WASHINGTON – Efforts are underway to recover remnants of an object shot down yesterday over Lake Huron by a U.S. fighter jet — the third object downed over North America since a U.S. missile took down a Chinese surveillance balloon on Feb. 4.
Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, confirmed the latest incident at a briefing yesterday.
Radar at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, first detected the airborne object at 4:45 p.m. Saturday when it was in Canadian airspace about 70 miles north of the U.S. border.
NORAD is a United States-Canada organization with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America.
Aerospace warning includes the detection, validation and warning of an attack against North America — whether by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles — through mutual support arrangements with other commands.
The object entered the airspace over Montana and drifted eastward before being taken down at 2:42 p.m. yesterday by a U.S. AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. Additionally, objects were shot down over Alaska and northwest Canada on Friday and Saturday.
“In light of the People’s Republic of China balloon that we took down last Saturday, we have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week,” Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, said.
The object shot down yesterday had soared over sensitive Defense Department sites, and its altitude of about 20,000 feet posed a potential hazard to civilian aviation, DOD officials said.
VanHerck said an abundance of caution was used in the take-down to prevent potential collateral damage. DOD also worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to clear the airspace and the area was also checked for vessels.
The Canadians were very supportive of the operation, he said.