SEPRA's main goal is to keep tabs on satellite reentries, its second task is "to continue the activities of GEPAN." Continuity was assured since GEPAN's last director was Velasco. Their most famous and puzzling "unexplained case" is that of Trans-en-Provence in southern France on January 8, 1981, probably the most thorough, scientifically documented UFO landing case anywhere. The landing traces left by a small, disc-shaped UFO on the property of Renato Nicolai were investigated within 48 hours by the Gendarmerie and GEPAN. Further biochemical analysis of the vegetation and soil samples were conducted by professor Bounias of the National Institute of Agronomical Research. The studies "demonstrated a qualitatively large scale incident producing a ground heating to between 300 to 600 degrees Celsius and probably the depositing of trace quantities of such materials as phosphates and zinc," wrote Velasco in a summary of the case. Prof. Bounias documented significant biological and biochemical mutations in wild alfalfa samples, such as significant loss of chlorophyll, published in GEPAN's famous Technical Note No. 16, Analysis of a Trace.

The Trans-en-Provence case remains unexplained, and so is a second, similar single-witness daytime landing of a small metallic-looking flying disc in l'Amarante on October 21, 1982. At the San Marino Congress, Velasco stated that, "...it is much more convenient for the European Space Agency to assume the responsibility of creating the infrastructure for this UFO research center rather than SEPRA itself, which lacks structural possibilities and would find it very hard to extend the French model to the rest of European countries."

We haven't been able to obtain much more information on Tullio Regge's scientific and politic background. Phenomena identifies him as an Italian communist and European deputy, while Javier Sierra characterizes him as "a well known Italian skeptic on ufological and paranormal matters," adding that he is a physicist and astronomer, and an Italian CSICOP representative. We have been unable to confirm his alleged link with CSICOP, as his name doesn't appear in the organization's rostrum either as a "fellow" or as a "scientific and technical consultant." We checked with Philip Klass, CSICOP's UFO shooter, who told us he had never heard of Prof. Regge nor of the European Parliament's interest in UFOs. Klass told us that "if anybody remotely associated with CSICOP" was preparing some kind of UFO report, he would have heard something.

European Parliamentary UFO policies will soon be determined with the release of the Regge report. There are other hopeful signs in Europe pointing to a thaw and perhaps a gradual reversal of the quasi-universal policy of military secrecy on UFOs, like the recent Spanish Air Force decision to systematically declassify its UFO files, producing the first documents in October 1992. Is the Pentagon or U.s> Congress pursuing a UFO policy even remotely similar to that of our European allies? So far, the answer is a resounding no.


This article comes from the August 1993 FATE Magazine



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