The UFO Files
The Lakenheath-Bentwaters UFO Incident
Posted by jkrog08, on July 6, 2009 at 12:09 GMT
The Lakenheath, England UFO Incident is one of the best cases in ufology, it has multiple radar contacts as well visual reports. In the late night and early morning hours of August 13th and 14th, 1956 something extraordinary happened in the skies over southeastern England. It is also interesting because Lakenheath AFB was also a US nuclear bomber base. This incident is best described by the four separate events that occurred over a time span of 5 hours and had the object traveling at speeds between 80 mph and up to 10,800 mph potentially. A British fighter jet, the de Havilland DH.112 Venom , was subsequently launched to intercept this unknown aircraft, with another launched after the first pilot called for assistance. The ensuing chase, which at times had the UFO right behind the jets' tail left the pilot shaken and the British and American investigators scrambling for answers to what the Venoms were chasing that night.
I need to note that this case is very poorly put together by researchers thus far, with information all over the place, some information non-existent anymore, conflicting reports, and the certain names of individuals present, especially the pilots is questionable as sources are scarce with this information. There is conflicting reports from the British side and the USAF Blue Books side of the story. This case has also recently been heavily investigated by a collaborative British research team known as the Lakenheath Collaboration. The only thing known for sure is that there were multiple radar hits from multiple stations of unknown objects traveling at extreme speeds, ground visuals, a C-47 that got a close visual, as well a British fighter jet that did get a radar and visual lock on one of the objects. This case,despite the poorly ordered information is still one of the best and hardest to explain cases in ufology. Many people do not know of this case and they should in my opinion.
Also let me say that I intentionally have not covered the Washington D.C. sightings of July,1952(as many know I am covering three of the top cases of each decade starting with the 40's). I did not cover these because the case has already been extensively covered here on ATS. You can find good information about the case here at NICAP and on this thread by ATS member Gazrok.
1.The Radar Contacts
Lakenworth(US nuclear bomber base) and Bentwaters Air Force bases in England, which in 1956 were on loan to the United States by the Royal Air Force. Radar contact was made from three separate sources(Lakenheath, Bentwaters, and Venom aircraft) with multiple radar configurations.
Clear sky until 3AM, with an unlimited ceiling. Visibility between 1:00AM and 4:00AM was 10 nautical miles with no storm systems in the region. All aircraft were accounted for and identified by radar. Wind direction between 12:00AM and 6:00AM was as follows:
-(Velocity in degrees) Surface:230 deg at 15 knotsAll weather, radar, personal, and location information courtesy of the Lakenheath Collaboration
Detailed Contact Information
The first URE, or unidentified radar echo, came at around 9:30 PM on the Bentwaters Air Force Base radar. The contact was about 25-30 miles east, southeast. The contact remained until it was lost about 15-20 miles to the west, northwest of Bentwaters. The object stayed on a constant azimuth heading of 285 degrees and was moving at an estimated speed of between 4,000 and 10,800 mph (Mach 7.5 - 15), the speed varies as there is discrepancy in the radar operators calculation of speed in regards to the transit time between distances in between the 2 second radar sweeps. The operator said that "the size of the blip was that of a normal aircraft, but diminished in size and intensity to the vanishing point before crossing the entire screen."A T-33 "Shooting Star" trainer from the 512th Fighter Interceptor Squadron manned by 1st Lieutenants Charles Metz and navigator Andrew Rowe, who were already in the air returning from a training mission, were diverted to investigate but found nothing and returned home.
About 5 minutes later at around 9:35PM a group of 12-15 UREs was picked up about 8 miles southwest of Bentwaters, the echos "appeared as normal targets" and "normal checks were made to determine possible malfunctions of the radar failed to show any malfunctions." The UFOs appeared to move as a group to the northeast at speeds varying between 80 and 125 mph. A 6-7 mile area was covered on the scope, while the echos "faded considerably" after a distance of 14 miles NE of Bentwaters they were still tracked to a point 40 miles NE of Bentwaters where they merged into a single echo "several times larger than a B-36 return under similar conditions." This single echo remained stationary for 10-15 minutes at this location 40 miles NE of Bentwaters for 10-15 minutes, then proceeded to move NE for 5-6 miles, stopped again for 3-5 minutes, and finally moved out of range (range was 50 miles) of the radar at 9:55PM. The apparent average speed for the merged object was calculated at between 290-700 mph (58 miles in 5-12 minutes).
At 10:00PM yet another contact was picked up about 30 miles east of Bentwaters and tracked to a point about 25 miles west of the station for 16 seconds. The radar operator figured the speed to be "in excess of 4,000 mph" but given the distance covered divided by time it appears the speed was more like 12,000 mph, or around Mach 17. All of the returns appeared normal except for the last, which was slightly weaker than the others. The URE disappeared when it moved out of range.
courtesy of drdavidclarke.co.uk
At 10:55PM radar contact occurred again, the URE was 30 miles east of Bentwaters moving west at an apparent speed of between 2,000-4,000 mph. The URE disappeared 2 miles East of the station and "immediately" appeared on scope 3 miles west of the station. It then disappeared entirely 30 miles west of the station. It is interesting to note that this URE appeared to be on the same course as the third contact and depending on the radar operators definition of "immediately" (as in blinked off and back on in the same sweep) then the speed would have been around 18,000 mph, or around Mach 25. The official Blue Book report estimated the speed lower, at 12,000 mph. Now at this point in this ongoing anomalous saga someone at Bentwaters called an operator at Lakenheath radar station and asked "if they had any 4,000 mph targets". The caller from Bentwaters also stated the control tower at Bentwaters had reported seeing a " bright light passing over the field from east to west at terrific speed at around 4,000 feet altitude." Now at this same time a pilot of a C-47 flying over the station at 4,000 feet reported "a bright light passed under his craft moving east to west at terrific speed."
Accordingly the Lakenheath radar supervisor had all controllers start scanning the scopes using MTI, or a moving target indicator, which eliminated all ground clutter, or ground returns.The operators soon discovered a stationary echo about 20-25 miles southwest of Lakenheath. It is interesting to note that the radars should not have picked up the target because it was not moving, but they did. Here is an interesting note on why they may have still picked up a stationary target:
A vibrating or rapidly rotating target will show up on MTI radar even if it is not otherwise in motion.www.nicap.org...
It then began moving once again in an instantaneous acceleration in velocity to 400-600 mph in a north, northeast direction. Local Air Force command was notified and kept appraised of the developing situation, which included the URE making several linear direction changes at around 600 mph with no speed change apparent in the directional changes. The changes varied between 8 and 20 miles in length with stationary episodes of 180-360 seconds (3-6 minutes) in between. It is also note worthy that there were several observations at Lakenheath at this time, including multiple site radar AND visual conformations of the objects instant acceleration and abrupt stops. At about 11:50PM the RAF (Royal Air Force) scrambled a de Havilland "Venom" fighter jet to investigate.
The case here differs in the British version and American (Blue Book) version in a few parts. The first difference is the location of where the jet took off from and where contact was made with the UFO. According to British reports the jet was launched from a field near London, which is 30-45 miles southwest, while the USAF report states the jet was launched from Waterbeach RAF station, which is only 20 miles southwest of Lakenheath. The second difference is the fact that the radar control supervisor at Lakenheath stated that the Venom was vectored to the stationary UFO (the fifth contact) at about 16 miles SW of Lakenheath and that was the only contact with the UFO. Now according to Blue Book "the jet flew over Lakenheath and was vectored to a radar target 6 miles east of the field. The pilot then advised he had a bright, white light in sight and would investigate. At 13 miles west of Lakenheath he reported loss of the target and light." This statement implies that the pilot had both a radar lock and visual sight on the UFO. "Lakenheath then vectored him to another target 10 miles east, the pilot advised target was in sight and he was locking on." Now in the timeline of things this new target would be classified as the "fifth contact", this one occurred both on the ground and in the air however. The watch supervisor at Lakenheath does agree with this fifth hit, except for the distance from the base. After these discrepancies everything else matches in both Blue Book and British accounts.
The stationary UFO was at an altitude 15-20,000 feet and about 16 miles SW of the base. Shortly after the new vector was given Lakenworth told the pilot the URE was half a mile dead ahead, the pilot then radioed, "Roger...I've got my guns on him." The pilot was referring to a radar fire control system, the pilot told the USAF later that the "URE was the clearest target I've ever seen on radar." There was a brief pause after the pilot radioed the lock, then the pilot radioed Lakenworth asking "Where did he go?", "Do you still have him?". Lakenheath then radioed in saying the UFO had made a swift circular movement and was now BEHIND the aircraft! The pilot then confirmed the UFO was indeed behind him and that he would "try to shake it". The pilots numerous maneuvers to shake the unknown aircraft were unsuccessful, Lakenheath said that there was a distinct radar echo behind the echo of the jet, indicating that the separation was greater than 500 feet. At this time, still unable to shake the UFO of his tail the Venom pilot requested assistance. After around ten minutes the first pilot radioed in, reportedly sounding very scared, saying he was returning to base because his fuel was low. He asked if the craft was following him and was told by Lakenheath that it did for a short distance then resumed its stationary position.
"He tried everything. He climbed, dived and circled. But the UFO acted like it was glued right behind him. Always the same same distance, very close."
For 10 minutes the pilot tried to shake off the object. Those on the ground could "tell from his tonal quality that he was getting worried, excited and also pretty scared."
Soon after he turned back to base as fuel was getting low.
The second Venom was directed towards the last position of the UFO but before he got close enough to the object he reported engine malfunctions and stated he was returning to base. The following is the pilot to pilot conversation monitored by the radar control:
Number 2: "Did you see anything?"www.nicap.org...
Here is the information taken by Blue Book personal regarding the Venom-UFO encounter:
d) [Description of flight path and maneuvers of object(s)] Flight path was straight but jerky with object stopping instantly and then continuing. Maneuvers were of the same pattern except one object was observed to "lock on" to fighter scrambled by RAF and followed all maneuvers of the jet fighter aircraft. In addition, Lakenheath RATCC observed object 17 miles east of station making sharp rectangular course of flight. This maneuver was not conducted by circular path but on right angles at speeds 600-800 mph. Object would stop and start with amazing rapidity.
The pilot of Venom one said he did have a radar gun lock for several seconds so "there was something there that was solid." Following the chase the UFO did not immediately leave the radar scope, according to the night supervisor:
The target made a couple more short moves, then left our radar coverage in a northerly direction -- speed still about 600 mph. We lost target outbound to the north at about 50-60 mi., which is normal if aircraft or target is at an altitude below 5,000 ft (because of the radiation lobe of that type radar [a CPS-5]).
The time of the loss of contact was given by Blue Book at around 3:30AM. It is important to note that the radar supervisor stated "The speeds that night were all calculated based on the time and distance covered on radar." Additionally he said, "This speed was calculated many times that evening."
Here is a statement from Flight Lieutenant Freddie
Wimbledon,supervisor at Neatishead RAF Fighter Command that night, responsible
for sending the intercept orders:
I was Chief Controller on duty at the main RAF Radar Station in East Anglia on the night in question. My duties were to monitor the radar picture and to scramble the Battle Flight, who were on duty 24 hours a day, to intercept any intruder of British airspace not positively identified in my sector of responsibility."
|Timeline of Events and Quick
3. Alternate Explanations and Official Conclusions
There were no balloon launches following the one at Liverpool on July 19th until the one at Usworth on August 16th. These balloon launches were also tethered as most were used for parachute jumps. Again some balloons escaped and had to be reported to ATCC Uxbridge. Balloons were not to be flown when winds exceeded 18 knots.
Information regarding the intensity of the meteor stream on the night of contact:
The Perseid meteor radiant shows unusual mobility and descends across more than 50° of arc from moderately high elevation in the east towards the northeast between about July 25 and August 17, moving from about 2°RA 41°Dec in Andromeda across the celestial N of Perseus to 68°RA 61°Dec in Camelopardus, reaching a maximum of around 50 particles per hour around August 10-12 and dwindling rapidly over the next five nights or so. On the night of August 13-14 the shower has passed its maximum and the radiant is only about 10° of azimuth from its terminal position in the NNE. [Tver, Motz & Hartmann, 1979] Neil Bone, head of the Meteor Section of the British Astronomical Association, concurs that the 1956 maximum had occurred on August 11-12 and that by the night of 13-14 rates would probably have fallen to around 20 particles per hour.
Blue Book personal came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that a meteorological or astronomical source was responsible for all of the UFOs reported. Here is a statement made by USAF officer Paula W. Stimson:
Paula W. Stimson, Cwpt. USAF, Intelligence Officer, 3910th ABGRU (SAC), RWF station Lakenheath, Suffolk, England. All personnel interviewed and logs of RATCC lend reality to the existence of some unexplainable flying phenomena near this air field on this occasion. No Air Base; however, the controllers are experienced and technical skills were used in attempts to determine just what the objects were. When the target would stop on the scope, the MTI was used. However, the target would still appear on the scope. All ground observers and reports from observers at Bentwaters agree on colour, maneuvers and shape of object. My analysis of the sightings is that they were real and not figments of the imagination. The fact that three radar sets picked up the targets simultaneously is certainly conclusive that a target or object was in the air. The maneuvers of the object were extraordinary; however, the fact that radar and ground visual observations were made on its rapid acceleration and abrupt stops certainly lend credulance to the report. It is not believed these sightings were of any meteorological or astronomical origins
A very unusual conclusion from the Condon Committee was given in this case, with the report stating that at least one UFO appeared to be genuine:
The probability that anomalous propagation of radar signals may have been involved in this case seems to be small. One or two details are suggestive of AP, particularly the reported disappearance of the first track as the UFO appeared to over fly the Bentwaters GCA radar. Against this must be weighed the Lakenheath controller's statement that there was "little or no traffic or targets on scope," which is not at all suggestive of AP conditions, and the behavior of the target near Lakenheath -- apparently continuous and easily tracked. The "tailing" of the RAF fighter, taken alone, seems to indicate a possible ghost image, but this does not jibe with the report that the UFO stopped following the fighter, as the latter was returning to its base, and went off in a different direction. The radar operators were apparently careful to calculate the speed of the UFO from distances and elapsed times, and the speeds were reported as consistent from run to run, between stationary episodes. This behavior would be somewhat consistent with reflections from moving atmospheric layers -- but not in so many different directions.www.nicap.org... ( minor edit for clarity)
Renown skeptic Phillip Klass suggested that the radar hits were results of faulty MTI equipment and that the rest can be explained by AP and the Perseid meteors, as well witness confusion. As I have stated earlier this case is poorly ordered and has many conflicting reports, although the core of the case seems to hold up. Here is a newer report headed by Dr. David Clarke (part of the "Lakenheath Collaboration"):
Four British Fortean researchers, Dr David Clarke, Andy Roberts, Martin Shough, and Jenny Randles, have since conducted a study that has indicated that the incident, or incidents, were very much more complex than the Condon Report had suggested.en.wikipedia.org...
Now Wimbledon strongly disagrees with this report and maintains what he said in earlier years. The new report also included the addition of the fact that the T-33 "Shooting Star" trainer was diverted earlier in the night to investigate and found nothing. In addition to this new information has came to light that states yet another Venom aircraft was scrambled earlier in the evening but lost one of its fuel tanks shortly after take off and had to return to base. The pilots of this reported failed intercept were Leslie Arthur and Grahame Scofield, who stated they were not told the nature of the target. But in classic contradictory nature of this case the navigator, Grahme Scofield stated that he listened to the radio transmissions of the later successful intercept of the UFO and it was exactly as Wimbeldon and Perkens described, and the UFO did chase the aircraft. Also the time and direction of Scofields failed flight is consistent with a civilian witness statement that claimed to see anomalous lights near Ely.
It should also be stated that the RAF said there was no live or synthetic exercises on the date this occurred.
This letter from the Ministry
of Defence (MoD) about the incident:
Letter from L.W. Ackhurst, S4 Air, Ministry of Defence, to P.R. Smith, dated 31 March 1969Lakenheath Collaboration
So the MoDs official position is that what the UFO was is unknown but NOT a threat to air defense. There was not really an extensive UFO related research project by the British surrounding this event, unlike in the United States. Possibly because the bases were under US control at the time? Either way there eventually was quite a bit of research into this event from both sides later on. It is also important to note that this is still an ongoing investigation even now, with FOIA documentation still being anticipated. The conclusion from all places 'official' is still the same for the most part; UNKNOWN.
4. My Conclusions
This case is very important in ufology because of its broad spectrum 'unknown' classification throughout the investigatory community. Even the Condon Report, which always seems to find a rational explanation for UFO incidents came to a conclusion that at least one UFO was real, now what it was is a different story. The case being a "Radar/Visual" case, which is somewhat rare, also gives it importance and evidence that is hard to dismiss to the mundane. It is unfortunate because a lot of general people do not know of this case. In addition the case is also a "Close Encounter of the First Kind", since the UFO was on the Venoms tail and within 500 feet of it at one point. So in reality this case is both a "Radar/Visual" and "CE1". As far as any prosaic explanations given thus far, I believe that none can fully account for everything. The biggest thing in my opinion is the 'chase', if true (and there is no reason to think it is not, although some reports conflict with it) then what possible explanation could there be as to what was chasing the Venom? The intelligent-like maneuvers and extremely rapid speeds (sometimes in the area of Mach18) observed by multiple visual and radar sources makes me think that this was truly some type of aircraft that is unknown. Of course it could be some unknown electromagnetic or plasma phenomena, who knows? Now am I saying that these UFOs were piloted by aliens from another solar system? No, I am not, for that one must take into accounts other cases and reports that do give credence to at least some UFOs being piloted by lifeforms of a non-terrestrial origin.
Like I stated in the opening, this case is not nearly as documented and orderly as others. There is missing information, widespread information, and conflicting reports. Fortunately what is known maintains the core of the case which because it is so strong, is more than enough to jolt this case into one of the tops ever. If the missing information ever comes to light, as well a unified report (like the Lakenheath Collaboration is trying to do) then this case may be the top case that is impossible to explain and could be the forefront of ufology and force everyone to admit that UFOs exist. There are many more cases like this as well. In fact ufology is full of great cases that the public is simply not aware of, that is why I am trying to create in-depth threads of some of the best cases, so they can get out to mainstream view(ATS is a great medium to do this). This case as similarities with the "Gorman UFO Dogfight" of the late forties, so maybe we can 'connect the dots' and start to label and document these craft better, for example, in both these cases we have a fast moving, bright lighted, white 'orb shaped' UFO. So obviously there is something related going on here that is worthy of more than just saying "we don't know but we don't think it is a threat to national security."! In conclusion, my final opinion of this case is that at least one, likely many of the UFOs were actually unknown aircraft, and again in my opinion I think they were likely either piloted by extraterrestrials or remotely controlled by them, like a drone or possibly a self thinking probe. I for one look forward to more information about this case and multitudes of others and hope that one day soon we can have an answer to this very real and very active (still today) phenomena.
Sources, Related Threads, and My Related Threads
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