The Lakenheath UFO Chase Incident

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
July 26, 2018
Last Updated
October 13, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
7 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

On the evening of the 13th going into the 14th August 1956, one of the most well-documented and military-radar-confirmed UFO encounters took place in the skies over eastern England. As well as being tracked on three separate ground radar systems, further confirmation came from an airborne radar. And further still, visual sightings came from two pilots in separate planes, as well as from multiple personnel from two different control towers.

Lakenheath Radar blended into a superimposed UFO

Is the Lakenheath UFO incident genuine?

As well as the amount of military documentation of the incident, the fact that it stretched between US and UK intelligence networks shows that not only were both governments aware and actively investigating the instances, but they were apparently doing so, at least on occasion, through combined and coordinated efforts. This, despite public denials to both of their respective citizens. As the true “UFO history” is revealed through the persistent investigations of UFO researchers around the world, it is highly likely we will discover such coordinated efforts go out in many directions and under many directives.

Before we examine this most fascinating military encounter with an apparent other-worldly craft, check out the short video below. It features some of the better photographs captured by members of the public during the early-to-mid-1950s. A time when UFO sightings were more and more commonplace.

Not A Meteor, Comet, Or Conventional Aircraft!

At a little after 9:30 pm on the evening of 13th August 1956, the radar system at RAF Bentwaters (utilized by the US military) picked up an anomalous object on England’s east coast. [1] It moved at a pace somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000 miles per hour. Aside from the abnormal speed, the size of the object was that of a standard jet fighter. As the object vanished from the radar screen “it diminished in size and intensity”.

Around 30 minutes later at 10 pm another mysterious object appeared on a radar monitor at Bentwaters. The distance it covered suggested a speed around 12,000 miles per hour. As well as the radar returns, which were again of a similar size to a conventional craft, those on duty in the control tower would report visually witnessing a bright light passing overhead at the same time as the radar was tracking the object. Further still, a C-47 craft was passing high overhead, also at the same time. The pilot would report a streaking white light below him.

Personnel at Bentwaters would notify the nearby RAF Lakenheath station, also a US military outpost at the time. They too managed to track the same objects on their systems. Several Lakenheath personnel also reported visual confirmation of the UFO from the ground. They would report a “luminous object” head in their direction which then came to an “abrupt stop”. It hovered for a moment before “streaking away” and out of sight.

Whatever the object was, it wasn’t a meteor or a comet, and it certainly wasn’t a conventional aircraft. That much was certain.

Pursuit By A UFO!

Shortly after midnight, following a call of a sighting near the RAF Station in Neatishead, a Venom night fighter jet scrambled from Waterbeach. It would first head towards a “target” which then vanished before the fighter could intercept it. Seconds later, however, the fighter would receive new coordinates, just north of Cambridge. This time, not only did he confirm the object on his own radar, he would send back visual confirmation. Furthermore, radars at Neatishead and Lakenheath would also confirm the sightings.

Several seconds following these confirmations, the object would appear just behind the Venom fighter. It continued to “pursue” the jet, maintaining a steady distance of only a quarter of a mile. The pilot of the fighter performed several maneuvers in an attempt to “shake off” this mysterious craft, but to no avail.

This would continue for around ten minutes. Although the craft was not aggressively chasing the fighter jet, it would maintain the close proximity. Then, it suddenly became stationary, simply hovering and allowing the Venom plane to increase the distance between them. Taking the chance, the plane immediately returned to base.

Several moments later, the UFO zipped northwards. Traveling at an estimated 600 miles per hour, it was soon out of range, its ultimate destination unknown. The radar system at Lakenheath, however, would continue to receive “echoes” of the craft until around 3:30 am. This would suggest that, even though the object was out of range, its effects were still being felt for several hours following its disappearance. Although purely speculation, perhaps this would suggest the craft was closer than many would think. Perhaps, as we have examined before, the North Sea and the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean contain the bases these apparent alien crafts come from.

A depiction of a UFO near a military jet midair

A depiction of a UFO near a military jet midair

Media Reports Of The Late-1970s

Although the incident was known about in the years that followed among those with an interest in UFOs, it wasn’t until 1978 when further details began to emerge fully in the public arena. In fact, part of the apparent motivation of one of the new witnesses in coming forward was in response to UFO skeptic, Philip Klass.

It was Klass’s opinion that the UFO chase was nothing more than faulty radar readings and meteors misidentified as a UFO. This declaration would then appear in a Sunday Times newspaper article written by Ian Ridpath, who essentially endorsed the conclusion of Klass.

However, when Flight Lieutenant Freddie Wimbledon wrote to the Sunday Times in their edition of 19th March 1978, he would disagree strongly that the incident had been solved. It would come to light that Wimbledon had been the radar control officer at RAF Neatishead during the incident.

Artist sketch of the Lakenheath UFO Incident

Artist sketch of the Lakenheath UFO Incident

He would state that the sighting details describing a UFO chase were very accurate. He would also assert the radar returns were genuine and not the result of malfunctioning equipment. However, he would also make the claim that instead of the American personnel directing the fighters on their intercept mission, it was in fact his team who did so from their base. The US military was essentially “listening in”.

Furthermore, following Wimbledon’s revelations, a second previously unknown witness sent his own recollections of the night in question. John Killock would opt to write to the Daily Express newspaper. He would state he had witnessed a bright glowing object moving at extreme pace in the same vicinity as a Venom fighter.

Recent Contradictory Statements

It would appear on the surface that the Lakenheath UFO chase is one of the most credible incidents on record. And it might very well be. However, as researchers have continued to probe away at the case, new and sometimes contradictory evidence comes to light.

For example, aside from Wimbledon, much of the detail of the encounter – the pilots aside – came from Forrest Perkins, the Technical Sergeant and Watch Supervisor at the Lakenheath Radar Air Traffic Control center. However, his version of events was contested by those of some of the pilots involved – whose initial version of events was mainly in the form of reports and teleprinter messages.

When the pilots of the aircraft involved – David Chamber and John Brady, and Ian Fraser-Ker and Ivan Logan – were tracked down for comment, they would claim that the incident, in their opinion, was not a UFO chase. Not only that, according to them, there was no visual contact made. Furthermore, the incident took place, in their opinion, between 2 am and 4 am in the early hours of 14th August, several hours after the initial reports had claimed.

It would appear, then, based on the above statements, that the sighting was nothing more than misidentified aerial objects, malfunctioning equipment, and general confusion. However, as we will move on to next, the incident was about to become much cloudier.

Even Further Confusing Versions Of Events

Just to confuse matters even further, the two pilots of an earlier scrambled Venom fighter were found. Leslie Arthur and Grahame Scofield claimed that when they were sent on their intercept mission, they received no details of their target. However, before they could approach it they experienced a malfunction and had to return to base.

They did, though, recall listening to the radio communications of the two planes that would take to the skies shortly after. And what’s more, their recollections of the incident were largely in line with the original reports from Perkins and Wimbledon. And certainly not corroborative of the previously mentioned pilots themselves.

Artist's sketch of the Lakenheath UFO chase

Artist’s sketch of the Lakenheath UFO chase

Essentially, the pilots were certain that “there was nothing there” and that the had been “some sort of mistake”. They would admit to witnessing “a blip”. But rather than this being an artificially created craft, it was most likely “a weather balloon”.

Further confusion developed when it came to light that another pilot, A. N. Davis, was re-tracked to the area where the UFO was seen. And the time he was sent on the intercept would have coincided with the version of events as described by Perkins and Wimbledon.

An Attempt At Redirecting Truth?

What should we make of these statements? Is it the truth finally coming to light? Or might it be an attempt – even now over half a century later – to rewrite what actually happened so as to have the incident dismissed? It would certainly be a drastic course of action. And it would involve the willingness of individuals to offer statements they know (in theory) to be false.

However, such a notion, while perhaps unlikely, is not completely impossible. Many servicemen – if we assume there was a genuine reason to cover-up the incident – might feel entirely comfortable with such a display of loyalty. And that is not to say that all military personnel are not to be trusted. But we perhaps should consider that different people have different loyalties for a variety of different reasons.

Depiction of the Lakenheath UFO incident

Depiction of the Lakenheath UFO incident

We have to ask why the main witnesses would have both felt the need to falsify the incident. As well as why their accounts were almost identical. And furthermore, what would the reason be for covering up such an incident? And why would that cover-up need to remain in place over 50 years later? Might it be simply that the incident is a demonstration of how far behind our own aircraft are by comparison to these strange visitors? Is it possible that such a move would be nothing more than causing a general underlying panic in the world’s population?

It would appear that the more research that takes place regarding the Lakenheath UFO chase, the more nuanced and murkier it becomes. It is perhaps within this murkiness where whatever hidden truth resides. Perhaps the sole purpose of the conflicting reports is to do exactly that. One thing is for certain, though. That the case is still of interest to UFO researchers today shows how important the incident is.

Recent Sightings Over Lakenheath

The Lakenheath case has gone under close scrutiny from many different groups and individuals alike over the years. Perhaps not least from those behind the Condon Report, who would describe the case as “the most puzzling and unusual case in the radar-visual files”. They would go on to state that “at least one genuine UFO” was in the encounter was “fairly high”. Furthermore, the “rational, intelligent behavior of the UFO suggests a mechanical device of unknown origin”. They would, though, insert the caveat that “conventional explanations” couldn’t be dismissed as a possibility.

As credibly documented as the encounter is, it remains unexplained. Whether the intelligence behind the mysterious objects of August 1956 is the same as some of the many other sightings over the United Kingdom in the 1950s also remains unknown. It certainly isn’t that much a stretch of the imagination.

In 2007, over fifty years following the incident, two US pilots of a US Air Force F-15 were contacted by London Military Air Traffic Control with a request to “intercept an unknown target” in their vicinity and flying at an altitude of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. Not only would the F-15 lock-in on the mystery object, they would perform two passes, both at 17,000 feet. The pilots would later describe the object as completely black and “unlike any aircraft they had ever seen”.

The video below features the audio exchange of the two pilots. It is an interesting few minutes. As always, make of it what you will.


1 Lakenheath 1956: A UK Radar-Visual UFO Classic, UFO Evidence

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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1 Comment

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  • Ben Lovegrove says:

    Fascinating, particularly the radio chatter from 2007 in light of what we know from the USS Nimitz incident of 2004.

    And of course RAF Bentwaters came into focus again in 1980 when the Rendlesham Forest incident occurred.

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