A U.S. F-16 fighter jet shot down another unidentified high-altitude object over Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon, the third time in as many days that military aircraft have downed such an object over North America.
The Office of the Secretary of Defense confirmed the action, saying in a statement that it occurred at 2:42 p.m. Eastern Time, on orders from President Joe Biden, advised by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The F-16 used an AIM 9X missile to take out the object.
“Based on its flight path and data we can reasonably connect this object to the radar signal picked up over Montana, which flew in proximity to sensitive DOD sites,” the statement said. “We did not assess it to be a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground, but assess it was a safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities.”
Reuters initially reported the object shot down, citing two government officials, while Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) stated in a tweet that the U.S. military had “decommissioned” another object near his home state.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) stated in a tweet that the object was shot down by aircraft from U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has not yet issued a statement about the incident.
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The latest shootdown came after an American F-22, accompanied by Canadian fighter jets, shot down a high-altitude object in the skies above Canada’s Yukon territory on Saturday.
The day before, another F-22 shot down another object — described solely by the Department of Defense as the size of a small car — over northern Alaska.
The series of shootdowns came nearly a week after an F-22 took out a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina, giving the air superiority fighter its first air-to-air kill in its history.
Recovery efforts are ongoing in all three previous instances, the most recent in coordination with Canadian authorities, according to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The shootdown comes after nearly 24 hours of sudden flight restrictions over American airspace. On Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration declared airspace restricted over part of Montana due to national security concerns, the same sort of alert that had accompanied previous shootdown missions.
Then, on Sunday, the FAA issued flight restrictions over Lake Michigan which were quickly lifted. That alert was followed by the shootdown hours later.
NORAD has not said what is behind the recent spike in alerts regarding breaches to U.S. airspace. However, the Washington Post reports that defense officials have expanded the parameters of what they are searching for following the events surrounding the Chinese surveillance balloon.
This is a developing story.
UPDATE: 02/12/2023; this story was updated on Feb. 12 to include comments from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
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