U.S. military shoots down fourth high-altitude object over North America

February 14, 2023

The United States shot down a fourth flying object on Sunday afternoon. February 11, at 20,000 feet above Lake Huron, the Pentagon said—underscoring heightened concerns over North American airspace after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was found traversing the United States, reports The Wall Street Journal.

An F-16 jet fighter shot down the object on orders of President Joe Biden at 2:42 p.m., the Pentagon said, using the same kind of missile used in the previous three shootdowns, an AIM-9X Sidewinder.

America wasn’t tracking other objects as of Sunday night, Air Force General Glen VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at a news conference late Sunday.

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for the object, which was shot down over Michigan but appeared to land in Canadian waters, officials said.

Pentagon officials said that none of the objects shot downappeared to pose a military threat, but that officials couldn’t rule out additional takedowns of unidentified objects in U.S. airspace.

The United States shot down the object out of “an abundance of caution,” Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, said during a news conference late Sunday. In a statement released earlier Sunday, the Pentagon said the object “was a safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities.”

Asked by a reporter if extraterrestrials might be involved, Gen. VanHerck responded that he would leave that to intelligence agencies to address but that “I haven’t ruled anything out.”

Anita Anand, Canada’s defense minister, said both U.S. and Canadian jet fighters were dispatched to investigate the object, which was flying near the Canadian border. “We unequivocally support this action, and we’ll continue to work with the U.S.” to defend North America, she said.

The United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Atlantic coast on February 4. Military jets shot down unidentified objects over Alaska on Friday. February 10, and over Canada’s Yukon territory on Saturday, February 11—both of which were described by U.S. and Canadian officials as balloons.

Officials have yet to determine who launched the objects and their purpose.

The Pentagon said it began tracking the latest object over Montana. Earlier this weekend, the Federal Aviation Administration said it temporarily closed airspace to civilian operations over Montana and later over Lake Michigan, to support Department of Defense operations.

The airspace was later reopened. After the first closure, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said it detected a “radar anomaly” and sent jet fighters to the area, but no object was found. It didn’t immediately respond to a request of comment on Sunday’s incident.

In the wake of the objects shot down on Friday and Saturday, U.S. officials have reached out to research agencies to determine whether the high-altitude craft might be related to their work, U.S. officials said. But the U.S. hasn’t ruled out that they might be of foreign origin, they said.

The suspected Chinese balloon that traveled over the U.S. led NORAD to more closely examine raw radar data, the officials said—leading to the discovery of radar signatures previously unseen. The data have led to a constellation of newly discovered objects that America is determining how to deal with in real time.

“What we are doing is changing how we visualize the raw radar data,” one of the officials said.

With the new raw data, which in some cases also includes photos, intelligence and assessment of debris, the United States is hoping to refine its approach to these objects, the officials said.

Research contact: @WSJ