Washington, February 13: The United States has shot down another unidentified airborne object in its airspace, a day after it brought down a similar “cylindrical” object over Canada.
An F-16 fighter jet, at the direction of President Joe Biden, fired an AIM9x to successfully shoot down the airborne object flying at approximately 20,000 feet altitude in US airspace over Lake Huron in the State of Michigan, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder said on Sunday.
The object was shaped like an octagon with strings hanging off it and no discernible payload, CNN reported, quoting an official and another source briefed on the matter. Although the United States has no indication that the object has surveillance capabilities, that has not been ruled out as yet.
After the shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Carolina last Saturday, this is the third such shooting down of an unidentified airborne object in a week. The previous two were shot down by US fighter jets in Alaska on Friday and one over Canadian airspace on Saturday.
Unlike the first balloon, which the US says is from China, the origin of the rest of the three has not been disclosed yet by US and Canadian authorities.
Biden ordered the shooting down of the airborne object on Sunday at the recommendation of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. Its path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation.
The location chosen for this shootdown afforded the opportunity to avoid impact on people on the ground while improving chances for debris recovery, the Pentagon official said.
“There are no indications of any civilians hurt or otherwise affected,” he noted. North American Aerospace Defense Command maintained a visual and radar track on the object after detecting it Sunday morning.
“Based on its flight path and data we can reasonably connect this object to the radar signal picked up over Montana, which flew in proximity to sensitive DOD sites.
“We did not assess it to be a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground, but assess it was a safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities. Our team will now work to recover the object in an effort to learn more,” Ryder said.
There is no indication at this point that the unidentified objects have any connection to China’s surveillance balloon but it seems that national security officials across the continent remain on edge, American media outlets reported.
Meanwhile, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said her country supported the shooting down of an object over US airspace by US fighter jets near Lake Huron.
“Today, a high-altitude object was detected in US airspace over Lake Huron,” Anand said.
“We unequivocally support this action, and we’ll continue to work with the US and NORAD to protect North America,” Anand, an Indian-origin Canadian politician, she said.
China denied that a huge balloon that was shot down by the US military was used for spying and said it was a weather monitoring device that had been blown astray. The incident has ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner said Sunday he prefers how the US shot down unidentified objects over North American airspace in recent days to allowing them to traverse the country.
“I would prefer them to be trigger-happy than to be permissive, but we’re going to have to see whether or not this is just the administration trying to change headlines,” Turner, an Ohio Republican, said of the Biden administration told CNN before Sunday’s shoot-down took place. (PTI)