U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets shot down an object flying over Lake Huron on Sunday. It is the fourth aerial object to be shot down over North America, and the third object over the United States in nine days, begining on Feb. 4 when a U.S. fighter jet downed a high-altitude surveillance balloon believed to be part of a near-global China spying campaign. China maintains that the balloon shot down on Feb. 4 was an unmanned civilian airship that veered off course into U.S. airspace.
In a statement Sunday evening, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed the shoot down, saying the unidentified object was flying at about 20,000 feet over Lake Huron in Michigan when it was felled by a Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile at 2:42 p.m. EST.
Though only the first object shot down has been publicly identified as a spy balloon deployed by China, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that two other objects downed over Alaska on Friday and Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory on Saturday were likely similar balloons. Ryder said the path and altitude of the object downed Sunday posed a threat to civil aviation and it was shot over Lake Michigan in an effort to avoid debris hitting civilians and structures. Said Ryder: “There are no indications of any civilians hurt or otherwise affected.”
NORAD had first detected the object Saturday. A “radar anomaly” had been picked it up, with officials stating the object had flown in proximity to sensitive Defense Department sites. The Pentagon said Sunday: “We did not assess it to be a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground, but assess it was a safety hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities. Our team will now work to recover the object in an effort to learn more.”
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