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After Chinese balloon, US military fighter jet shoots down 'unknown object' flying off Alaska coast

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the object was gunned down as it was flying at 40,000 feet, posing a serious threat to the security of civilian flights.

Edited By: Anurag Roushan @Candid_Tilaiyan Washington Published on: February 11, 2023 7:27 IST
US military fighter jet shoots down 'unknown object' flying
Image Source : AP/FILE US military fighter jet shoots down 'unknown object' flying off Alaska coast

United States: Days after destroying the Chinese "spy" balloon, a US military fighter jet shot down an "unknown object" flying off the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday, February 10. According to White House officials, the object was shot down on orders from President Joe Biden. 

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the object was gunned down as it was flying at 40,000 feet, posing a serious threat to the security of civilian flights. Notably, private jets and commercial airlines can fly as high as 45,000 feet. Speaking about the object’s downing, President Biden said only that “it was a success.” 

The object, according to Kirby, was about the size of a small car, considerably smaller than the enormous suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down by Air Force fighter jets off the coast of South Carolina on February 4. 

ALSO READ: China balloon row: Designed to gather 'sensitive' information from targets across globe, alleges United States

No clarification on whether object contained any surveillance equipment

According to reports, the unusual twin shootings in quick succession are being termed a result of growing public pressure on President Biden to take a harsh stance against China's spying programme. However, there were few explanations regarding the mysterious item that was shot down on Friday, and the White House distinguished between the two incidents. 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 U.S. 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 travelling 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.”

The president was briefed on the presence of the object Thursday evening after two fighter jets surveilled it.

ALSO READ: Did China send US-like 'spy balloons' on India too? DETAILS

F-22 fighter aircraft shot down the object

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Friday that an F-22 fighter aircraft based at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson shot down the object using an AIM-9X short-range air-to-air missile, the same type used to take down the balloon nearly a week ago.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet Friday that he had been briefed and supported the decision. “Our military and intelligence services will always work together,” he said.

The object flew over one of the most desolate places in the nation. Few towns dot Alaska’s North Slope, with the two apparently closest communities - Deadhorse and Kaktovik - combining for about 300 people.

Ahead of the shoot-down, the Federal Aviation Administration restricted flights over a roughly 10-square mile (26-square kilometre) area within U.S. airspace off Alaska’s Bullen Point, the site of a disused US Air Force radar station on the Beaufort Sea about 130 miles (210 kilometres) from the Canadian border, inside the Arctic Circle. 

(With inputs from AP) 

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