The US military shot down an unidentified object flying above Michigan, making it the fourth airborne object downed by American forces in just over a week.
Defense officials declined to identify what the three objects shot down over the weekend might be, raising questions over the threat the objects could have represented to civilians across North America, what the purpose of the objects was, and why there has been a rash of detections and responses with fighter planes and guided missiles, politico reported.
General Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, said he was certain that the initial episode, the downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon off the US East Coast on February 4, “was clearly a balloon. These are objects. I’m not able to categorize how they stay aloft.” The general also declined to rule out any possibility, including whether the objects were extraterrestrial in origin.
After the general’s remarks, a Defense official who requested anonymity to speak about a developing situation said that there is “no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.”
In terms of the Chinese balloon, said Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, “we had a basis and intelligence to know definitively that its point of origin was the People’s Republic of China.” No such certainty exists with the subsequent three objects.
The US Northern Command said in a statement: “Crews have been able to recover significant debris from the site, including all of the priority sensor and electronics pieces identified as well as large sections of the structure.”
After the initial episode, NORAD shifted its approach to monitoring the airspace over North America, Dalton added. That effort involves “more closely scrutinizing our airspace … including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week,” she said.
The latest object was first detected on Saturday at 4:45 pm over Canada. It entered US airspace a short time later, eventually falling off the radar over Montana and reappearing over Wisconsin. By that time, US F-16 and Canadian F-18 fighter planes were scrambled to intercept it. One F-16 knocked it down with a Sidewinder missile over Lake Huron, where it likely fell into Canadian waters, VanHerck said.
President Joe Biden gave the order to take out the object based on the recommendations of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and military leadership, according to a Defense Department statement.
Although military officials did not assess it to be a threat to anything on the ground, the object’s path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could pose a risk to civil aviation, the officials said.
“Today, a high-altitude object was detected in U.S. airspace over Lake Huron. NORAD launched Canadian and U.S. aircraft to investigate and the object was taken down in U.S. airspace by U.S. aircraft,” Canada’s defense minister, Anita Anand, said in a statement. “We unequivocally support this action, and we’ll continue to work with the U.S. and NORAD to protect North America.”
Two US House members from Michigan, Republican Rep. Jack Bergman and Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, confirmed earlier on Sunday that pilots from the Air Force and National Guard had taken out the object above Lake Huron.
“We’ll know more about what this was in the coming days, but for now, be assured that all parties have been laser-focused on it from the moment it traversed our waters,” Slotkin said on Twitter. She added in a later tweet: “We’re all interested in exactly what this object was and its purpose.”