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A major document:

This is the text by General De Brouwer (at that time Colonel, joint Chief of Staff of the Belgium Air Forces) as published at the end of the SOBEPS report on the UFO flap.

The text:


I must acknowledge that I somewhat hesitated when SOBEPS asked me to contribute my share to this book. Indeed, I am not a UFO specialist and, moreover, it is quite delicate for somebody who occupies an official function to put on paper his personal ideas on such a disputed issue. However, I estimate that I would not have been honest towards the SOBEPS if I had refused. The air Force always played a fair game on this subject and I regard this postface as a complementary element to the exceptional file written by the people of SOBEPS. I am indeed full of admiration when I see the enormous commitment shown by all those made which were implied in the study of innumerable testimonys and the analysis of all the technical data available. It was a true painstaking task, ungrateful sometimes, for those who took this matter seriously, and they were not spared criticisms. This postface represents the vision of somebody who, from his function, was directly concerned by the UFO problem in Belgium. This vision is founded on a number of observations made by the air Force. As I could not omit complementary reflexions and that I often deviated of the purely military and technical aspect, I wish to draw the attention to the personal character of my contribution which does not necessarily reflect the official point of view of the Defense.


Rare are those who can approach the UFO problem in an objective manner. Few subjects cause indeed so many heated reactions, ranging from absolute indifference to the most impassioned interest, and including mockeries. It was also the case for the implication of the air Force in certain observations of the UFO type described in this file. Some media were astonished and bewildered to see an official authority dealing with a topic which, at first sight, seemed absurd. Others, like the international medias, showed a deep interest there. The diversity of the reactions explains by the innate prejudices of most of the population vis-a-vis this subject. Prejudices which one also finds in certain journalists who, consequently, give a personal taste to their reports and do not omit to add an ironic joke here and there. As it is already established in the first contribution of professor Meessen(1), this attitude will appear very important in the course of the investigation. The fear of ridiculous is real. Many sociologists undoubtedly already studied the problem at the bottom; however, a pragmatic approach of this aspect by somebody who is neither a sociologist nor specialist of UFOs is useful. Looking at the the multiple contacts which I had with various people, I would divide the attitude of the average citizen towards the UFO problem into four categories:

  • 1. The first category is of those who do not believe that a thing such as an UFO can exist. They allot the many observations to atmospheric or astronomical phenomena, mirages, holograms or quite simply hallucinations or a mass psychosis due to the attention of the media. Within this category belong those who deny real testimonys and try to ridicule them in one or another manner. Indeed, the possibility that a thing such as an UFO really exists is so incredible that any allusion on this subject is quite simply laughable.
  • 2. A great psychological step is necessary to pass from the attitude described above to the second category which I will define as the gathering of those who accept the observations of UFO, but who exclude by definition any assumption of their extraterrestrial origin. They gave up the strict "syndrome of imagination," but they will try to associate any observation with an existing aeronautical apparatus. If they do not succeed there, they will jump to the assumption of activities of some unspecified "black baron" with some hoaxinf flying machine or top secret military projects and/or test flights which, for one or the other reason, must remain hidden for the public. Some of them will also try to turn the observations of UFOs in derision. According to the latter, Mister Average is fooled by hoaxers or by the mysteries of the (military) authorities: there is not need to give more attention and to waste energy there.
  • 3. The third category makes up of those who are convinced of the existence of the UFO and which do not exclude the assumption of their extraterrestrial origin. They are in general people who carried out a major study of the problem and who, in conclusion, recognize the reality of the observations of flying objects whose nature and performances largely exceed the field of the technical capabilities acquired to date. They venture on a slipping ground for the simple reason that they pose an assumption without stable scientific base. It is true that as of today nobody succeeded in proving the existence of an extraterrestrial civilization, and moreover, of a civilization able to visit us thanks to means which come out of the field of the possibilities of our technology. A great moral courage is thus necessary to publicly acknowledge the consideration of such an assumption. It is always necessary to pass the psychological threshold of the taboo attached to such a standpoint seen as ridiculous: an important step. Moreover, confusion is lurking between believing in an extraterrestrial assumption and taking it into account during field research. Any investigator who would not take this type of assumption into account would neglect a major element and his research would not be objective anymore. That does not mean that it must inevitably believe in this assumption.
  • 4. Let us see the fourth category: those convinced of the extraterrestrial origin of the UFOs. As unconditional fans, their conviction is based more on belief that on thorough knowledge of the files with the innumerable UFO observations reported since the first report by Kenneth Arnold in 1948 [sic; 1947]. In this category, belong also those who take as a starting point religious and/or mythological data. The latter are unfortunately placed in the same basket as the precedents by almost everyone in the population. An attitude full with irony towards the partisans of an extraterrestrial theory results from that. The exact proportion of each category mentioned above is difficult to determine. The fact is that a growing number of people start to accept the idea of the existence of the UFOs; the group of those who do not reject the extraterrestrial assumption increases continuously. Recent surveys carried out in Belgium and France show that more than 50% of the population believe in the possibility of an extraterrestrial civilization. The majority are undoubtedly based on the logic according to which it would be unreasonable to support that our planet is the only favourable one for the apparition of a lifeform evolving to intelligence and civilization, among the billion others whose existence is probable. Smaller is the group of those who believe that another civilization would necessary have the technologies to send probes or spaceships towards the Earth, which would be able thus to cross considerable distances in an acceptable lapse of time. Professor Meessen and Mr. Petit who have both collaborated in this book (2), developed parallel theories of their own and showed by tests that certain revolutionary techniques of propulsion would be usable. Their concrete application remains however a technological challenge and is not yet in the field of our current capacities. However, an aspect will always dominate the debate and will determine the attitude of the authorities: fear to be ridiculed as soon as the smallest indication is given that the UFO problem is taken seriously. However, this psychological barrier which strongly influences technical testimonys and research seems to reduce thanks to the objective approach of a growing number of scientists.


I considered it useful to briefly describe the social context before coming to the implication of the air Force in the debate on UFOs. When I was asked to attend the press conference of the SOBEPS on December 18, 1989 as Chef of the Operations of the staff of the air Force, I belonged to the group of the non-believers as for the existence of UFOs. That said, I had promised myself to approach the problem without prejudices, as much as possible, and to study it in an objective manner. Two elements appeared to me at the time of this press conference. Firstly, testimonys were remarkable. They did not come out of the blue and were presented in a natural and rather modest manner: no trace of sensationnalism nor of exaggerated mediatization. Secondly, the approach by SOBEPS was sober, objective and founded on scientific bases. Testimonys which could be related to natural phenomena were immediately isolated. Another major element: certain journalists had the Army as their target, and especially the air Force. To them the observed phenomena was suppoed to have been experimental aircraft, whose presence was to remain hidden to the public. Some there saw a link with the F-117 and benefitted from the occasion to criticize the "American imperialism". The alleged servility of the Belgian authorities which had allowed knowingly or not such experiments was also denounced. Moreover, rumours gave an account of observations of unquestionable UFO carried out by military radars and of information which could not be revealed. At first, the air Force felt obliged to contradict the assumption of experimental test flights. This was rather simple and the context is largely described in the preceding chapters. The air Force can indeed play fairly on this for the simple reason that there was nothing to hide and that it was impossible from the technical point of view that the F-117 was the culprit. On another side, the seriousness of testimonys and the professionalism of SOBEPS were key elements which pushed the air Force to show the need for a thorough investigation. This is why it had been decided before the press conference holding to try to identify the nature and the origin of certain of the observed phenomena. The big question was, however, with which means?


Any flight in the Belgian airspace carried out between sunset and sunrise by any apparatus must be the officially requested and must receive the authorization of the authorities of civil and/or military aviation. These two authorities take care to coordinate all the air traffic during the night so that one knows the identity of all the aircraft in flight, as well as their intentions, the goal being, of course, to ensure the safety of the traffic. In the case of the UFO observations, it was thus a question of checking if illegal flight had been accomplished. If we note that it is so, it goes without saying that we must try to identify these apparatuses. One of the most obvious means to detect the intruders is radar. In addition to the landing approach radars of the various airfields, the air Force has two powerful detection radar integrated into the NATO system of defense, they are operational 24 hours a day. The detection range of these radars exceeds 300 kilometers. The planes can be detected up to an altitude of approximately 30 kilometers while minimal altitude depends on their position and the distance which separate them from the radar station. That is obvious when one knows that radar waves radar do not see behind corners and that each target hidden behind the horizon or an obstacle (a hill, for example) cannot, in theory, be discovered. In normal circumstances, the radar controller sees only the aircraft which already underwent a selection procedure. Indeed, a computer analyzes the echoes of the radar waves and rejects all the echoes which do not meet the predefined standards (e.g. the envelope of flight of a plane). The controller thus sees only the synthesized image of the radar echoes which most probably represent planes. In this manner, the false signals are eliminated. The latter, better known of the controllers under the name of "angels" or "engels" (see the contribution of professor Meessen3), can be caused by atmospheric disturbances, for example a temperature inversion layer which deviates the waves of the radar which, in their return, are reflected inter alia by objects moving on the ground. The controller can deactivate the computer filtering so that he can observe all the echoes including the "angels" (a mode known as "raw video") on his monitor. It should be added immediately that radar operators have little experience in this operationnal mode and that many are echoes whose origin is unknown. In the case of the observations of UFO, radar controllers were requested to pay a detailed attention to the echoes (even in "raw video" mode) which appeared near the location of the visual observations on the ground. Thus, a certain number of echoes radar were noted which one did not know with certainty if they were "angels" or of real flying machines. This is why the rather careful attitude of the air Force especially at the beginning of the period of observation resulted in the criticism according to which certain information could not be revealed. Besides these radar tracking stations, the air Force also has interception Wings equipped with F-16 combat planes in Beauvechain, at approximately 30 kilometers in the south-east of Brussels. Two of these F-16 are permanently ready to take off in the five minutes after the order of execution of an officer in charge within the system of defense of NATO. The radar controller n duty can, if necessary, obtain such an authorization as soon as possible. The condition is that a real radar observation of unknown origin occurs and that he asks that a visual identification is carried out by means of both F-16 on takeoff. This procedure is the subject of regular exercises: the pilots are from time to time sent in the air to identify supposed intruders, fictitious or not. The goal is to repeat all the procedures in-depth so that, whenever necessary, an urgent intervention occurs without problem. After the first wave of observations of November 29, 1989, the air Force ordered its radar controllers as well as its fighter pilots to be vigilant and if required to engage in a procedure of identification. For this purpose, only the existing means, i.e. two radars on the ground and F-16, were to be used. The goal was to check if the UFO were real or not. After confirmation, one would reach the second stage, identification, and to determine if air safety of the air traffic were threatened.


Coordination between ground observations and the center of radar controlof Glons created the major problem on this subject. The Gendarmerie is the organization of which one thought immediately to carry it out. To this end, the telephone number of the radar tracking station of Glons was communicated to the imvolved gendarmerie squads so that they can inform the controllers as of the geographical positions of certain observed machines. The number of the chain links of communication between the observers on the ground and the pilots having to identify the possible machines in flight represented an important handicap (telephone call to the gendarmes, patrols on the spot, radio operator bond with the brigade, call to the control station of Glons, telephone call to the controller and radio operator communication with the pilots in flight). Just like the air Force, Gendarmerie could not put any additional means at work to achieve its mission. In due logic, priority was granted to the traditional tasks assigned to the gendarmes in duty in the evening and the night, involving a waste of time not of no importance since it was impossible to react promptly to determined calls to one given moment. The Air Force undertook a certain number of concrete actions. At the time of a first intervention the evening of December 2, two F-16 were sent in the surroundings of Liege where a possible observation had taken place. A telephone call of the Gendarmerie informed the controller in duty about an observation from the ground; the controller noticed that at the indicated location a radar blip (on "raw video") which perhaps confirmed the visual observation. F-16 went there, found nothing and returned to their base. According to the radar controller, the blip disappeared when the F-16 approached the premises and reappeared after their return to the base. The mystery remains whole. Two planes were sent once again in the airsafter innumerable phone calls from the surroundings of Hasselt. The ground radar had not noticed anything and F-16 could identify the origin of the phenomenon as being discotheque laser beams on a vapour cloud. The analysis of the facts showed that these observations were completely different from those carried out previously in the province of Liege. After this incident, order was given not to scramble the planes without prior radar observations and formal confirmation of the observations on the ground by the Gendarmerie. Then, there was the event of the night from the 30 to March 31, 1990 described in this book 2. In this case, the Air Force reacted only after telephone confirmation on behalf of the Gendarmerie of a certain number of observations in the area of Wavre and after a simultaneous observation by two radars on the ground. The F-16s carried out several interceptions helped by the directives of the radar controller in duty.

Certain data were recorded by the airborne radars of F-16; their technical analysis is described in the contribution of professor Meessen in this same book 3. The air Force itself approaches the case with the greatest prudence. Electromagnetic interferences being a possible cause to misleading conclusions are not unusual as well for the airborne radar as for radar on the ground. The interferences on the airborne radar however are generally caused by ground conditions whereas the recordings of March 30-31 were carried out at approximately 3 kilometers of altitude. Moreover, one notes a correlation between the data coming from the two radar and airborne radars at least on the ground at certain times. The recording of identical data by three different systems at some moments pushes us to not exclude that one or more unidentified flying machines actually evolved in the Belgian airspace. It should be specified immediately that it was the first time that an in-depth data analysis which come out completely of the field of the performances known as regards aeronautics was performed. Were they really apparatuses or is it a case of an exceptional electromagnetic interference? The pilots themselves did not have clear visual contacts, indeed it is very difficult to obtain a correct visual contact if one takes account of the incalculable number of visible luminous points at night above Belgium as seen from a cloudless sky in good visibility conditions. However, when a pilot locks his radar (lock on) on a possible target, an indication of the place where it should be appears on his display. Nothing was noted there by the pilots at the time of the several lock on. If these targets had been luminous, it would have certainly been the case. Is this the proof that there was nothing in the air and that they were electromagnetic disturbances? Surely not: the eyewitnesses at Petit-Rosière declared that the luminous points that they observed have, at a given time, lost of their intensity whereas F-16 approached, and even died out completely. Why wasn't a definite correlation found between the observations on the ground at Ramillies and the recordings of the airborne radars of F-16? According to the eyewitnesses, the luminous objects sometimes moved with jerks to stabilize themselves in a given geometrical position. But, in its function of interception, the F-16 radar cannot detect static object for simple and good reason that the system rejects all the echoes of objects which move at a relative speed of less + / - 100 km/h. This filtering was incorporated in the system to prevent that the airborne radar locates all the cars or other objects on the ground and that the screen is not scrambled by a too great number of echoes. The pilot is interested only in the planes and the helicopters which move at a higher speed. Finally, these last targets will be the only to be displayed on screen, making it possible to the pilot to visualize the profile of the flight and to possibly carry out an interception. From the technical point of view, it was thus impossible to detect luminous objects with the airborne radar if those remained motionless or moved at low speeds. In any case, the Air Force concluded from there that a certain number of abnormal phenomena occurred in the Belgian airspace. Innumerable testimonys of observations on the ground gathered in this book, reinforced by the statements of the night from the 30 to March 31, led us to consider the assumption that a certain number of unauthorized flying activities really took place. Until now, no trace of hostility was announced; the military or civil air traffic were neither disturbed nor threatened. One can thus advance that the supposed activities did not constitute any real menace. Since the armed forces react only at the time of a potential threat, it was decided not to use additional systems or personal means than the existing and available systems of air defense. I believe that with regard to the observations on the ground, the Gendarmerie arrived at an identical conclusion.


As soon as the first UFO observations occurred the persons in charge of SOBEPS officially asked to have access to the data of the Air Force on the matter. Based on the fact that national authorities had nothing to hide, Defense gave the authorization to reveal the available data in order to allow a scientific investigation. This attitude caused some astonishment in certain national and international media. Indeed, it was apparently the first time since the birth of the UFO problem that military authorities decided to collaborate with an association of specialists in the Ufological field. It is clear that, on the international level, no will to officially pay attention to the phenomena UFO had appeared. This attitude is understood, and this for several reasons. One of them is that the problem of the UFO is completely apart from the routine of the traditional responsibilities for defense. A system of defense is worked out to face a potential threat such as it is evaluated by the military experts and, for the moment, the concrete arguments are missing for formally adding a hypothetical extraterrestrial invasion to this potential threat. Indeed, to work out a specific system of defense, more precisely of the means of detection and protection, based only on this assumption, would be absolutely unreasonable. And as we deal with a very particular phenomenon, no structure neither personal nor policy exists to deal with the UFO problem. Within the air Force for example, this file was put in the hands of officers already extremely occupied by their usual tasks and which do not have enough time to devote to the study and analysis of all the data. For the personnel of the staff, this additional load is significant. For example, to reply to all the phone calls and all the letters on this subject would suffice to justify the creation of a special office composed of specialists. A similar problem arises on the level of ministerial cabinets which should possibly come to a conclusion about the importance of this problem. High-ranking civil servants have already much to do with their respective responsibilities and lack time to pay all their attention on the mysteries of the UFO problem. Another reason for which nobody wants to express himself on this subject on the highest level, as well on the national level as international, is the fear of ridicule. Official authorities do not want to be the subject of mockeries or "Belgian jokes." In short, the essential reasons for which any progress in an objective approach of the problem is very difficult are the lack of time and the fear of ridicule. However, they are both related one to the other: to conclude that the business of the UFO is not at all ridiculous is not possible if time is not granted for an in-depth analysis. The authorities of the Air Force estimated that there was nothing ridiculous in the fact that thousands of people observed certain phenomena. It was thus not ridiculous to either try to discover the cause of these observations and the origin of the phenomena. Even on the basis of the popular thesis of the scoffers, their identification would be always useful. From this point of view, we chose a limited and careful investigation with the existing and available means. As the experts of the Air Force could not concentrate completely on a major analysis of all the data considering their other professional activities, all information was given to the SOBEPS. This decision was based on the proof that this organization had brought of being able of an objective and scientific approach.


Could the Air Force have done more? Undoubtedly, but only in terms of a particular effort with more means and personnel. Let us not forget that the UFO phenomenon emerges at unforeseeable places and times. The implementation of a tight network of observers, special optical glasses, infra-red cameras, means of communication, helicopters and planes would have required an enormous financial effort. Such an effort cannot be justified without the proof that there are indeed flying objects which could constitute a possible threat for the population and the air traffic or which is really of extraterrestrial origin. The dilemma is as follows: how can these UFO be identified without the engagement of additional means whereas such an identification is the indispensable condition to justify their engagement. The day will undoubtedly come where the phenomenon will be observed with technological means of detection and recording which will not leave any doubt as of its origin. This should raise part of the veil which covers the mystery for a long time. A mystery which thus remains whole. But it exists, it is real, and this is already an important conclusion.


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