by Robert Hastings
One of the most spectacular UFO cases of all time involved a series of incidents at two neighboring Anglo/American air bases in Suffolk, England, the last week of December 1980. The bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, were separated by a small forest. Consequently, the multiple UFO events which occurred there are collectively known as the Bentwaters-Woodbridge-Rendlesham Forest Case. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will refer to it in this article as “Bentwaters.”
With the exception of the alleged recovery of a crashed alien spaceship at Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947, the intriguing events at Bentwaters have arguably received more media coverage in recent years than any other UFO incident. While most of the publicity has focused on reports of a landed UFO in Rendlesham Forest, an equally important aspect of the story has usually been downplayed: Another UFO was apparently observed two nights later as it hovered near the Bentwaters Weapons Storage Area (WSA), where tactical nuclear bombs were kept. According to a number of witnesses, the object directed laser-like beams of light down into the facility!
Although debunkers have tried to explain away the numerous UFO sightings at the twin RAF bases as due to misidentified prosaic objects, including a nearby lighthouse, one of the UFOs at Bentwaters was actually tracked on radar, by two different military units—one American, the other British.
In 2007, I located and interviewed the two now-retired USAF air traffic controllers who had been on duty the week of the UFO events at Bentwaters, James H. Carey and Ivan “Ike” R. Barker.
During a taped telephone call Carey told me, “At the time, I was a tech sergeant, an air traffic controller with the 2164th Communications Squadron. The other controller was named Ike Barker. A major named -------- was also there…
“What I remember is seeing was a very fast object on the radar we had in the tower. The scope was variable—it had a zoom as far as its [displayed] range, between five and 60-miles radius, but I think it was at set at a 60-miles when the object appeared. It came in from the east, went straight west across the scope and disappeared off the left side. It took maybe four sweeps—each sweep was two or three seconds—to cross it entirely. So it covered 120 miles in approximately eight to 12 seconds. In the 15 years I was an air traffic controller, I’d never seen anything travel across the scope that fast.
“A few seconds later, it came back on the scope, retracing its course, west to east, at the same speed. Then—I think it was maybe half or three-quarters of the way across—it did an immediate right-angle turn and headed south, off the bottom of the screen. I mean, it turned just like that, instantly. We couldn’t believe it! I told Ike, ‘Okay, that was not one of ours!’
“So, that’s all I remember, except for the chatter on the radio. I think it was on the major’s hand-held radio, which was turned to the Command Post Net. That’s who he always talked to [on other occasions]. I wasn’t really listening to it, so I don’t remember any of the details, but I do know that [the radio] was pretty quiet all night then, all of a sudden, they’re just yakking back and forth. They were kind of excited but that’s all I recall. Besides, if they were going to discuss UFOs or security problems, or that kind of stuff, they would have gone to a restricted channel, which they scrambled. But the chatter did start up a little while after we tracked the object. Anyway, I only saw the unidentified object on radar, but Ike told us that he saw something out the window.”
He did indeed! When I interviewed Barker on audio tape he said, “And there was a visual on [the UFO we were tracking]. When it hovered, I saw it out the window. It was basketball-shaped, and had sort of an orangish glow. Not bright orange, uh, sort of dim, maybe like the full moon would look behind a thin layer of clouds. There seemed to be something across the center of it, lighter-colored shapes like—don’t laugh—like portholes or windows, or even lights, in a row left to right, across its center. Maybe six or eight of them. They were stationary, not moving across the object. But it seemed spherical, not flat like a flying saucer. I couldn’t hear any noise. It wasn’t huge, but I think it was bigger than an airplane. I would say it was maybe twice the size of an F-111.
“Now, there’s a water tower at Bentwaters. If you were in the air traffic tower, facing the runway, the tower is almost behind you. [From my vantage point] the object was directly over top of the water tower, or just past it. The object [appeared] larger, maybe twice as large, as the tank on the water tower. It stopped in mid-air for a few seconds, probably 500-feet, uh, maybe 1,000-feet above the tower, then it left. I didn’t see it turn, uh, rotate or anything like that before leaving. But what impressed me most was the speed this thing had. I have never seen anything so fast in my life! It was zoom, gone!”
When I told Barker that Carey had said he did not remember seeing the UFO out the window, Barker replied emphatically, “Oh, he saw it! They both saw it! But we weren’t going to admit that. Just after I saw the object out the window, I turned to Jim and --- and said, ‘I didn’t see that, did you?’ One of them responded, ‘No, I didn’t see it either.’ I don’t remember who answered me, but they both saw it. But we made no log entries on anything, including the fast-moving target. We didn’t really have a discussion about not telling anyone, because that was already understood.”
Barker then mentioned an earlier UFO incident, at a USAF base in Japan, during which he had been grilled by Air Force investigators. “The controllers were harassed to the point that they said the object they saw were only aircraft lights. That taught me a lesson: Never go on the record. Never open your mouth. So, at Bentwaters, I think we were all scared to discuss it. I know I was. As I said before, we didn’t even record it in the log.”
It is not possible to directly link the object Carey and Baker tracked/saw with the unidentified aerial object that maneuvered near the nuclear Weapons Storage Area, as described by Col. Charles Halt in the linked article above. The former hovered momentarily near the Bentwaters air traffic control tower; the latter apparently lingered over or near WSA for an extended period, while sending down light beams. However, the two controllers’ testimony does confirm that at least one bona fide UFO was present at the base on that date.
Importantly, a British radar unit apparently tracked the same object. Barker told me that he or Carey had called a British radar unit known as Eastern Radar to ask whether they were tracking anything anomalous. British UFO skeptic Dr. David Clarke has interviewed the RAF Commander who was at the facility in 1980-81, Derek Coumbe, who confirms receiving a call from the Bentwaters tower. According to Clarke, “[Coumbe] was on duty when the UFO report was received in the early hours of 28 December. He said he received a direct call patched through from the Bentwaters tower reporting a ‘flashing light’ over Rendlesham Forest.” Coumbe logged the call, noting that although he had the duty controller attempt to verify the track, “nothing was observed.”
However, despite this supposedly definitive statement by Coumbe, new information has come to light which apparently contradicts it. Former Ministry of Defence (MoD) UFO specialist Nick Pope writes, “Looking at radar evidence is a critical part of any UFO investigation. There have been plenty of spectacular UFO sightings over the years, many correlated by radar…
“In the absence of any radar data that might confirm the presence of the Rendlesham Forest UFOs, the investigation petered out. Yet, as I was to discover years later, the UFO had been tracked, after all.
“I spoke to former RAF radar operator Nigel Kerr who had been stationed at RAF Watton at Christmas 1980 and had received a call from somebody at RAF Bentwaters. The caller wanted to know if there was anything unusual on his radar screen. He looked and for three or four sweeps, something did show up, directly over the base. But it faded away and no official report was ever made. It was only years later that Kerr even heard of the Rendlesham Forest incident and realized he might have a missing piece of the puzzle.”
In other words, the British Eastern Radar unit at RAF Watton had briefly tracked the UFO, just as the USAF controllers at RAF Bentwaters had. However, as at Bentwaters, no official report about the tracking had been filed. Why Eastern Radar’s former commander, Derek Coumbe, misled Dr. Clarke about there having been no tracking is anyone’s guess. Perhaps, because no report was generated, his memory of the incident was impaired. Or, perhaps, he simply did not wish to discuss the matter publicly.
The importance of the radar tracking revelations cannot be overstated. Two independent military units tracked an anomalous aerial object during the peak week of UFO reports at the twin bases. Moreover, one of those units—the USAF controllers at RAF Bentwaters—had a visual on a hovering, spherical object which correlated with that tracking.
I finally asked Ike Barker for his opinion about the object he tracked. He replied, “I can tell you that this was no manmade technology. I was very familiar with all types of aircraft, obviously, and I can tell you that what I saw was not from any country on earth. I will never forget it!”