The U.S. has shot down an unidentified object over frozen waters around Alaska. Officials say they don’t know who owns the object.
A US fighter jet shot down an unidentified object over icy waters near Alaska on 10 February. This comes a week after the US shootdown of a suspected surveillance balloon from China.
The unidentified object was first detected and tracked by North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on 9 February. The object was considered a potential threat to civilian air traffic, so President Joe Biden gave the order for the US military to take it down.
A pair of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jets were involved in the intercept and one of the fighter jets shot down the unidentified object. The object was travelling at an altitude of about 12,000 metres (40,000 feet) and headed in a north-east direction over the Arctic Ocean when it was taken down. It had previously flown over land in Alaska.
The US military has sent helicopters as part of the effort to retrieve the wreckage of the unidentified object, as it may have landed on ice rather than in open waters. A White House spokesperson described the unidentified object as being about the size of a small car.
By comparison, the suspected surveillance balloon from China carried a much larger payload the size of a regional jet, around 30 metres (1oo feet) in size. That balloon initially entered Alaskan airspace on 28 January, flew south over Canada and then reentered US airspace over Idaho on 31 January before travelling across much of the continental US.
Patrick Ryder from the US Air Force described the situations involving the People’s Republic of China balloon and the unidentified object as being “apples and oranges” during a press briefing on 10 February. But Ryder also acknowledged that “we’re all very attuned to balloons at the moment”.
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