Comparison on Shootdowns in Sky: VW Beetle vs. 3 Buses

First balloon much bigger than latter two objects shot down by US military
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2023 8:30 AM CST
So Far, More Questions Than Answers on Latest Sky Objects
An AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is mounted to an Air Force F-15C Eagle jet in this file photo. These type of missiles have taken down the objects spotted in North American skies.   (AP Photo/Mark Farmer, File)
UPDATE Jul 24, 2024 4:40 AM CDT

The US shot down yet another high-altitude object on Sunday afternoon, the third in three days. See here for details.

Feb 12, 2023 8:30 AM CST

First came the balloon from China. Then, on Friday, a "high-altitude" object over Alaska. And on Saturday, another high-flying object over the US and Canada. The US military has now shot down three objects in a week spotted in the skies of North America. But more questions than answers are in play, particularly about the latter two shootdowns. Coverage:

  • Comparisons: The US is pretty sure the Chinese balloon was used for spying, though Beijing denies it, but much less is known about the objects shot down over Alaska and Canada. US officials are using a vehicle comparison: The latter two objects are about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, reports the Washington Post, while the Chinese balloon was the size of three buses, per NPR.

  • Few answers: The US says the objects shot down over Alaska and Canada were flying at about 40,000 feet and thus posed a risk to commercial air traffic, reports CNN. By contrast, the Chinese balloon flew well above such traffic. The hunt for debris continues on all three shootdowns, and those recovery missions could answer a lot of questions about what the devices were doing and where they came from.
  • False alarm? Hours after the US shot down the object over Canada (after coordinating with that government), the FAA temporarily closed some airspace over Montana after a "radar anomaly" was detected by NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. A jet fighter investigated but found nothing, reports the AP. Amid the newly heightened concern, such "false positives" may become more common.
  • Pressure: The incidents already are having an effect on national policy. The Hill reports that Senate Republicans are now pushing to take any defense cuts off the table in negotiations over the debt ceiling. And GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, speaking after the shootdown in the skies above her state, told NBC News that "the first line of defense, again, is Alaska. ... We need to send the message and we need to be clear and unequivocable that we don’t tolerate this, period.”
  • It's classified: The New York Times reports that congressional lawmakers will receive an update on Monday of a classified report looking at more than 140 incidents of "aerial phenomena" between 2004 and 2021. Almost all remain officially unexplained, but they're largely thought to be either foreign surveillance objects or weather balloons. Shootdowns are rare, but Pentagon spokesman Big. Gen. Patrick Ryder on Friday rejected the idea the administration was growing more aggressive because of political pressure.
(More spy balloon stories.)

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