The Pentagon said that it shot down an unidentified object over Alaska on Friday after it flew at an altitude that would pose a risk to civilian aircraft.
“At the direction of the President of the United States, fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully took down a high altitude airborne object off the northern coast of Alaska at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today within U.S. sovereign airspace over U.S. territorial water,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“On February 9, North American Aerospace Defense Command detected an object on ground radar, further investigated and identified the object using fighter aircraft. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. U.S. Northern Command is beginning recovery operations now,” he said.
He added: “We have no further details about the object at this time, including any description of its capabilities, purpose, or origin. The object was about the size of a small car so not similar in size or shape to the high altitude surveillance balloon that was taken down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.”
Ryder declined to say whether it was necessary that Biden be notified and that he — versus a commander — give the order to shoot the object down.
The alleged incursion comes on the heels of a Chinese spy balloon entering U.S. airspace on January 28 and finally being shot down after traversing the continental U.S. and exiting over South Carolina on February 4.
Ryder denied that the Pentagon shot down the object due to political pressure, after the administration was criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for not shooting down the Chinese spy balloon earlier.
Ryder called the cases “apples and oranges” and said each incursion would be judged on its own “merits.”
He also said the two circumstances were different since the spy balloon flew at an altitude — around 66,000 feet — that did not pose a risk to civilian aircraft, whereas this object was flying around 40,000 feet.
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