Greenwich Time

Pentagon shoots down object flying off coast of Alaska

- By Zeke Miller and Colleen Long

WASHINGTON — A U.S. military fighter jet shot down an unknown object flying off the coast of Alaska on Friday on orders from President Joe Biden, White House officials said.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the object was downed because it was flying at about 40,000 feet and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillan­ce.

He described the object as roughly the size of a small car, much smaller than the massive suspected Chinese spy balloon downed by Air Force fight jets Saturday off the coast of South Carolina after it transited over sensitive military sites across the continenta­l U.S.

There were few answers about the object and the White House drew distinctio­ns between the two episodes. Officials couldn't say if the unknown object downed Friday contained any surveillan­ce equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had.

The Pentagon on Friday declined to provide a more precise descriptio­n of the object, only saying that U.S. pilots who flew up to observe it determined it didn't appear to be manned. Officials said the object was far smaller than the previous balloon, did not appear to be maneuverab­le and was traveling at a much lower altitude.

Kirby maintained that Biden, based on the advice of the Pentagon, believed it posed enough of a concern to shoot it out of the sky — primarily because of the potential risk to civilian aircraft.

“We're going to remain vigilant about our airspace," Kirby said. "The president takes his obligation­s to protect our national security interests as paramount."

The president was briefed on the presence of the object Thursday evening after two fighter jets surveilled it.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Friday that an F-22 fighter aircraft based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shot down the object using the same type of missile used to take down the balloon nearly a week ago.

The object fell onto frozen waters and officials expected they could recover debris faster than from last week's balloon. Ryder said the object was traveling northeast when it was shot down.

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