At the time, the La Joya air base was considered one of the most strategic and secret in Perú due to its proximity to the Chilean border, a country against which a war was nearly unleashed years earlier. The base had underground facilities in the desert pampas, where valuable combat aircraft were concealed.
Assuming that the intruder was a spy aircraft, the base commander ordered an immediate scramble of a Sukhoi SU-22 fighter-bomber with orders to destroy the target, originally supposed to be a sort of aerostat balloon located 5 kilometers away. The time was 7:15 a.m. and base personnel – a complement of some 1800 men – were in formation, witnesses to this event.
Oscar Santa María Huertas, at the time a lieutenant in the FAP, commanded the aircraft that raced down the runway before lifting itself skyward on an intercept-and-destroy mission.
The moment the object was within his sights, suspended and motionless some 600 meters over the ground, Lt. Santa María pulled the trigger, firing a powerful hail of bullets from his aircraft’s 30mm guns. Sixty-four rounds out of a total of 160 were fired against the UFO.
The rounds appeared to pierce the object without exploding or causing any harm. The object then hurled itself skyward at a tremendous speed, chased by the Soviet-made interceptor. The UFO then gained speed. Santa María lit the afterburners, propelling the Sukhoi to Mach 1.2, breaking the sound barrier.
Up to that moment, the object had not been detected by radar. For this reason, the Peruvian pilot did not avail himself of the plane’s missiles. He only sought to get close enough to the object to fire again, having over 100 rounds left.
When the Peruvian Sukhoi was already near the UFO, the object made a sudden stop, violating the laws of inertia. The fighter-bomber flew past it, with both vehicles at an altitude of 11,000 meters (36,000 feet) “the object pulled away quickly, gaining altitude at the same time. Later, it stopped abruptly, and I had to maneuver to avoid colliding with it,” said Santa María.
It was thus that Lt. Santa María and his aircraft went from being hunters to prey. He was being pursued by the UFO at 19,000 meters (62,000 feet), nearly 1000 meters beyond the aircraft manufacturer’s specifications. Furthermore, his fuel supply was running low.
Faced with this situation, Oscar Santa María decided to abandon his mission and withdraw, even as the UFO continued to ascend, losing itself in space. He was eighty-four kilometers away from his base, and 22 minutes had elapsed since his first contact with the UFO.
After landing, the UFO reappeared, remaining visible to the air base for nearly two hours.
Peruvian authorities jealously guarded this incident and it recently came to light during a declassification of documents by the U.S. Department of State. Researchers interviewed Oscar Santa María, the now-retired fighter commander, and their report appeared in History Channel, becoming known worldwide through cable TV broadcasts. It should be noted that Santa María had been speaking of the matter for a number of years in several American and European countries.
According to UFO experts, this is the only case in which a military aircraft has attached a UFO. There was a similar case, but the pilot was unable to fire against the unknown object. On the other hand, the Peruvian did make use of his weapons, firing a total of 64 rounds.
The aggressiveness, determination and dexterity of the Peruvian pilot should be noted, as he attacked his target without hesitation, flew his aircraft to its design limits, and returned intact to its base.
A total of 52 Sukhoi-22 fighter bombers (SU-17s in the USSR) entered into service in Peru three years before the incident, and had been combat-ready for two years prior to the encounter. They participated in the two most recent conflicts with Ecuador, and after several refurbishments and upgrades in which they were equipped with electronic, optical and countermeasures, some 20 units remain in service, although some accounts suggest that they have been completely removed from service.
Lt. Santa María described the object he attacked: “It was an object with a blued dome, looking like a light bulb split in half, with a wide metal base that made everything shine. When I approached and saw it completely, I realized that it lacked nozzles, wings, windows, antennae...nothing at all. It was a very smooth surface above and below.”
There is another undocumented case in which a Peruvian aircraft, fearing an attack, had fired a missile against a UFO three years prior to this incident.