US jet shoots down unknown object flying off Alaska coast
A US military fighter jet shot down an unknown object flying off the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday on orders from President Joe Biden, White House officials said.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the object was downed because it was flying at about 40,000 feet (13,000 meters) and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance. Asked about the object’s downing, Biden on Friday said only that “It was a success.
Commercial airliners and private jets can fly as high as 45,000 feet (13,700 meters).
Kirby described the object as roughly the size of a small car, much smaller than the massive suspected Chinese spy balloon downed by Air Force fighter jets Saturday off the coast of South Carolina after it transited over sensitive military sites across the continental US.
The twin downings in such close succession are extraordinary, and reflect heightened concerns over China’s surveillance program and public pressure on Biden to take a tough stand against it. Still, there were few answers about the unknown object downed Friday and the White House drew distinctions between the two episodes. Officials couldn’t say if the latest object contained any surveillance equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had.
The Pentagon on Friday declined to provide a more precise description of the object, only saying that US pilots who flew up to observe it determined it didn’t appear to be manned. Officials said the object was far smaller than last week’s balloon, did not appear to be maneuverable and was traveling at a much lower altitude.
Kirby maintained that Biden, based on the advice of the Pentagon, believed it posed enough of a concern to shoot it out of the sky — primarily because of the potential risk to civilian aircraft.
“We’re going to remain vigilant about our airspace,” Kirby said. “The president takes his obligations to protect our national security interests as paramount.”