The US government has announced that it has successfully shot down an unidentified object over the Alaskan coast. Still, a day later, officials have yet to identify its owner or purpose.
Navy, Coast Guard, and FBI efforts to recover the object are currently underway. The object reportedly flew at an altitude of 40,000ft with a speed of 20 to 40 miles per hour and had flown over parts of Alaska before being struck down. American radars first detected the object’s presence around 9 pm Alaska time on Thursday.
Photos taken from Prudhoe bay showing US military helicopters involved in recovery effort.
A US warplane ultimately shot it down on Friday at about 1.45 pm ET. During a brief statement on Friday afternoon, President Biden confirmed the success of the takedown but did not offer further details. According to national security council spokesperson John Kirby, the US military brought the object down “out of an abundance of caution” after officials deemed the object a threat to civilian air traffic. Alaska airspace was temporarily closed as a result. The object was confirmed to be unmanned.
The object’s destruction in Alaska comes after the US military ordered the shootdown of a high-altitude balloon from China over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4. While officials have yet to publicly describe the object that was flying over Alaska besides its size, altitude, and speed, reports from various officials suggest that it was “cylindrical and silver-ish gray,” giving it a “balloon-like” appearance. Another official from the Department of Defense said that the object broke into pieces when it hit the frozen sea.
The confirmed balloon shot down over the Atlantic was described as being as big as two or three buses, significantly larger than the small car-sized object flying over Alaska. Additionally, the Chinese balloon was flying at a higher altitude than the Alaska object, at 60,000ft, far above the level of commercial aircraft.
US officials maintain that the Chinese balloon was carrying equipment capable of intercepting and geolocating communications. While Chinese officials have apologized, claiming that the balloon was a “civilian airship” used for weather research, US officials insist that the balloon was part of a fleet used for intelligence gathering in over 40 countries on five continents.
As the Chinese balloon incident has caused tensions between the two governments, US officials are remaining cautious about the object flying over Alaska until they can identify its owner and purpose. In addition to the navy, coast guard, and FBI recovery efforts, officials have also located a significant amount of debris from the object that they hope will provide insight into its capabilities. Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has voiced her concern about the threat posed by objects over her state’s airspace, stating that “if it comes into Alaska airspace, if it comes into Alaska waters, we need to act.”