White House officials have confirmed that the US military shot down a “high-altitude object” over Alaska on Friday. The aircraft is the second that the Department of Defense has targeted in recent days, after an alleged Chinese spy balloon was brought down on Saturday.
In an afternoon press briefingWhite House National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator, John Kirby, provided more (yet still scant) details on the object and the operation to get it out of the US airspace.
Over the past 24-hours, the DoD tracked the object before firing it down via fighter jet sometime between 1 p.m..m. and 2:30 p.m.m. ET, according to Kirby.
“We do not know who owns it. We do not know if it is state-owned,” Kirby said in response to questions from a reporter. In fact, we don’t even know what “it” is. The former Pentagon press secretary did not once use the term “balloon” or “craft”. Instead, “we’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” Kirby said.
Further, we don’t yet know anything about what it does, the White House emphasized. “We don’t have any information that would confirm a stated purpose for the object.”
Whatever the thing is/was, it was traveling at around 40,000 feet over frozen, Alaskan waters and, posed a “reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” according to the Pentagon.
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Compared to the balloon that made extensive headlines last week, this object was “much, much smaller.” Kirby described it as “roughly the size of a small car,” versus the 200 foot tall craft carrying a multi-bus sized payload taken down on Saturday. Additionally, the Security Council official noted the Friday object carried “no significant payload.”
Although specifics are meager at the moment, Kirby said the Pentagon would likely have more to share later. The military expects to recover the shot-down remains of the object, and then analyze what it finds.
Last week, when the alleged Chinese spy balloon first came to lightit sent Washington DC into a tizzy. Multiple Republican legislators called on the President to shoot it down immediately, and Biden faced extensive conservative criticism for not taking more aggressive action sooner.
Now, in contrast, the White House is authorizing that unidentified flying objects be kicked out of US airspace before we even know what they are.
However, that’s probably to do with the specifics of the objects’ locations. The President has maintained that he delayed authorizing shooting down the balloon because he was acting on military guidance to wait until the balloon was over water before destroying it, to minimize civilian risk. This time, the object was already over water.
“Is it now the policy of the United States that if unidentified aircraft are over US territory that it is likely the president will choose to shoot it down?” asked a journalist during the briefing.
In response, Kirby said, “The President will always act in the best interest of our national security and in the safety and security of the American people.”