What we do and don’t know about the latest objects shot down by the US
(The Hill) – Three more objects were shot down by the US military over the weekend after officials said they posed a threat to civilian airspace.
The notable development came about a week after the US shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, days after it was first reported to be hovering over the continental United States.
President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday approved the mission, and Biden ordered the US military to send an F-22 fighter jet to shoot down the object on Canadian territory.
While US officials have released some information about the latest objects from the sky, there are still major gaps in what even the government has learned and publicly communicated about them.
Here’s what is known and what is still unknown about the objects shot down over the weekend.
Friday over Alaska
The US military shot down an object off the north coast of Alaska on Friday afternoon.
The “height object” was 40,000 feet above Alaska and was shot down Friday afternoon on Biden’s orders, national security spokesman John Kirby confirmed at a news conference that day.
The object, described as much smaller than the Chinese spy balloon, landed in US waters after an F-22 fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile to shoot it down. Officials did not say where the object came from.
Saturday over Canada
The military then shot down an unidentified cylindrical object over frozen territory in northern Canada on Saturday.
Trudeau on Saturday approved the mission and Biden ordered the US military to send an F-22 fighter jet to shoot down the object on Canadian territory.
Officials said this object also bore no resemblance to the Chinese spy balloon and avoided calling it a balloon. However, a Canadian defense official Saturday referred to it as a balloon and said the instructions read: “Whoever had the first and best shot to remove the balloon had the green light.”
Sunday over Lake Huron
On Sunday afternoon, the military shot down an unidentified plane over Lake Huron, which stretches from Michigan to Ontario in Canada.
The object was first spotted over Montana on Saturday and shot down by an F-16 fighter jet.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday briefly closed some airspace over Lake Michigan “to support Department of Defense activities,” the agency said in a statement to The Hill. The airspace has since been reopened.
Where do these come from and who is responsible for them?
Some of the most basic information about the objects shot down over the weekend is still unknown, including who operated them and what their purpose was.
Part of the problem is that officials have yet to recover the debris from the objects shot down over the past few days.
“We will continue to share as much information with the American people as we learn more about these objects,” Kirby said Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“The truth is the three that were shot down on Friday, Saturday and yesterday, in large part because of weather conditions, we didn’t have access to, and the third was shot down over Lake Huron yesterday so it’s underwater.”
Glen VanHerck, the commander of the Pentagon’s Northern Command, made waves Sunday when asked if officials had ruled out the possibility that the objects were alien-related.
“I’ll let the intelligence community and the counterintelligence community find out. I haven’t ruled anything out at this point,” VanHerck said.
Are objects flying in our sky a new phenomenon?
It doesn’t appear that balloons or other objects entering US airspace are a brand new development, although the reaction to shooting them down has been.
A Pentagon official told reporters after the first surveillance balloon was launched on Feb. 4 that Chinese spy balloons invaded US airspace “at least three times during the previous administration and once that we know of early in this administration, but never for this one.” length of time.”
Former senior Trump administration officials said they were unaware of the objects during their tenure, questioning whether they had previously gone undetected or whether for some reason the finds were not reported down the chain of command.
Officials said Saturday that because of the downing of the Chinese spy balloon last week, “we have been re-examining our airspace at these altitudes, including upgrading our radar, which may at least partially explain the increase in objects we have detected over the past week.”
Lawmakers for the past week have raised questions about why this is the first time they’ve heard about balloons or other objects over US airspace.
“I think our military, our intelligence agencies are doing a great job, both in the present and in the future,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) told ABC News. “I have great faith in what they are doing. But why didn’t anyone know that until the Trump administration?”
Does the US fly objects over other countries?
China claimed on Monday more than 10 US-controlled balloons flew into Chinese airspace over the past year, a claim White House officials firmly denied.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman gave no details on the incursions or China’s response.
Kirby on Monday said China’s claim was “absolutely not true”.
Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, called it “the latest example of China’s effort to do damage control.”
“He has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the surveillance balloon he sent over the US was a weather balloon and has provided no credible explanations for its intrusion into our airspace, the airspace of others,” Watson tweeted.
How big is the threat?
It is unclear whether the three objects shot down over the weekend had any connection to China or the Chinese surveillance balloon launched a week earlier.
In the case of Friday’s object, Kirby said it posed a reasonable threat to civilian flight.
He acknowledged on Monday that the objects may be “completely harmless” and could belong to technology companies or research institutes.
The objects shot down on Saturday and Sunday also posed a threat to civilian aircraft, officials said, but officials have not pointed to any immediate military threats.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said there’s an inherent threat considering multiple objects will be shot down.
“What I think that shows, which is probably more important to our political discussion here, is that we really need to declare that we’re going to defend our airspace. And then we have to invest,” he said on CNN.
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