The Macomb Daily
U.S. jet missed with first missile while downing object over Lake Huron
A first missile shot at an unidentified flying object over Lake Huron on Sunday missed its target, the Pentagon’s top general said Tuesday, highlighting the U.S. military’s challenge in safely taking down a series of unmanned craft detected over North America in recent days.
The missile landed “harmlessly” in the lake, and a second missile fired by an F-16 then took out the object, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said, speaking to reporters at NATO headquar- ters in Brussels.
“Yes, the first missed,” Milley said.
The most important aspect of these operations, he added, is to protect the American people. In such instances, senior defense officials assess whether the detection of an unidentified object poses a threat and, if so, how best to shoot it down.
“We determine what the debris field is likely to be with one of these platforms landing on the Earth’s surface or in the water,” Milley said. “So we go to great lengths to make sure that the airspace is clear and the backdrop is clear … to the max effective range of the missile.”
The development, reported earlier by Fox News, was not disclosed by the Pentagon during news conferences on Sunday or Monday. The Pentagon did not immediately address why. The missed shot highlights a dilemma facing U.S. military commanders as they detect and evaluate whether to and how to take down such objects over populated areas.
Another senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity citing ongoing sensitivity surrounding the issue, said Tuesday that a pair of F-16 fighters were involved in the shoot-down over Lake Huron on Sunday. Each jet launched one AIM-9X Sidewinder, a heat-seeking or infrared missile. The first missile did not detect the airborne object, so it lost track of the target and “did not fuse,” the official said.
The encounter, first disclosed publicly by two of Michigan’s congressional representatives, was the fourth such occurrence this month. Other aerial objects were shot down Friday off the North Slope of Alaska and on Saturday over the Yukon territory of Canada. The White House said Tuesday that all three objects downed in recent days, while their wreckage have not been recovered, are believed to be commercial devices and that U.S. intelligence officials suspect they had no nefarious intent.
A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was downed off the South Carolina coast on Feb. 4 after transiting much of the continental United States. That incident touched off a wave of political blowback against the Biden administration while deepening the long-simmering standoff between Washington and Beijing.