Sleight of Hand: Spyplanes and UFOs
Sleight of Hand: Spyplanes and UFOs
By Scott Corrales
On Thursday, July 2, 1998, the Spanish daily El País published a report indicating that an U.S. spyplane had crashed in the town of Barbate in southern Spain. The government denied having any knowledge of the incident and said as much to deputy Willy Meyer Pleite, representative from Cadiz and spokesman of the federal IU group in the Comisión de Defensa del Congreso.
The politican asked on May 11 regading "the collision of an unmanned vehicle in the vicinity of the town of Barbate's San Ambrosio neighborhood." The incident would have occured at some point during the summer of 1996. The Ministry of Defense assured the congressamn that "timely research has been performed by the agencies having competence in the matter" concerning air traffic over the area in question. The agencies in quesiton included the US Navy opertations center at the Rota Naval Base. No evidence concerning the crash could be found.
These political assurances did little to assuage the tempers of the residents of San Ambrosio in Barbate, where the putative spy plane crashed. The residents said they had been stunned beyond belief to see two large CH-46 helicopters disgorge their full complement of Marines--armed and warpainted--who sanitized the area and later vacated it at top speed without issuing any explanations. Neither the local police nor the Guardia Civil made any efforts to investigate the matter, which would have been forgotten but for the presence of a daring member of the public who, armed with a photo camera, captured the military clean-up operation in full swing. Congressman Willie Meyer furnished the photographic evidence to the authorities, stating: "We wonder if at the time there were records of secret military flights authorized over Spanish territory."
Countries like Spain and Argentina have proven ideal testing grounds for reasons best known to our military planners. Have these sophisticated test beds and prototypes been misidentified as UFOs in these locations?
Since 1995, the U.S. has been conducting extensive tests on bomber endurance as part of the Golden Eagle exercises--these military operations are aimed at assuring that strategic bombers can easily manage to reach targets in the Middle Eastern or European theaters during any possible conflict. Activity around the Zaragoza air base became particularly intense during the summer of 1995, perhaps giving rise to a number of triangular UFO reports.
Spanish journalist Francisco Máñez investigated report of intense UFO activity linked to a series of wargames known as "Matador 96", during which aircraft activity between Italy and Spain increased to such an extent that it became one of the largest military readiness exercises ever held by NATO forces in Spain, with over three hundred aircraft belonging to the USAF alone. In his report, Máñez indicates that the majority of saucer reports took place "slightly before and slightly after" the duration of the readiness exercises.
The best example of this can be found in the extraordinary "Galician Wave" of 1995-96, whose spectacular initial event took place on the evening of November 27-28th at the As Gándaras aresenal, where two sentries spotted a triangular/rhomboidal object crossing the dark skies and which gave the impression of vanishing intermittently (see Manuel Carballal's overview of the subject in Samizdat Special Report--Spain 1996).
In 1994, hundreds of Galicians witnessed an object flying over Porriño, Vigo and Bueu until it impacted against the island of Ons (Pontevedra). "It looked like a giant suppository", "an iron cylinder spitting fire from behind", claimed the eyewitnesses. Portuguese civil aviation reports now clarify the mistery--the object was a missile launched from Portugal which penetrated Spanish airspace. This has not been the only instance. On a number of occasions, Galician sailors have seen bizarre objects in the sky and have collected the remains of metallic artificats in their fishing nets. From the diplomatic and political perspective, it would have been much more serious for the press to publish that a Portuguese missile had flown over several Spanish towns only scant miles from the Galician shore, rather than stating that Galician fishermen are seeing Martians.
Curiously enough, while TV crews from all over Spain went to Galicia on a Martian hunt, NATO forces gathered in the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the Task Force 96-1 exercises. This 16,000-man operation included the carrier USS George Washington, the Second Marine Expeditionary Force, the Air Mobility Command, and siilar units from the British, French and Canadian navies. During the course of the maneuvers, the Galician wave reached it critical point, with reports of all kinds of objects (and occupants) being registered throughout the region as well as in neighboring Asturias.
Certainly, the sheer volume of videotaped evidence and eyewitness testimony in this largest of European flaps since the 1990 Beligan wave cannot be discounted. "Traditional" CE-2 and CE- 3 were prevalent during the wave. Still, can the possibility that many of the CE-1 cases were in fact nothing more than misidentifications of military aircraft, or even sightings of highly sophisticated electronic countermeasures designed to create illusions in the night sky?
We know for a fact that advanced technology UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) such as the Dark Star and the General Atomics Predator were being tested and in one case, even deployed, in Europe at the time--specifically in the Balkans.
The international edition of the Miami Herald for July 23, 1995, stated in an article ("Spy in the sky? Albanians shrug, worry about jobs") that three state of the art surveillance drones were being flown from a secret base in northern Albania as part of operation Nomad Vigil, designed to provide information on hostile activity in Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.
Journalist Máñez is correct when he wryly observes: "Ufologists should perhaps undertake some minimal investigation around UFO cases before leaping into the void and showing us videotapes of aircraft flying at night...this only serves to tarnish the reputation of ufology and causes more than one military man to smile."
"We're Being Invaded!"
On December 15, 1998, viewers of Spanish television's Andalucía Directo program were treated to the news that a rather spectacular UFO sighting had occurred that very night near the community of El Morche, a small coastal community located some 55 kilometers from Málaga on the Mediterranean Sea. Researchers José Antonio Martín and Antonio Salinas of the Sociedad de Investigaciones Biofísicas (Biophysical Investigation Society), better known as S.I.B. - Betelgeuse reported to El Morche the following day, hoping to glean as much information about the sighting as possible.
The investigators discovered that the El Morche event was not circumscribed to a single event, but rather multiple sightings of objects high in the dark skies. A local newspaper, El Diario, ran the following headline the next day :"Residents of El Morche State Having Seen UFO Fly Over Coast."
"The nights of the days in question (12/13-14) were dark and moonless," writes Antonio Salinas in his report on the El Morche event. "It would appear that what always attracted the witnesses attention was the buzzing sound of a powerful but distant engine. Locals are used to the noise made by jet fighters since they live in a military air corridor. However, they insisted that the sound in question was not similar to said aircraft: it was deeper. When I suggested the droning sound made by bombers in movies and they told me that it was more or less similar."
It then emerged that witnesses had seen multicolored lights--red, white, and strobes--flying in formation, moving very slowly overhead. According to the eyewitnesses, the average duration of the sightings was ten minutes, and that the lights moved in unison, "as if forming part of a single structure." There was the curious detail, however, that stars could be seen through the fuselage of the hypothetical structure.
Police officer Rafael González reportd seeing a formation made up of white strobe lights followed by a "V"-shaped formation of red lights at 04:00 hours on December 14th. "According to officer González," states Salinas, "another similar formation appeared two minutes later. Speed was normal, according to the officer, and their course and altitude made him realize these were aircraft from the base at Rota. According to González, if they were coming from somewhere farther away they would have been flying higher."
Salinas and his fellow researcher claim having noticed the presence of contrails in the sky the next day--typical of military aircraft, which would point toward the presence of military jets, more than likely heavy bombers with fighter escorts, possibly flying out of the Rota air facility. "Around 23:30 hours, while we conducted an improvised UFO alert in the event that the formation should pass by once again," continues Salinas, "we were alerted by a radio station that Baghdad was being bombed. This was later confirmed by numerous broadcasts."
Far from being a fleet of alien vehicles flying at high altitudes, the objects flying over Spain's Costa del Sol were simply bombers and fighters on their way to the Middle East. The S.I.B. Betelgeuse researchers conclude by stating: "In spite of the first official declarations, it is now being said that no air bases on Spanish soil were employed as a launching pad or refueling stop for the attack. The statements made by civilian and official witnesses alike appear to indicate that the Rota Air Base could have been used as a take-off point." Again, if governments will deny the presence of recognizable aircraft in their airspace or using their facilities, can we expect them to be any more open about the testing of secret prototypes?
A Black-Winged Oddity
The photos were highly suggestive: a stretch of pristine, pebble covered beach at sundown; a recreational vehicle in the emptiness, and a fuzzy-edged triangular image in the sky above. The photographer had insisted on anonymity out of the fear that his camera had captured an image that could only spell trouble for him and his family.
"These are the photos I told you about," said Guillermo Aldunati, one of Argentina's most experienced UFO researchers and an inveterate world traveller. "The man who took them was on holiday in Patagonia, which is our Wild South," he grinned. "Much like your old Wild West."
Señor Aldunati was on his way to a UFO convention and had agreed to meet me on an August day in Buffalo, NY during a layover. "My country is experiencing a considerable amount of UFO activity, but we have come to realize that it consists mostly of ultra sophisticated USAF vehicles."
His newsletter "Mas Allá del Límite" (Beyond the Limit) had already published a number of fascinating accounts of U.S. military personnel directing operations during the 1991 UFO flap in Victoria, a city of 20,000 on the banks of the Paraná River in Entre Rios province. NASA (whose acronym has great prestige south of the border) allegedly fielded a number of scientists to assist the local government in an advisory capacity. Such was the activity that Navy Commander Daniel Perisée declared: "The subject of Victoria is a state secret and I am not authorized to discuss it." Argentinean ufologists had to run a gauntlet of hostile officials as they prepared for skywatches or conducted interviews; the involvement of the U.S. Embassy in the matter was also hinted at throught the presence of two physicists whose names were given as David and Sam Offman, reporting directly to a command center within the embassy.
While the events of the Victoria flap fell squarely within the subject of ufology (landings of unidentified craft, 7 foot tall occupants seen involved in soil removal activity, vitrified holes found at landing sites, etc.) some of the other Argentinean incidents weren't quite so alien.
In mid-August 1995, with the promise of spring in the air over the southern hemisphere, the residents of Salta, one of Argentina's most UFO-prone areas since the 1950's, were startled by the collision of an object near the town of Metán. According to a number of investigators, the unknown object was visible three hundred miles around in broad daylight. It disintegrated in mid-flight, and its remains smacked against the Andean piedmont with a force that set off seismographs in cities hundreds of kilometers away.
According to information published in the press, a team of rescuers from the town of Rosario de Lerma, almost 150 miles from the crash site, set off to the area to initiate operations. "We had no idea it could be, but we went there thinking we'd find injured people," stated Pedro Olivera, the leader of the rescue team. Olivera went on to state that officials later told his group that "an object had exploded in mid-air" but would add nothing further. The rescue team visited Cerrillo, La Merced, Carril and other towns, and in each stop, found excited witnesses telling them about the uncanny celestial event, the subsequent explosion, and the rumbling of the earth beneath their feet.
Olivera's team struck pay dirt when they reached the foothills of Mt. Crestón, a nine thousand-foot peak. They found themselves staring at an alien vista of charred vegetation and scorched rocks, and in the middle of this devastation, sat a metallic object which reflected the feeble rays of the sun. The rescuers radioed their superiors, advising them that the object had been located. Without any further explanation, the authorities ordered the rescuers to advance no further and to return to their base.
But the incident does not end there: on August 18, 1995, villagers and townspeople reported seeing four wheel drive vehicles manned by English-speaking personnel speeding toward the crash site. The testimony of an anonymous technician of the National University at Salta is particularly interesting: apparently, the foreign personnel was accompanied by university staffers and technicians from the local nuclear power plant. The foreigners, according to this account, took with them chunks of a thin, metallic material resembling aluminum. The fragments allegedly "assumed a concave shape when joined" and had an unusual consistency. The anonymous university informer claims that all present were instructed to say that fragments of a meteorite had been found, and that pieces of rock should be shown to the press.
A journalist from nearby Salta, interviewed by Buenos Airean newspaper newspaper on September 1, 1995 stated that "there is no doubt that we have NASA personnel here trying to conceal the truth, assisted by members of the National University at Salta, since it is already involved in the matter but refuses to publicize its involvement."
Nicolás Ojeda, writing in the Mas Allá del Límite newsletter put out by ORTK-Argentina, draws attention to the presence of triangular aircraft, such as the F-117A and even the infamous black helicopters, operating in the vicinity of the Setúbal lagoon, not far from the UFO-active Victoria region. Eyewitnesses had even reported seeing Russian Mig-29s over the area at an airfield in the Entre Rios province. "This all leads us to wonder what reasons could exist...to conceal the presence of these objects, and change [the witnesses] statements to reflect that the sighting involved non-existent interplanetary spacecraft?" His article goes on to indicate that F-117As have been routinely photographed and filmed in Victoria and sighted over the city of Rosario "by qualified witnesses".
Could the object that crashed at Metán been just one such elusive military prototype whose retrieval was "camouflaged" under the convenient shroud of mystery that covers the UFO phenomenon? Certainly NASA would have no business in such an affair, but the space administration, as has been noted elsewhere, has such high moral standing and prestige in Latin America that its functionaries--whether real or impostors--are afforded every courtesy. Might not such a cover not prove useful to parties with less sanguine intentions? Die-hard ETH advocates scoff at this suggestion, but the fact remains that advanced technology aircraft do exist and that they are often tested far beyond the U.S. border to circumvent domestic aviation restrictions and with the consent of foreign governments.