US shoots down third flying object in as many days
(Update 1: Adds Pentagon statement, details, changes headline, lede, slug, minor edits)
Washington/New York, Feb 12 (EFE).- The United States has shot down a third unidentified object in as many days, this one as it flew over Lake Huron in Michigan, the Pentagon confirmed on Sunday.
It came after the US military downed an unidentified object the size of a small car off Alaska on Friday, and shot a “small, cylindrical” object out of the sky over the Yukon in Canada on Saturday. It also comes eight days after an alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US for several days was shot down over the Atlantic off South Carolina.
By order of President Joe Biden, at 2.42 pm (19:42 GMT) an Air Force F-16 shot down the object flying at 20,000 feet (just over 6,000 meters) over Lake Huron in the state of Michigan, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Its path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation,” said the Pentagon, which added said that the location was decided as it would be possible to avoid impact to people on the ground while improving chances for debris recovery.
There are no indications that any civilian has been affected by the destruction of this device, which was detected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) on Sunday morning.
The Pentagon also said that “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.”
It was in Montana where the alleged Chinese spy balloon that crossed a good part of the country last week was seen for the first time.
The Pentagon insisted that it did not consider Sunday’s object to be “a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground,” but assessed it as a flight safety hazard and a threat due to its “potential surveillance capabilities.”
The military will now work to recover the remains of the object
Michigan Congressman Jack Bergman was among the first to announce the operation.
On Twitter, he said that he had been in contact with the defense department about this operation over the Great Lakes near the border with Canada, which became known after the temporary closing of airspace over Lake Michigan.
The Republican congressman representing the state of Michigan tweeted: “I’ve been in contact with DOD regarding operations across the Great Lakes region today. The US military has decommissioned another ‘object’ over Lake Huron. I appreciate the decisive action by our fighter pilots. The American people deserve far more answers than we have.”
Also on Twitter, Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin wrote that US Air Force and National Guard pilots had downed the object they had been following over Lake Huron.
“We’re all interested in exactly what this object was and (its) purpose,” she tweeted, adding that she will “ask Congress for a full briefing.”
No details have been released as yet about this new object, and very little information has been made public about the two prior shootdowns over the weekend, as search teams recover the remains of the objects, although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday that the government believes that both the Alaska and Canada objects were balloons, albeit smaller than the Chinese balloon that the US shot down off the South Carolina coast on Feb. 4 after it had flown over the continental US from Montana to South Carolina.
The Democratic senator, who was informed about the Alaska and Canada objects by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, said that those balloons were flying at 12,000 meters (about 40,000 feet), an altitude at which they posed a “danger” to commercial aviation.
Schumer emphasized that up until a few months ago the US did not know anything about these balloons, adding that the US Army and intelligence services are now focused on gathering all the information they can and recovering the debris.
The detection and shooting down of these flying objects occurs in the midst of the diplomatic crisis between Washington and Beijing after the US on Feb. 4 shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon.
China has claimed that the balloon was merely a weather balloon that “went off course” due to unavoidable problems, but the incident has strained US-China relations, motivating Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his planned trip to Beijing.