Summary: Newspaper story of the Chinese air force having a prolonged up-close encounter with a UFO, which the pilot described as an aerial cat-and-mouse game played between the object and a jet fighter ordered to intercept it.
SHANGHAI, Nov. 05, 1998 -- (Agence France Presse) The air force had a prolonged up-close encounter with a UFO last month that one fighter pilot described as "just like ones in foreign movies," a government-controlled newspaper reported Thursday.
A Hebei Daily report -- carried in the news digest Baokan Wenzhai -- gave a detailed pilot's account of an aerial cat-and-mouse game played between the object and a jet fighter ordered to intercept it.
At least 140 people on the ground also saw the object, it said.
An editor with the Hebei Daily said the events took place on Oct. 19 and were still being investigated by local government departments.
The newspaper's report and military sources quoted show an openness that contrast sharply with Washington's notorious secrecy on the topic of unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
It said the encounter began when four different radar stations in northern Hebei province picked up an unknown moving target in airspace directly above a military flight training base near Changzhou city.
To observers at the base, the UFO first appeared like "a small star," and then grew larger and larger, perhaps as it descended to a lower altitude, the report said.
They described an object with a mushroom-shaped dome on top and a flat bottom covered with bright, continually rotating lights.
A base commander surnamed Li reported to his superiors, who ordered a Jianjiao-6 armed interceptor airborne to pursue the object once checks showed no other civilian or military aircraft in the area.
The two pilots aboard said the object closely resembled depictions they had seen in foreign science fiction films.
When they got within 4,000 meters (13,200 feet) of the UFO over Qing county, it abruptly shot upward, easily evading subsequent attempts to get closer.
It appeared to be toying with the fighter by repeatedly outdistancing it and then reappearing just above it, the pilots said.
The report said a request for permission to fire on the UFO with an onboard cannon was denied by ground command at one point.
The interceptor was eventually forced to return to base after it ran out of fuel at an altitude of 12,000 meters (39,600 feet). The UFO then disappeared before two newer-model planes could get airborne, the article said.
While China's racy tabloids often run stories of strange phenomena alongside celebrity-gossip and crime stories, UFO reports are seldom carried by more official papers like the Hebei Daily. ( (c) 1998 Agence France Presse)