US Shoots Down ‘High-Altitude Object’ Near Alaska On Biden’s Orders

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military to down an airborne object over the coast of Alaska on Friday afternoon, U.S. officials confirmed.

The National Security Council and the Pentagon declined to comment on the nature of the object, but said the the object was traveling at an altitude of 40,000 feet and could therefore pose a threat to commercial air traffic, justifying a military response. The object, much smaller than the Chinese spy balloon that also entered U.S. territory through Alaska, penetrated Alaskan airspace and was shot down, The New York Times first reported, citing an official.

“Fighter aircraft assigned to NORTHCOM successfully took down a high altitude airborne object off the northern coast of Alaska at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time over sovereign U.S. territory,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday. (RELATED: ‘Clear Message To China’: GOP Senator Hammers Pentagon For Letting Spy Balloon Fly Over Alaska)

The object was first spotted on Feb. 9 and tracked as it entered U.S. airspace and traveled in a northeasterly direction, according to Ryder.

U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) sent a sortie of fighter jets to assess the object once Thursday night and again Friday morning, assessing that the object was unmanned, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

Two F-22 aircraft operating from Joint Base Elmendorf downed the object with a single AIM9-X missile, Ryder confirmed.

“We’re still assessing what this object was,” Ryder said. “We’re gonna recover what we can from this.”

“It was much much smaller than the spy balloon … roughly the size of a small car,” Kirby said.

Officials could not confirm whether the object was deployed by an adversary or for what purpose. “We haven’t ruled anything in or out, that’s why we’re calling this an object,” Kirby said.

The object was “cylindrical and silver-ish gray” and appeared to be floating, a U.S. official told ABC News. “All I say is that it wasn’t ‘flying’ with any sort of propulsion, so if that is ‘balloon-like’ well — we just don’t have enough at this point.”

The military shot down the object near sparsely populated areas and into frozen waters off the coast of Alaska, Kirby said.

Biden ordered the object shot down “out of an abundance of caution,” an official speaking on condition of anonymity told the NYT. Another official described the situation as “fast moving” earlier Friday.

The Pentagon emphasized that the scenario did not parallel that of the known Chinese surveillance balloon that encroached U.S territory on Jan. 28 and crossed Canada and the continental U.S. before it was shot down on Feb. 4. While the balloon demonstrated the ability to maneuver and was consistent with emerging intelligence on China’s global surveillance program, the object identified Thursday did not appear to be maneuverable, Ryder said.

The Chinese spy balloon hovered over sensitive U.S. sites and changed direction near Utah, prompting the Pentagon to alter its assessment of the balloon’s threat.

Inclement weather has interfered with recovery operations in waters off South Carolina, but Ryder said the U.S. has “located significant amount of debris.”

Editor’s note: This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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