OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that on his order a US fighter jet shot down an “unidentified object” that was flying high over the Yukon, acting a day after the US took similar action over Alaska.
North American Aerospace Defense Command, the combined US-Canada organization that provides shared defense of airspace over the two nations, said it had detected an object flying at a high altitude over northern Canada. It wasn’t immediately clear how high up it was flying or what it was.
Trudeau said he also spoke with President Joe Biden, who himself ordered the downing of an unidentified object over remote Alaska on Friday.
A NORAD spokesperson, Maj. Olivier Gallant, said both Canadian and US jets operating as part of NORAD had been deployed. The jets were scrambled and it was a US jet that shot it down.
While Trudeau described the object as “unidentified,” Gallant said the military had determined what it was but would not reveal details.
F-22 fighter jets have now downed three objects in the airspace above the US and Canada over seven days, a stunning development in the skies that is raising questions on just what, exactly, is hovering overhead and who has sent them.
At least one of the object downed was believed to be a spy balloon from China, but the other two have not yet been publicly identified. Trudeau said that Canadian forces would recover the wreckage for study. The Yukon where it was shot down is westernmost Canadian territory and among the least populated part of Canada.
The downing came a day later White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said an object roughly the size of a small car was shot down in remote Alaska. Officials could not say if it contained any surveillance equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had.
Kirby said it was shot down because it was flying at about 40,000 feet (13,000 meters) and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance.
According to US Northern Command, recovery operations continued Saturday on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska.
In a statement, the Northern Command said there were no new details on what the object was. It said the Alaska Command and the Alaska National Guard, along with the FBI and local law enforcement, were conducting search and recovery.
“Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight, are a factor in this operation, and personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety,” the statement said.
Last Saturday, US officials shot down a large white balloon off the coast of South Carolina.
The The balloon was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for “several years,” the Pentagon has said. The US has said Chinese balloons have flown over dozens of countries across five continents in recent years, and it learned more about the balloon program after closely monitoring the one shot down near South Carolina.
China responded that it reserves the right to “take further actions” and criticized the US for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”
The Navy continued survey and recovery activities on the ocean floor off South Carolina, and the Coast Guard was providing security. Additional debris was pulled out Friday, and additional operations will continue as weather permits, Northern Command said.