U.S. shoots down second ‘high altitude object’ days after downing Chinese spy balloon

National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 10, 2023.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | beautiful pictures

WASHINGTON – The US military shot down a second “high-altitude object” in US airspace, this time off the coast of Alaska on Friday, the White House announced.

The mission comes less than a week after a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon was shot down off the coast of South Carolina.

White House spokesman John Kirby hesitantly described the plane as a balloon, saying “we call this an object because that’s the best description we have right now.” He also said they do not yet know which country or group is responsible for this.

Speaking at a White House press conference, Mr. Kirby said the object was destroyed by a missile from an F-22 fighter jet “off the very, very northeastern part of Alaska, near the border.” Alaska-Canada”.

Kirby said the US military first became aware of the object on Thursday night. On Friday morning, President Joe Biden ordered to shoot it down, which done right after noon.

An AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile built by Raytheon is mounted on one of the 3rd Wing’s F-15C Eagle jets at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. On Saturday, February 4, 2023, when a Chinese surveillance balloon flew in US airspace about 6 nautical miles off the coast of South Carolina, a single F-22 fighter jet from Virginia’s Langley Air Force Base, flying at 58,000 feet, fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder at it.

Mark farmers | AP

He said the plane was flying at about 40,000 feet, lower than the hot air balloon last week, and it was about the size of a small car.

Kirby said that unlike the balloon that was shot down on Saturday, the newest object does not appear to have any maneuverability.

According to Pentagon officials, last week’s spy balloon was about the size of three school buses. A sophisticated surveillance vehicle with propellers that make it maneuverable, the balloon carries payloads about the size of a jet aircraft, Pentagon officials say.

The latest incident is also significantly different from the previous one in that the floating object was shot down within hours of being discovered.

The previously larger balloon was allowed to fly across the United States for a week before Biden ordered it shot down.

The Pentagon defend that decision at a Senate hearing on Thursday, said lawmakers that the main value of the spy balloon to the US military lies in what can be learned from its flight and its crumbs.

Sailors from Explosive Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, February 5, 2023.

Photo: US Navy

“A big part of the calculation for this operation is the ability to salvage, understand and exploit the capabilities of the high-altitude balloon,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense Melissa Dalton.

Another factor that influenced the decision to let this balloon stay in the air was that it did not pose an immediate threat to civilian aircraft because it hovered tens of thousands of feet above its flight path. passenger plane.

Kirby said the object shot down Friday was floating at just 40,000 feet, posing a threat to civil aviation safety. Commercial aircraft typically cruise at 35,000 feet.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that the latest object recovery operation was underway, but was hampered by rough seas in the Arctic Ocean that made diving particularly dangerous.


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