‘High-altitude object’ shot down over Alaska, U.S. says


A US fighter jet shot down a “high-altitude object” in Alaskan airspace on Friday, officials said, marks the second such meeting in a week after plowing The cross-country flight of a hot air balloon suspected of spying on China provoked a fierce political counterattack against Biden administration.

The latest object, which officials say they have yet to accurately identify, is roughly the size of a car and much smaller than the Chinese airship that was shot down on Saturday, Brig. said. General Patrick Ryder, Pentagon spokesman. However, US military officials gave some details. Ryder said it still doesn’t know the object’s origin, its capabilities or what the ship was doing in US airspace, noting that it was first detected by radar on Thursday.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House, said President Biden directed the attack. The Pentagon recommended shooting down the object because it flew about 40,000 feet, potentially posing a threat to civilian air traffic. Kirby said it was shot down over icy waters off the northeastern coast of Alaska, north of the Arctic Circle.

“We’re still trying to find out more,” he said. “… I would like to re-emphasize that we do not know which entity owns this object. There is no indication that it is from a country or an organization or an individual.”

Friday’s disclosure by the administration closes a week of relentless criticism from Republicans and Democrats who have chastised President Biden and his senior national security advisers for allowing allowed the Chinese vessel to gather intelligence as it drifted past sensitive military sites after being spotted off the Alaskan coast on January 28. Pentagon officials and others in the administration said it chose to allow the balloon to travel along its path so the military could study the technology to bring it down, which it did on February 4 off the coast of South Carolina.

Biden has been informed of the latest Kirby said the object was on Thursday night, after fighter jets were dispatched to take a closer look at it. Its speed and small size, along with the darkness at night, leaving military commanders with few good people options upon initial blocking, officials said.

Kirby said the fighter jet was dispatched again on Friday, when it was determined that the plane had no pilot on board.

“They’ve been working really hard to try to get as much information as possible about this object,” Kirby said. “It’s hard for the pilots to gather a lot of information.”

The shooting down on Friday carried out by a pair of F-22 Raptors launching from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, with one of the advanced jets launching a single AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at 13:45 ET. , Ryder said.

He added that recovery operations are underway with a series of response aircraft. Among them, he said, was an HC-130, a search and rescue aircraft. One can be seen on online flight trackers flying around Prudhoe Bay, a coastal community of about 2,000 people where the Federal Aviation Administration has closed a patch of airspace that extends northward. into the Beaufort Sea, towards the Arctic Ocean. Prudhoe Bay is also home to the largest oil field in North America. Forecasts there on Friday include temperatures below minus 20 degrees and light snowfall.

Extreme conditions can make recovery a challenge by preventing ships from reaching the site. In that case, the military may have to use winches deployed from helicopters to collect debris if the ice is deemed too unstable for people or aircraft to land.

The incident comes as US Navy and Coast Guard personnel continue to recover remnants of the Chinese airship from the Atlantic Ocean. It was also shot down by a missile fired from an F-22. US officials have said that craft as part of China’s large-scale surveillance program has targeted dozens of countries. Officials said the device was about 200 feet tall and carried a payload roughly the size of two or three buses.

This week, lawmakers from both major parties demanded answers from a panel of senior Pentagon officials, summoned to Capitol Hill for a hearing on how their situation was handled. . Some people want to know why the Chinese airship was allowed to float to the Atlantic Ocean before it was shot down. Defense officials said they did so because the airship posed no apparent physical threat to Americans and they wanted to gather as much information as possible about it.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), called her state America’s first line of defense, during Thursday’s hearing. “At what point do we say a… spy balloon coming from China is a threat to our sovereignty?” she asked. “That must be the moment it crosses the line. And that line is Alaska.”

Her counterpart, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), said in a statement Friday that he had been briefed on the latest incident and encouraged US officials to shoot down the object. Mr. Sullivan said the intrusions exposed vulnerabilities in the US domestic defense system and the boldness of the Chinese government, and called for stronger deterrence measures.

“We also need to properly equip our troops in Alaska with the sensors and aircraft necessary to detect and, if necessary, destroy everything from slow-moving hot air balloons to hypersonic missiles,” he said. bar”.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Ryder on Friday dismissed the suggestion that the administration had succumbed to political pressure by quickly releasing its latest target.

“We will evaluate each of these issues on its merits, insisting that action is taken based on the perceived threat to civilian aircraft,” he said.

The Pentagon did not reveal the Chinese hot air balloon to the public until February 1, when NBC News reported that the balloon flew over Montana, near a US airbase where nuclear missiles are located. . Biden decided not to shoot it down on the continental United States because, officials said, he feared that falling debris could injure or kill people on the ground.

The multi-day trip, officials said, provided intelligence analysts with a wealth of data that helped them retrospectively identify unidentified objects as similar spy balloons flown by China. onion. Since combining that data with other unresolved cases, officials have determined there have been at least three such violations of U.S. airspace under the Trump administration and another early in the Trump administration. Biden administration.

As a result, tensions between Washington and Beijing have skyrocketed. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, citing the balloon attack, postponed a trip to China, where he was due to discuss with Chinese leaders how the two powers could work to reduce Escalating the relationship is becoming acrimonious.

Officials said on Friday the Biden administration had placed six Chinese companies and research institutes on a trade blacklist for suspected support of the Chinese military’s hot air balloon surveillance program. These are: Beijing Nanjiang Aerospace Technology Co., Ltd.; China Electronic Technology Group 48th Research Institute; Dongguan Lingkong Remote Sensing Technology Co., Ltd; Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd; Guangzhou Tian-Hai-Xiang Aviation Technology Co., Ltd; and Shanxi Eagles Men Aviation Science and Technology Group Co., Ltd.

The Commerce Department said the People’s Liberation Army’s use of high-altitude balloons for intelligence and reconnaissance activities “goes against the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.” The blacklist prohibits US companies from sending any products or technology to designated companies.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the entities cited on Friday, the 48th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Corporation, manufactures solar cells and photovoltaic materials, according to US researchers, according to US researchers. According to the State Department, the balloon that flew over the continental United States and was shot down on Saturday was equipped with solar panels large enough to operate multiple intelligence-gathering sensors. The researchers say the institute’s parent organization, CETC, is best known for supplying the Chinese military, and more than a dozen CETC institutes have been blacklisted by the Ministry of Commerce.


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