The news over the past two weeks has been inundated with reports about a Chinese surveillance balloon being shot down by U.S. fighter jets just after it passed over a major portion of the country, followed by reports of three unidentified flying objects that appear to be balloons being shot down over the U.S. and Canada. Many of the reports treat this as an unheard of, never-before seen occurrence of an engagement between a fighter pilot and a balloon-shaped UFO resulting in the UFO being fired upon. Peruvian Air Force (FAP) fighter pilot Lt. Oscar Santa María Huerta would beg to disagree.
“On April 11, 1980, at 7:15 in the morning, 1800 men were in formation at the Air Base of La Joya, Arequipa. They all observed a stationary object in the sky, which looked like a balloon, at about three miles distance, and approximately 1,800 feet altitude. It was luminous because it reflected the sun. My unit commander ordered me to takeoff in my Sukhoi 22 jet to shoot down the spherical object. It was in restricted airspace, without clearance, and we were concerned about espionage.”
Thus begins Oscar Santa María Huerta’s account of a little-known event in 1980 – what some media reports called the only known attempt to shoot down a UFO by a military pilot. At a press conference in 2009, the now retired fighter pilot revealed startling details of the incident in 1980 that is still believable to this day. At the time, Lt. Huerta was 23 years old, had been a pilot for eight years and had been flying Peruvian Air Force fighter jets since he was 19. In other words, Oscar Huerta was a very experienced pilot. The year was 1980 – a tense time. It was just a few years after the war in Vietnam had ended but the Soviet Union was still in existence and considered to be a threat by many countries. Peru had been a U.S. ally, but in 1968, a military junta led by pro-Soviet Peruvian Army General Juan Velasco Alvarado took over and the Peruvian Air Force acquired Soviet-made aircraft, including Sukhoi Su-22 fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters. The pro-American leaders returned to power in 1980, but Huerta points out that the government was still concerned about Soviet spies.
“I approached the object and strafed sixty-four 30 mm. shells at it. Some projectiles went towards the ground, and others hit the object fully, but they had no effect at all. The projectiles didn’t bounce off; probably they were absorbed. The cone-shaped “wall of fire” that I sent out would normally obliterate anything in its path.”
This was 1980, not 2023, and Huerta was flying an older Soviet jet, so his weaponry was not heat-seeking missiles like the F-22s of the modern U.S. Air Force but guns firing 30 mm shells. That probably should have been sufficient if he was firing at a balloon – which he and so many of his fellow military personnel on the ground thought he was attacking. However, whatever he had just blasted did not act like any aircraft would have after absorbing such a shelling.
“The object then began to ascend, and move farther away from the base. When I was at about 36,000 ft., it made a sudden stop, forcing me to veer to the side since I was only 1500 feet away. I flew up higher to attack It from above, but just as I had locked on to the target and was ready to shoot, the object made a straight vertical climb evading the attack.”
Those kinds of evasive maneuvers could not be made by any know balloon in 1980 – not even in 2023. Huerta believed that the craft was able to either predict his actions or was somehow picking up signals because two more times he had his sights locked on it and the object deftly moved out of range. He then pursued it as rapidly it ascended to 63,000 feet. (Note: that was about the altitude of the Chinese surveillance balloon when the U.S. fighter jet shot it down.) It was at this altitude that Huerta says he realized this was not a balloon.
“At this point, I came within about 300 feet of the UFO. It was about 30 feet in diameter. It was an enameled, cream-colored dome, with a wide, circular, metallic base. It had no engines, no exhausts, no windows, no wings or antennae. It lacked all the typical aircraft components, with no visible propulsion system.”
It was at this altitude that Huerta also realized his jet was just about out of fuel. He radioed for another jet to pursue the UFO but was told it was too high. He then disengaged and dangerously descended – gliding at some points to save fuel and zigzagging to avoid being attacked. After landing safely, he estimated that he had engaged with the UFO for 22 minutes – a UFO that was still visible from the ground to Huerta and other military personnel for two more hours. He concluded by noting that a 1980 US Department of Defense document titled ‘UFO Sighted in Peru’ described the incident and stated that the vehicle’s origin “remains unknown.”
“I find myself in the unique position, at least for the moment, and as far as I know, of being the only military pilot in the world who has actually fired a weapon and struck a UFO. It still gives me chills to think about it.”
That was in 2009. Huerta’s purpose for participating in this press conference was to call attention to this little-known encounter and convince the Pentagon to open investigations into it and other similar engagements between military jets and UFOs. It is now 2023. We have just had four encounters with either balloons or unidentified objects behaving like balloons in U.S. airspace. It is obvious his testimony – along with the knowledge that hundreds of soldiers and officers at the La Joya Air Force Base in Peru witnessed the UFO and the encounter – did little to move the Pentagon in the years after he testified.
Forty-three years later, we still don’t know what evaded the attack by fighter pilot Lt. Huerta. Will the pilots who shot down the UFOs in 2023 end up giving press conferences in ten years to convince the Pentagon to do something about them? Or have times changed?