John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, stated that the U.S. military had shot down an “object”, which was in territorial waters above Alaska. This was Friday afternoon at a White House press conference.
“I can confirm that in the past 24 hours, the Department of Defense had been tracking an object high above Alaskan airspace. The object flew at a height of 40,000 feet, and was a serious threat to civilian flight safety. The Pentagon recommended that President Biden order the military to take the object down out of an abundance and caution. They did. Kirby stated that it was brought in within our territorial waters.
Kirby stated that the object had landed on frozen water, and that fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command were able to take down the object in less than an hour.
He added that the object was smaller than the spy ball that was taken down last Saturday.
Kirby stated that the payload was about the same size as a small car, but was roughly the same size as a bus.
Kirby stated that he didn’t know about any Chinese government “outreach” regarding the object and that the government does not know who the owner is.
Kirby stated that the object was shot down as it flew at approximately 40,000 feet. This could have been a threat to civilian planes, whereas the Chinese spy craft found last week was at 65,000 feet. Kirby claimed that civilian aircraft were not at risk from the Chinese spy craft.
Air Force Brig. A Pentagon spokesperson, Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday afternoon that the military had located significant amounts of the object. He stated that an F-22 carrying an A9X missile from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, shot it down. According to Ryder, the object entered U.S. Airspace on Thursday.
“The debris that has been found so far is being loaded onto vessels and taken to shore, then cataloged and moved to laboratories for further analysis. Ryder stated that while I will not go into details due to classification, we have found a substantial amount of debris that will help us to better understand this balloon and its surveillance capabilities.
Ryder stated, “We do not have any further information about the object at this point, including any description of its capabilities or purpose or origin.”
Defense officials reported that a Chinese spy plane was seen over Billings, Montana, just over a week earlier. It was at high altitudes of around 60,000 feet when it was spotted. On Saturday, an F-22 used a single A9X missile to shoot it down.
On February 3, President Biden directed that the spycraft be destroyed if the military determines it safe without posing a danger to civilians.
Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of Defense, stated in a statement that President Biden authorized the removal of the surveillance balloon “as soon as possible without undue risk to American life under the balloon’s path.”
U.S. military commanders determined that the downing of the balloon from above land would pose an undue threat to civilians in a large area because of its size and surveillance payload. Austin stated that the Department of Defense had developed options to safely bring down the balloon over territorial waters. It also closely monitored its path and intelligence collection activities.