It was early April 11, 1980, and Lieutenant Oscar Santa Maria Huerta of the Peruvian Air Force was preparing for the daily exercises along with 1,800 other military personnel and civilians at La Joya Air Base, 1,000 km south of Lima, the Peruvian capital.
At the time, Lieutenant Huerta, a pilot with eight years of experience and who had participated in several combat missions, was ordered to take off with his Russian-made Sukhoi-22 fighter and one of the most advanced of the time, and intercept the strange silver object that had been observed floating near the end of the track.
The object, which was not detected by radar, was 3 miles away, hovering in the air about 600 meters from the ground and did not respond to any of the attempts at communication.
“The balloon was in a restricted airspace without authorization, which poses a serious danger to national sovereignty, La Joya was one of the few bases in South America that had Soviet-made war equipment and we were concerned about espionage,” said Huerta, who is now a retired Colonel.
After takeoff, Lieutenant Huerta flew 2,500 meters and performed an attack maneuver: “I reached the required distance and fired a blast of 64 30 mm shells, which created a cone-shaped ‘wall of fire’ that would normally destroy anything in its path,” he describes.
Only one of these projectiles would be enough to destroy a car, but it did not affect the object. “I thought the balloon would open and gases would start gushing out of it, but nothing happened. It looked like the huge bullets were absorbed by the balloon and it wasn’t damaged.”
The object then moved quickly, high and away from the base, prompting Lieutenant Huerta to chase him at supersonic speed for 84 km, to the town of Camana, where the object suddenly stopped, forcing the lieutenant to swerve to the side.
Turning up and right, Lieutenant Huerta tried to position himself for another shot.
“I began to approach him until I had him in plain sight. I caught the target and was ready to fire. But at that very moment, the object made another rapid ascent, avoiding the attack. I was below him,” says the pilot.
He attempted the same maneuver two more times and each time the object escaped, climbing up seconds before he could fire.
At this point, the object was 14,000 meters above the ground. Lieutenant Huerta then decided to attempt an attack from above so that it would not leave the target’s range, but the object accompanied him to 19,200 meters, well above the specifications of his aircraft.
With little fuel, he realized he could not continue the attack and decided to fly close to the object to get a better view. It wasn’t until he was 100 yards away that he realized what it was.
“I was surprised to see that the ‘balloon’ was not a balloon. It was an object that measured about 10 meters in diameter with a bright dome at the top, cream-colored, similar to a lamp cut in half. The base was circular and wider, silver in color and looked like some kind of metal. All the typical components of an aircraft were missing. It had no wings, propulsion jets, exhausts, windows, antennas and so on. It didn’t have a visible propulsion system. At that moment, I realized it wasn’t a spy device, but a UFO, something totally unknown. I was almost out of gas, so I couldn’t attack or maneuver my plane or escape at high speed. All of a sudden, I was scared. I thought it was over,” Huerta said.
Lieutenant Huerta returned to base for lack of fuel, zigzagging to make it difficult for his plane to be hit by a counterattack and hoping not to be pursued.
After the lieutenant landed, the object still remained in place for another two hours, being visible to everyone at the base while reflecting sunlight.
Lieutenant Huerta claims that the UFO was witnessed by all the people present at the base, many of whom were required to report.
The order was of absolute silence, except for an official report that was filed, since the object did not actually affect the security of the military base, although hours later, on the night of the same day 11, the object returned, no other attempt was made to pursue it.
A June 1980 U.S. Department of Defense document titled “UFO sighting in Peru” describes the incident, stating only that the object remains of unknown origin.
The most detailed account of the La Joya Case can be found in the book “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record”, by researcher Leslie Kean, and the former colonel Oscar Santa María Huerta himself wrote one of the chapters.
A similar incident occurred in 1976 when General Parviz Jafari of the Iranian Air Force attempted to shoot a UFO, but his equipment mysteriously failed.
“My equipment was mechanical and maybe that’s why it couldn’t be turned off, so instead the object had to move away at the last minute. I find myself in the unique position, at least for now and as far as I know, of being the only military pilot in the world who actually fired a gun and hit a UFO. It still gives me the creeps just thinking about it,” Huerta said.
To date, this remains the only officially documented case in which a military aircraft fired on a UFO.