Lights Over The Base! The 1979 Soesterberg UFO Incident

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
December 27, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
8 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Sightings

Although it is little known outside of the Netherlands, and while it is a sighting that lasted only minutes, a UFO encounter over Soesterberg Air Force Base in early 1979 is one of the most interesting on record, not least because of the investigation by UFO groups in the months that followed.

It was later determined by investigators that two flybys over the base had taken place that evening and that multiple witnesses had viewed the encounters from various locations around the base. Despite the military’s attempts to dismiss the sighting as nothing more than a mirage or optical illusion, it appears clear that the incident is most definitely a sighting of something very real.

It is also a clear and multi-witness sighting of a black triangular object a decade before the Belgian Wave sightings of almost identical objects, which sparked regular sightings of these triangular objects around the world. And not just the dimensions and descriptions of the object, but its behavior also mirrored many of those future encounters.

Indeed, the UFO event over Soesterberg that bitterly cold morning just might be one of the earliest multi-witness black triangle sightings on record.

A Huge Object That Moved Slowly And Produced No Sound

The incident over Soesterberg Air Force Base began at 5:45 am on February 3rd, 1979, when three bright lights appeared in formation overhead. [1] According to reports, the lights were first noticed by several on-duty security guards. They quickly radioed the sighting in, asking for all available personnel to make their way outside.

In total, 12 military guards looked on in shock, noting that the three lights were the underside of a large triangular object. As well as the three white lights, a single red light in the middle of the underside – a light which appeared to be beam-like in nature.

The object was at a relatively low altitude – approximately 500 to 600 feet above the ground – so low that the lights lit up the ground below. Even stranger, despite its size, the object moved in complete silence. The craft remained in sight for around five minutes before disappearing into the distance.

One of the soldiers present that morning was Commander Van Vliet. He later recalled that his initial reaction was that the object was an airplane. However, as the object descended somewhat, he noticed that it “produced no sound at all”. Even stranger, despite its large size, it was flying at a particularly slow speed and there was something unnatural about the lighting, with Vliet elaborating that “the light came from some kind of tube”. It was now clear to Van Vliet that whatever the object was, it wasn’t an airplane.

The object remained in sight for around five minutes, during which time, all radios and communication at the base suddenly cut out. When it eventually disappeared into the distance, the communications suddenly came back on.

UFO Investigators Piece Together A Timeline

There was an immediate buzz around the base as personnel communicated with each other looking to see if they had witnessed the curious craft also. And while the military did their best to contain talk of the incident to the confines of the base, the general excitement about the sighting was so great that word eventually reached UFO investigators, who then approached the Air Force In April 1979 looking for an explanation for the bizarre events that cold morning.

Investigators would soon discover that two sets of lights were witnessed over the base on the morning in question. And these lights were witnessed from five different locations around the base.

According to investigators, the incident began when the guards first noticed the lights overhead. This sighting came from a location at the west part of the base (Post A). As the object approached, the lights shined down toward the ground, at one point “trapping” the mean in the beam.

At the same time, from the northeast part of the base (Post B), the same object was also witnessed. From the angle the witness saw the object, they could see the beams of light cast diagonally toward the ground. The object remained visible (because of their location) for a short time only.

When investigators examined the details of the sightings from each location, they could determine much more confidently that the object was around 600 feet from the ground and was traveling at approximately 30 to 60 miles per hour.

Evidence Of A Second Flyover?

Investigators suggested that shortly after this first sighting, a second flyover, whether of the same object or a second one, took place. And this one was witnessed from a third location (Post C). However, because of their locations, the witnesses at Post C only saw the object very briefly, and even then, only the lights. In fact, they were so unimpressed by what they had seen that they didn’t see any reason to report it at the time.

A very short time after that (at Post D), personnel – now alerted to the object’s apparent presence by those at Post A – were surveying their surroundings, unable to see anything out of the ordinary. However, after continuing to scan the skies above a few moments longer, they soon saw the three lights (of the object) approaching from the direction of Post C. They noted that the middle light appeared to be slightly higher than the light on each side.

Those at Post D would later state that there was something strange about the lights in that you could look directly into them without experiencing any glare, unlike when looking directly into car headlights, for example.

The witnesses estimated they were approximately 300 feet from the object, which was at an altitude of around 150 feet. As the object passed overhead the red light became visible to the witnesses, with a beam coming from it that appeared to be pointing straight down.

They watched as the object headed into the distance to the south, passing over the edge of the nearby woods. The object remained in their sight, and they could all see the beams of the lights stretching down to the ground as it moved.

Then, without warning, a bright flash of light came, and at the same time, the white lights went out. The red light was still vaguely visible as it sped off into the distance with increasing speed.

As the witnesses at Post D were watching the aerial display, at the southwest of the base (Post E), the witnesses could see the lights of the object approaching them. Only moments after first seeing its approach, the flash of light lit up the sky temporarily, and the white lights went out as the object made its way away from the base.

More Than A “Mirage”

Another incident unfolded around a month later on March 2nd, 1979, over Camp New Amsterdam, the American part of the base. And once more, multiple people witnessed the events, so much so, that the Dutch government even began to ask questions of the military.

In response, the military offered that what had been witnessed on both occasions was simply a “mirage”. Essentially, the military argued that car headlights reflecting against a reflective layer of air had caused the lights to appear overhead. Needless to say, the witnesses to the events that evening, as well as investigators of the case, certainly didn’t buy into the official military explanation.

Eventually, investigators reconstructed the events that morning, with 10 of the 12 witnesses participating (this reconstruction was broadcast on the radio shortly after). It was largely because of this reconstruction that a fuller timeline of the events emerged. Essentially, despite the official military explanation, it would appear that whatever was witnessed over the base that evening, was a lot more than a mirage.

The Nuclear Angle?

There is also another detail to explore – a nuclear one. According to some reports (which should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt), some of the witnesses saw the red beam of light project down towards a bunker that was rumored to house nuclear weapons for the United States military.

Some suggest that it was the presence of these weapons that attracted the UFO in the first place and that its mission was to examine, or even disable the weapons in question. It is interesting to note that this behavior from strange futuristic aerial objects has been reported several times during the Cold War, perhaps most notably during the Rendlesham Forest incident in the United Kingdom which occurred just short of a year later in December 1980. [2]

Whether the red beam of light detail is accurate or not remains open to debate (with some researchers suggesting this is an embellished detail), however, it is interesting to note that in January 2021 it was revealed in an article in the Dutch publication Volkskrant that nuclear weapons were indeed stored at the facility.

Furthermore, when investigators looked at this detail, they highlighted that there are around 15 “igloo bunkers” that are generally used to house explosive materials. One of these – Object 194 – is slightly separated from the rest of these bunkers and appears to have a much sturdier exterior, very similar to other known nuclear weapons bunkers around Europe.

No Signs Of A Hoax Or Practical Joke

The Soesterberg UFO encounter is an interesting case for several reasons, not least the apparent desire of the Dutch military to keep the encounter away from the general public. However, because of the work of UFO investigators in the months that followed, as well as establishing a timeline of events, several details of the craft also emerged.

For example, while most at the time agreed the shape of the object was triangular (and the arrangement of the lights most certainly was in a triangular shape) when it came to light that some of the witnesses recalled “connecting structures” in between the lights, it appeared that the dimensions of the object were more kite-shaped or even rectangular. Furthermore, the red light appeared to be set further back than in the middle of the white lights, appearing to be in the middle of the back two white orbs.

The lights themselves appeared to be tens of feet in diameter, and while the white lights seemingly had the ability to point forward diagonally, the red light appeared to only point directly down to the ground.

Investigators also noted the sincerity of the witnesses, noting how their reactions were a mixture of fear and controlled restraint at endorsing what they had seen as a vehicle from another world through being aware of the possible ridicule they would face. This suggested that the soldiers had seen something very real and that there was no sign of a hoax or that it was a practical joke.

A Case Awaiting An Explanation Four Decades Later

As we can see, then, the UFO encounter over Soesterberg Air Force Base in February 1979 is potentially an important one. Was this an early encounter with the almost identical black triangles that would be witnessed during the wave of sightings over Belgium (which, incidentally, borders the Netherlands) a decade later?

Is the location important? Although sightings of black triangular aircraft have been witnessed regularly in the United States since the 1980s (particularly in the northeast and the entire west coast of the country) it is interesting that such a sighting should occur so close to the Belgian Wave encounters.

If we take the hotspot areas of the United States into account, might we ask if the access to these areas from the oceans (or North Sea in the case of northwest Europe) is of importance? Might these regions see more of these strange aerial objects simply because they are using the world’s waterways to traverse the planet, or perhaps even emerge from an underwater base? While that sounds preposterous to some, it is a conclusion that many UFO researchers are increasingly seriously contemplating.

And what about the nuclear angle to all of this? We all but know that nuclear weapons were almost certainly stored at the base at the time of the sightings. Could it really have been their presence that attracted this mysterious craft? If so, for what purpose? Was it merely a reconnaissance mission, or could it really be that the weapons were somehow disabled? After all, the military would hardly make such an incident public knowledge. To do so would be to admit the incident happened in the first place.

We might also consider that the object was an alien vehicle from another world but a highly advanced experimental aircraft, perhaps one from the American military bases in Europe, or even one that belonged to the Soviet authorities. While this might be unlikely, it is certainly not that much of a stretch of the imagination and might explain why authorities looked to distance themselves from the encounter.

Ultimately, the UFO incident over Soesterberg Air Force Base likely has many more details to reveal over four decades after it unfolded. What those details might be, however, remains to be seen.

The short video below looks at this most intriguing encounter a little further.


1 The Soesterberg UFO, 1979, UFO Zaken
2 The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident – From The Archives (Documentary), UFO Insight

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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