The Sentinel-Record

US fighter jets down ‘unidentifi­ed object’ over Lake Huron


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Sunday ordered an “unidentifi­ed object” shot down with a missile by U.S. fighter jets Sunday over Lake Huron, and it was believed to be the same one tracked over Montana and monitored by the government beginning the night before, U.S. officials said.

The downing came after earlier objects over Alaska and Canada were shot out of the sky because they were flying at altitudes that posed a threat to commercial aircraft, according to the officials, who had knowledge of the downings and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operations.

It was extraordin­ary that four objects were shot out of the sky by U.S. fighter jets in eight days. Pentagon officials have said they don’t know when the last shootdown of an unknown or unauthoriz­ed object over U.S. territory occurred.

The latest object brought down was first detected on Saturday evening over Montana, but it was initially thought to be an anomaly. Radar picked it up again Sunday hovering over the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and it was going over Lake Huron.

U.S. and Canadian authoritie­s had restricted some airspace over the lake earlier Sunday as planes were scrambled to intercept and try to identify the object. The latest object was octagonal, with strings hanging off, but had no discernabl­e payload. It was flying low at about 20,000 feet, according to one senior U.S. official.

U.S. officials were still trying to precisely identify the other two objects blown from the sky by F-22 fighter jets

over the past two days. They also were working to determine whether China was responsibl­e as concerns escalated about what Washington said was Beijing’s large-scale aerial surveillan­ce program.

The object shot down Saturday over Canada’s Yukon was described by U.S. officials as a balloon significan­tly smaller than the balloon — the size of three school buses — hit by a missile Feb. 4 while drifting off the South Carolina coast after traversing the country. A flying object brought down over the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday was more cylindrica­l and described as a type of airship.

Both were believed to have a payload, either attached or suspended from them, according to the officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigat­ion. Officials were not able to say who launched the objects and were seeking to figure out their origin.

The three objects were much smaller in size, different in appearance and flew at lower altitudes than the suspected Chinese spy balloon that fell into the Atlantic Ocean after the U.S. missile strike.

The officials said the Alaska and Canada objects were not consistent with the fleet of Chinese aerial surveillan­ce balloons that targeted more than 40 countries, stretching back at least into the Trump administra­tion.

That large white orb first appeared over the U.S. in late January, and since then Americans have been fixated on the sky above them. U.S. authoritie­s made clear that they constantly monitor for unknown radar blips, and it is not unusual to shut down airspace as a precaution to evaluate them, but they’d also take action when necessary.

On Sunday, the U.S. briefly closed the airspace over Lake Michigan but reopened it roughly an hour later.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told ABC’s “This Week” that U.S. officials were working quickly to recover debris. Using shorthand to describe the objects as balloons, he said U.S military and intelligen­ce officials were “focused like a laser” on gathering and accumulati­ng the informatio­n, then compiling a comprehens­ive analysis.

“The bottom line is until a few months ago we didn’t know about these balloons,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the spy program that the administra­tion has linked to the People’s Liberation Army, China’s military. “It is wild that we didn’t know.”

Eight days ago, F-22 jets downed the large white balloon that had wafted over the U.S. for days at an altitude of about 60,000 feet. U.S. officials immediatel­y blamed China, saying the balloon was equipped to detect and collect intelligen­ce signals and could maneuver itself. White House officials said improved surveillan­ce capabiliti­es helped detect it.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the unmanned balloon was a civilian meteorolog­ical airship that had blown off course. Beijing said the U.S. had “overreacte­d” by shooting it down.

Then, on Friday, North American Aerospace Defense Command, the combined U.S.-Canada organizati­on that provides shared defense of airspace over the two nations, detected and shot down an object near sparsely populated Deadhorse, Alaska.

Later that evening, NORAD detected a second object, flying at a high altitude over Alaska, U.S. officials said. It crossed into Canadian airspace on Saturday and was over the Yukon, a remote territory, when it was ordered shot down by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In both of those incidents, the objects were flying at roughly 40,000 feet. The object on Sunday was flying at 20,000 feet.

The cases have increased diplomatic tensions between the United States and China, raised questions about the extent of Beijing’s American surveillan­ce, and prompted days of criticism from Republican lawmakers about the administra­tion’s response.

Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the House Intelligen­ce Committee, said the administra­tion was looking “somewhat trigger-happy.”

“Although that is certainly preferable to the permissive environmen­t they showed when the Chinese spy balloon was coming over some of most sensitive sites,” Turner, R-Ohio, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

After the shootdown last weekend, Chinese officials said they reserved the right to “take further actions” and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreacti­on and a serious violation of internatio­nal practice.”

Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticu­t, the top Democrat on the House Intelligen­ce Committee, urged the administra­tion to be as forthcomin­g as possible, saying the lack of solid informatio­n was fueling online speculatio­n.

Himes said it was clear from briefings in recent years “that there is a lot of garbage up there” in the sky.

“The truth is that most of our sensors and most of what we were looking for didn’t look like balloons,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

 ?? The Associated Press ?? ■ Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., speaks with The Associated Press about his new role on the House Intelligen­ce Committee on Wednesday in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The Associated Press ■ Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., speaks with The Associated Press about his new role on the House Intelligen­ce Committee on Wednesday in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States