Belgian Black Triangle Wave, 1989-1990

by Michael Lauck

            Starting in late 1989 and continuing through early 1990, Belgium experienced a high number of UFO reports. The majority of the witnesses claimed to see large, black silent triangles although other shapes of object were reported. Two key factors that make the Belgian wave of sightings so interesting to UFO scholars and skeptics alike are the large number of police making reports and the Belgian government’s official interest in the sightings.

Belgian Black Triangle Wave, 1989-1990

            Starting in late 1989 and continuing through early 1990, Belgium experienced a high number of UFO reports. The majority of the witnesses claimed to see large, black silent triangles although other shapes of object were reported. Two key factors that make the Belgian wave of sightings so interesting to UFO scholars and skeptics alike are the large number of police making reports and the Belgian government’s official interest in the sightings. According to retired Belgian Major General Wilfried de Brouwer, who was charged with overseeing the investigation into the reports, there were approximately 2,000 cases reported during the wave with at least 500 reports remaining unexplained after investigation.

Black Triangles Over Eupen

            The beginning of the Belgian black triangle wave is generally considered to be the night of November 29, 1989. At approximately 5:15 PM local time, two national police officers spotted a triangular object with three spotlights illuminating the field over which it hovered. In the center of the silent object was a red flashing light. They followed the triangular UFO as it moved towards the nearby town of Eupen, which is located in eastern Belgium approximately nine miles from the border with Germany. The object hovered over Eupen a half an hour before it continued its tour of the country by moving to Lake Gileppe. Numerous others reported seeing the object both as it approached Eupen and as it hovered over the town. In the hour that it would remain over the lake it was joined by a second craft before both eventually left. By the end of the encounter no fewer than 13 police officers and many civilians sighted the mysterious objects in numerous locations. According to Major General de Brouwer’s summary of the incidents in Leslie Kean’s UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record 70 reports from that evening were investigated and none were able to be explained.

Return of the Black Triangles

 

            On December 1 and 11 there were multiple sightings of black triangles in Belgium. Witnesses again reported that the triangular craft moved silently and had a spotlight at each corner with a flashing red light in the middle of the object’s body. There continued to be multiple reports until April of 1990. Over the five months of activity 2000 reports were made concerning unidentified flying objects in the Belgian skies. The vast majority of cases involved silent, black triangles although several other shapes were also reported. More than one witness, for example, reported rectangular objects with structures along the underneath.

            March of 1990 was a particularly active month in the wave. On the night of 12th alone there were more than 20 reported sightings. There was also an incident which triggered the scrambling of Belgian Air Force fighters. Of even more concern, there were reports of objects above the nuclear power plant in Thiange. Shortly after these incidents, though, the sightings started to dwindle. April is generally considered to be the end of the black triangle wave even though sporadic sightings would continue for months,. Major General de Brouwer has written, for example, of an encounter as late as July, 1990 in which the object spotted seemed to react the the blinking of headlights.

            The widespread sightings forced the Belgian government to respond. Official inquiries quickly determined that no authorized aircraft could be responsible for the string of sightings. An early theory suggested that the mysterious objects may be a new version of stealth aircraft, but the United States government denied making any flights over Belgium. Facing the possibility of unknown and unauthorized craft threatening the safety of their air, an official protocol of scrambling jets was established. If a sighting was reported by the police and could be confirmed on radar then jets would be launched.

F-16s Are Scrambled

            Although jets had been scrambled in December (without any concrete results), the most significant Belgian Air Force reaction to the black triangle sightings came on the night of March 30, 1990. After a sighting reported by the police was confirmed by two military radar stations the order was given to launch two F-16s. The jet fighters moved to intercept the object but were never able to establish visual contact. Radar contact, however, was established and seemed to show episodes of sudden, tremendous acceleration. After taking several weeks to examine the information gathered by the fighters’ instruments the government held a press conference to report their findings on July 11, 1990.

            Unfortunately, one of the jet’s radar monitoring camera did not perform adequately. This meant the Air Force was left with only one set of radar results to study. The radar lock on data available did seem to show that there was a solid object that suddenly accelerated at a rate well beyond current human technology. The lack of a second set of data, however, made it impossible to prove this was not the result of some type of glitch or interference. The Belgian Air Force was forced to admit that the incident could not, therefore, conclusively prove that there was a physical object being chased by their F-16s. It is interesting to note that the widespread sightings of black triangles ended with weeks of this encounter.

The Petit-Rechain Photograph

            Shortly after the main body of sightings, a photograph surfaced that seemed to show three spotlights in a dark sky with a red light in the the center. Blurry and vague, the photograph was allegedly taken on April 4, 1990 at about 10:00 PM local time by a man in the town of Petit-Rechain. He had taken at least one other photograph but it did not seem to show anything after being developed and he threw it away. After showing his photograph to friends a couple of weeks after it was taken, one supposedly contacted a journalist who eventually printed it.

            Initial examination of the color slide by the Belgian military revealed that by over-exposing the image a black triangle form could be seen against the now lighter night sky. Further analysis by scientist François Louange from the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (or CSEN, the French space agency) and former NASA scientist Dr. Richard Haines indicated that the camera was still but the blur resulted from the movement of the object in the image. Also, there was no indication that there was tampering with the slide examined. In 2002 the image was re-examined by Professor André Marion, a nuclear physicist also with CNES. He determined that not only were the previous analysis valid but there was also some type of field around the object.

            In the summer of 2011, though, a man named Patrick Marechal claiming to be the original photographer came forward and stated the image was a hoax. He told Belgian reporters on RTL-TVI that the object was a small styrofoam model, which was a theory put forth by skeptics in the 1990s. As the original image does not have anything which can be used to establish the size of the object it is difficult to prove that the object  photographed was not a model. It is worth noting that even if the photograph was a hoax, it came late in the wave, well after the pattern of sightings had been established. It was, however, held up for two decades as evidence showing the objects seen over Belgium were real.

The Importance of the Belgian Wave

            Although there is minimal photographic and video evidence, the wave of black triangle sightings over Belgium remain an important incident in the history of the UFO phenomena. There were literally thousands of reported sightings, many by police officers and other responsible individuals. There were also radar contacts, jets were scrambled and hundreds of cases were investigated, without explanation, by the Belgian government. In the years since the reports of silent black triangles over Belgium, similar objects have been seen all over the world, including the Phoenix Lights Incident of 1997.

For Further Reading

Leslie Kean, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record

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