Project 33, The Chulucanas Incident, And Peru’s Official UFO Office

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
February 23, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
8 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Sightings

While several governments around the world, specifically United States are approaching the subject of UFOs more seriously today, authorities in Peru have been doing so for almost two decades. And these sightings of bizarre, mysterious objects continue today, with some of the most intriguing UFO encounters on record having occurred in the South American country.

And when we factor in the many legends of ancient times and intriguing locations of Peru, perhaps not least the Nazca Lines, then these UFO sightings become all the more interesting. Has there been an extraterrestrial presence in and around Peru for thousands of years, and just how much is known about these speculative cosmic visitors?

The origins of official UFO studies in Peru lie in a project known as Project 33, so-called due to 33 specific locations where UFO activity was particularly busy. Before we examine Project 33 further, we will turn our attention to several incidents in late-2001 that were definitely significant in the project coming together.

The Chulucanas Incident

On the evening of October 13th, 2001, over the town of Chulucanas in northwest Peru, residents witnessed several strange orange-red spherical objects appear overhead. [1] These bizarre objects remained visible for over two hours, arranging themselves into different formations in the sky, and appearing to move independently and with intelligent guidance. At one point during the evening, the objects even appeared to come together to form one large object.

Not only were there multiple witnesses to the events, but some residents also managed to capture them on film, and so offering that whatever they might prove to be, they were very real and visible for all to see.

Just short of a fortnight later, the strange glowing objects returned, again moving around in the night sky into different formations. On this occasion, though, some of them appeared to descend and land in a nearby field.

Perhaps the most witnessed events, however, occurred on the evening of November 15th, 2001, when hundreds of residents witnessed the return of the bizarre objects for a third time.  And on this evening, a sense of fear and panic swept through the crowd of onlookers.

Dr. Anthony Choy, who investigated the case, would recall that during this encounter, there was a sense that there was an awareness from the object, or at least any potential occupant inside it. He would state that when witnessed attempted to approach the objects that had descended it would “hurl itself over them”. Similarly, once this caused the crowd to retreat – which they did “with great fear” – the object returned to where it had been previously.

Ultimately, the lights and what they might have been remains unexplained. Choy, however, believes that there is at least the possibility that they were the result of “superior non-human intelligence”.

The Legends Of Pilan Hill

When Choy investigated the sightings for the Peruvian Air Force over a three-year period that saw him visit the region 17 times, he concluded that the concentration of the sightings occurred over the Pinal Hill region – a place that has an incredibly long history with anomalous incidents and activity.

These strange accounts go back hundreds, if not thousands of years, ranging from the appearance of strange, short, humanoid creatures that float on some kind of technology to cattle and even people simply disappearing, some of whom were never seen again. Those that did reappear, claimed they had only been gone for several hours as opposed to the several days they had been missing in reality.

Also of interest is what appears to be a horseshoe-shaped area of ground over a distance of approximately 300 square miles, where no vegetation grows. As speculative as it is, might this have once been the landing spot of an otherworldly craft, perhaps even thousands of years ago? Or might it be the remnants of some kind of extraterrestrial base, again perhaps from antiquity?

Many Strange Reports

Choy would manage to speak to hundreds of witnesses, both about the Chulucanas sightings and other strange goings-on in the Pilan Hill area. According to these interviews, multiple military pilots have reported having had encounters with these strange objects over Pilan Hill. General descriptions of the strange craft are that they are enormous close-up, solid, and often glow an orange-red that produces a wave of heat to those around it.

One particularly intriguing encounter, told to Choy by an anonymous former air force officer, seemingly saw a pilot taken from his aircraft inside one of these strange objects in the late-1950s or early sixties. He was eventually returned to his plane, which he duly landed, before making a report of the encounter to his superiors.

They would, however, refuse to believe such outrageous claims, and was short of being labeled a “lunatic”. One thing of interest, however, and something not explained in the official report of that particular flight, is that his plane had seemingly been in the air for over two hours – this, despite only having enough fuel onboard for a 45-minute flight.

An Encounter In Old Piura

It was perhaps just short of 18 months after the Chulucanas incident, on the evening of February 22nd, 2003, when Choy was in the region and experienced first-hand a strange sighting. Choy had come to the area – specifically the village of Piura The Old just outside of the city of Piura – on this occasion in order to film his part in a television show. Once his filming was complete, however, rather than return to the city, he stayed to continue his UFO investigations.

It was just before 9:25 pm when Choy and around 40 other residents of the small village noticed a curious object appear in the night sky. The object appeared to be some distance away, but was clearly visible to all, even changing colors several times as it moved. And interestingly, it appeared to be heading toward Pilan Hill, eventually appearing to come to a stop directly overhead the hill itself. Then, after having been visible for around five minutes, the glowing object simply disappeared.

Even stranger, around 20 minutes later at 9:45 pm, an identical object appeared in the sky and once more traveled calmly and silently to Pilan Hill before stopping overhead and also disappearing. A third object appeared half an hour later, and after traveling to Pilan Hill continued into the distance, eventually disappearing from sight.

Choy would leave the area the following day. Before he had left, however, he had pleaded with the locals to “watch the skies” so they could report any further sightings to him. On the evening of March 1st, again around 9:20 pm, another sighting did unfold.

According to the reports, a red-orange “round, luminous object” was seen by multiple people that was approximately twice the size of the full moon appears moving across the sky. Once more, its movement was slow – too slow, for example, for it to be an airplane. And complete silence ruled out it being a helicopter. Furthermore, it was again heading toward Pilan Hill, where, after 20 minutes, it disappeared.

The 33 Zones Of Intense UFO Activity

Ultimately, as Choy’s investigations took him further afield than the Pilan Hill region of the country, he identified what he believed were 33 zones of “intense UFO activity” – zones that covered around 75 percent of the country.

Following his report, the Peruvian military unfolded Project 33, which would attempt to bring all of the information from these sightings together in the hope of understanding just what these objects might be.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning the ancient cultures, legends, and mysteries of this part of the world, not least the Nazca Lines, which many ancient astronaut researchers suggest are signs of an extraterrestrial presence in antiquity.

Despite the wealth of information and witness statements collected by Choy, the department was closed due to “administrative problems” in 2008. The press conference of a former military pilot the following year in 2009 regarding an encounter he had almost three decades previously, however, would seemingly give the military the reason needed to reopen an official UFO office.

The Oscar Santa María Huerta Encounter

According to former pilot, Oscar Santa Maria Huerta, at around 7:15 pm on the morning of April 11th, 1980, around 1800 personnel were in formation at Fuerza Aerea Peruana base in La Joya, Arequipa when they witnessed a bizarre balloon-like object moving overhead. [2] Given that the Cold War was still in full swing and Peruvian authorities had just ousted a pro-Soviet regime that year, the base commander immediately ordered fighter jets scrambled in order to investigate the object in case it was a spying device. And what’s more, they had ordered not just to intercept it, but destroy it.

One of these pilots was Huerta, who immediately took to his Sukhoi SU-22 fighter and left the runway. A short time later, the target was in his sights. He pressed down on his guns, and let off a burst of ammunition from the 30mm guns on the jet. He recalled that while many of these bullets “hit the object fully” they appeared to have “no effect at all”. He further noted that the bullets – which would “normally obliterate anything in its path” – “didn’t bounce off” and were “probably absorbed”.

In fact, rather than beginning to fall to the ground, the object instead began to head off into the distance, ascending higher into the air as it did so – and it moved at a blistering pace. Huerta went in pursuit of it. When it they were at an altitude of around 36,000 feet, however, and with Huerta barely 1500 feet away from it, the object came to a sudden stop. This forced him to swerve his plane at the last moment, taking him past the object and barely missing colliding with it.

He then went higher, intending to “attack it from above”. However, the instant his targets locked onto the object, it ascended once more, making a “straight vertical climb”. This chase continued for several minutes, with the object twice moving out of range of attacks at the last second. Eventually reaching an altitude of around 63,000 feet.

Details From Close Proximity

At this point, Huerta brought his vehicle to less than 500 feet of the object. And at this close proximity, he realized the object was almost certainly not a technological device of the Soviet Union, or any other country.

He would later describe the object as being approximately 30 feet wide with an appearance “like a light bulb split in half” with “an enameled cream-colored dome” with a “wide, circular, metallic base”. He would further assert that the object had “no engines, no exhaust, no windows, no wings or antennae” – ultimately, there was “no visible propulsion system”.

The object began to ascend further, but realizing he had been in the air almost 20 minutes and was running out of fuel, he set out back to base. He requested another jet take over from his pursuit but it was decided the object was at too high an altitude to pursue further. Following his arrival back at the base, the object remained visible and on the radar for another two hours before finally disappearing.

Although authorities initially were closed-mouthed about the incident, Huerta had spoken about it for several years at talks in America and throughout Europe, even drawing the attention of the History Channel, who featured his account and so catapulting it in front of a mainstream audience, eventually leading Huerta to call the news conference regarding the incident.

The sighting remains unexplained. It is, however, one of the few times a terrestrial aircraft has opened fire on a UFO – a vehicle, potentially, from another world.

Peru’s Official UFO Office

Whether coincidental or not, several years after the press conference called by Huerta, Peru’s Air Force announced that they would open an official UFO office in order to investigate the many sightings of strange aircraft over the country. [3] And this department would, ultimately, be the reopening of the UFO department headed by Dr. Choy, which had closed in 2008.

The decision to reinstate the office was due to the sheer increase in strange lights and unknown objects over the country. And rather than looking to cover up their findings, it appeared there was a genuine desire to get to the bottom of what these objects, and do so with transparency in terms of the general public.

Indeed, perhaps Peru’s approach is one that is now being copied in other countries around the world, and might one day prove to have been the lighting of touch paper to the slow burn toward disclosure – whatever that disclosure might look like. It could well be that Heurta’s encounter – just one of many in Peru, remember – might prove to be one of the most important in history.

The video below features Dr. Anthony Choy speaking a little further.


1 The Chulucanas Incident And Other Concepts, Brian Vike, Rense
2 The only man to ever shoot at a UFO, Frank Chung,
3 Peru’s Air Force Opens a UFO Office, and It’s Twitter-Friendly, Catherine A. Treywick, Foreign Policy

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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