US Jet Shoots Down Unknown Object Off Alaska Coast

Pentagon says Biden decided flying object was a threat to civilian aircraft
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 10, 2023 10:57 PM CST
US Jet Shoots Down Unknown Object Off Alaska Coast
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre calls on a reporter during a briefing with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby right, at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 10, 2023.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A US military fighter jet shot down an unknown object flying off the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday on orders from President Biden, White House officials said. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the object was downed because it was flying at about 40,000 feet and posed a "reasonable threat" to the safety of civilian flights, which can fly as high as 45,000 feet, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance, the AP reports. Asked about the object's downing, Biden on Friday said only that "It was a success." Kirby described the object as roughly the size of a small car, much smaller than the massive suspected Chinese spy balloon downed by Air Force fighter jets Saturday off the coast of South Carolina

The twin downings in such close succession are extraordinary, and reflect heightened concerns over China's surveillance program and public pressure on Biden to take a tough stand against it. Still, there were few answers about the unknown object downed Friday and the White House drew distinctions between the two episodes. Officials couldn’t say if the latest object contained any surveillance equipment, where it came from, or what purpose it had. The Pentagon declined to provide a more precise description of the object, only saying that US pilots who flew up to observe it determined it didn’t appear to be manned. Officials said the object was far smaller than last week's balloon, did not appear to be maneuverable, and was traveling at a much lower altitude.

Kirby maintained that Biden, based on the advice of the Pentagon, believed it posed enough of a concern to shoot it out of the sky. "We're going to remain vigilant about our airspace," Kirby said. "The president takes his obligations to protect our national security interests as paramount." Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Friday that an F-22 fighter aircraft based at Alaska's Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shot down the object using an AIM-9X short-range air-to-air missile, the same type used to take down the balloon nearly a week ago. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had been briefed and supported the decision. The object fell onto frozen waters and officials expected they could recover debris faster than from last week's balloon. (More US military stories.)

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