U.S. Jet Shoots Down Flying Object Over Canada
WASHINGTON — An American fighter jet, acting on the orders of President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, shot down another unidentified flying object on Saturday, Canadian and American officials said, in the latest installment of the drama playing out in the skies of North America.
“I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement posted on Twitter. He said an American F-22 with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is operated jointly by the United States and Canada, downed the object over the Yukon Territory.
As with the object that Mr. Biden ordered taken down near Alaska on Friday, officials said they had yet to determine just what had been blasted out of the sky over the Yukon, which borders the northernmost U.S. state.
Mr. Trudeau said he had spoken with Mr. Biden on Saturday afternoon. “Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object,” he said in his Twitter post, adding, “Thank you to NORAD for keeping the watch over North America.”
The White House said in a statement Saturday that Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau had “discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin.”
Pentagon officials said Saturday evening that radar had picked up the latest flying object over Alaska late Friday, and had sent American fighter jets, which were soon joined by Canadian fighters, to track it.
“Monitoring continued today as the object crossed into Canadian airspace,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary. The F-22 shot down the object over Canadian territory using the same Sidewinder air-to-air missile used to take down two previous flying objects, General Ryder said, including a Chinese spy balloon one week earlier.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin was on the phone Saturday with his Canadian counterpart, Anita Anand, General Ryder said.
There were multiple theories abounding in Washington as to the provenance of the objects, but several Biden administration officials cautioned that much remained unknown about the last two objects shot down. The United States has long monitored U.F.O.s that enter American airspace, and officials believe that surveillance operations by foreign powers, weather balloons or other airborne clutter may explain most recent incidents of unidentified aerial phenomena — government-speak for U.F.O.s — as well as many episodes in past years.
However, nearly all of the incidents remain officially unexplained, according to a report made public in 2021. Intelligence agencies are set to deliver a classified document to Congress by Monday updating that report. The original document looked at 144 incidents between 2004 and 2021 that were reported by U.S. government sources, mostly American military personnel.
It is believed to be rare for the United States to shoot down unidentified flying objects. But tensions in the U.S. have been high ever since the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon in American skies about two weeks ago, prompting Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to cancel a planned trip to China. The surveillance balloon was shot down last weekend. The Chinese government acknowledged that the dirigible was one of its own, but said it was for weather research. Beijing said a similar balloon spotted over Central and South America the same weekend was also for civilian purposes.
American intelligence agencies have assessed that China’s spy balloon program is part of a global surveillance effort that is designed to collect information on the military capabilities of countries around the world, according to three American officials.
The balloon flights, some officials believe, are part of an effort by China to hone its ability to gather data about American military bases — in which it is most interested — as well as those of other nations in the event of a conflict or rising tensions. U.S. officials said this week that the balloon program has operated out of multiple locations in China.
On Friday, U.S. officials disclosed that the military had shot down an unidentified flying object over the Arctic Ocean near Alaska “out of an abundance of caution,” said John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in a press briefing on Friday.
Troops with U.S. Northern Command were working on Saturday with Alaska National Guard units, the F.B.I. and local law enforcement near Deadhorse, Alaska, to recover it and determine its nature, Defense Department officials said.
With the recovery activities taking place on sea ice, in freezing temperatures and in limited daylight, the service members are being forced to move slowly, the officials said.
“We have no further details at this time about the object, including its capabilities, purpose and origin,” the Pentagon said in a statement about the Alaskan incident.
The object that U.S. military officials eventually identified as a Chinese surveillance balloon was first spotted over Alaska on Jan. 28, although it did not raise red flags at the time. It then floated into Canadian territory before re-entering American airspace over Idaho on Jan. 31. Military officials did not deem it a threat, and waited to shoot it down until it reached the Atlantic on Feb. 4.
At around 9 p.m. Alaska time on Thursday, American radar again picked up an unidentified object entering U.S. airspace. U.S. Northern Command sent an AWACS surveillance aircraft, accompanied by an aerial refueling plane, to track it. Officials said on Friday that they could not tell if the object, which they described as about the size of a tiny car, was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.
A U.S. official said there were “no affirmative indications of military threat” to people on the ground from the object when it was shot down.