- US fighter aircraft shot down an object threatening airspace over Alaska on Friday.
- F-22 pilots who saw the object said it “interfered with their sensors” and had no propulsion system.
- On Saturday and Sunday, additional objects were shot down over Canada and near the US border.
A week after shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated over the country, F-22 jets shot down an unidentified object threatening flights over Alaska on Friday. Reports offer conflicting details about the object’s capabilities and origin, and US intelligence officials have released limited information about its design or intended purpose.
Recently, Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena have been observed not just over the United States, but floating above Canada, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
It’s been an extraordinary week for UAPs in North America
In addition to the first surveillance balloon seen over the country beginning January 31, a second balloon was spotted floating over Latin America on February 4, and two unidentified objects were shot down over Alaska and Canada on Friday and Saturday.
An additional object was shot down on Sunday over Lake Huron, near the US-Canadian border, prompting a brief closure of the airspace around Michigan to “support Department of Defense activities.” The Wall Street Journal reported the object, the third shot down in three days, was shaped like an octagon and hovered at an altitude of 20,000 feet.
Airspace over Montana was also briefly restricted on Saturday after reports of radar anomalies in the region, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement posted to Twitter, but after an investigation, no additional object was found.
US officials say China has a global operation of surveillance balloons collecting data on military bases, including the balloon downed last week, but the object shot down Friday has not been confirmed to be linked to Chinese officials — or anyone else.
Here is what we know about the object shots down over the weekend.
3 UAP were at an altitude that conflicted with commercial flights
“I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a Friday briefing. “The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight.”
The balloon seen floating above the country last week hovered at around 60,000 feet, according to the Pentagon — which is well out of the general cruising altitude of commercial aircraft, which normally operate between 33,000 and 42,000 feet.
Officials haven’t confirmed the origin of the objects
Kirby said officials first became aware of the item on Thursday night, but even after shooting it down could not confirm its origin, saying: “We do not know who owns it, whether it’s state-owned or corporate-owned or privately owned. We just don’t know.”
“If it was another Chinese spy balloon, that indicates that China is either incompetent in operating these platforms or potentially deliberately provoking the US,” Michael P. Mulroy, a former Pentagon official, told The New York Times. “It is also important for the US and China to maintain direct communications during times like this. Especially between the militaries.”
Officials confirmed the origin of last week’s Chinese surveillance balloon two days after it was first sighted. Chinese officials have acknowledged the first balloon came from their country, but maintain it was a civilian airship used mainly for “meteorological research.”
“We’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” Kirby said Friday.
China has not made any claims regarding the objects shot down in Canada and Alaska, but authorities in the eastern Shandong province said Sunday they had also seen an “unidentified flying object” near the Yellow Sea and planned to shoot it down, according to China’s state-affiliated tabloid, The Global Times.
During a Sunday interview with ABC News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he had been briefed on the objects shot down on Friday and Saturday and had been told they were likely balloons.
“But much smaller than the first one,” Schumer said, reiterating that the object’s altitude could have interfered with commercial airspace, prompting the decision to bring it down immediately. “The first balloon, there was a much different rationale, which I think was the appropriate rationale. We got enormous intelligence information from surveilling the balloon as it went over the United States.”
Schumer did not confirm whether the objects shot down Friday or Saturday had come from China.
There may be surviving evidence in the debris
Officials are working to recover the debris from the object shot down on Friday, which landed on frozen water off the Alaskan coast near the Canadian border. CBS News reported the object was downed near Prudhoe Bay.
The object shot down on Saturday was spotted in the Northern Canadian territory of Yukon. Reuters reported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian officials would recover and analyze the debris.
The Yukon high-altitude object was described by Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand as cylindrical in shape, Reuters reported, though no other details have yet been released. It is unclear if the object shot down off the Alaskan coast was of similar size or shape.
The debris field in the Atlantic Ocean after the first balloon was shot down measured “15 football fields by 15 football fields,” with a depth of around 50 feet, General Glen VanHerck, commander of NORAD and US Northern Command, told reporters on Monday. He added that the balloon was about 200 feet tall with a payload the size of a “jet airliner” and estimated it weighed a few thousand pounds.
Schumer told ABC News on Sunday it remains unclear what intelligence China was able to gather from the balloon shot down on February 4, but the debris would be pieced back together to determine what information may have been collected.
“So that’s a huge coup for the United States,” Schumer said.
Conflicting reports from pilots
Prior to shooting down the object, Kirby told reporters, the pilots of the F-22 jets that took it down circled it and determined it was unmanned and lacked the ability to maneuver midair and change its speed like previous balloons have been seen doing.
He did not share additional details about the object.
While official government sources are quiet on the object, others are sharing reports from the pilots who tracked it.
“Some of the F-22 Pilots who Tracked the Aircraft that was downed over Alaska yesterday said that it ‘Interfered with their Sensors’ and that ‘They could see No Propulsion Systems on the Aircraft not knowing how it could possibly be staying in the Air,'” according to the public military and intelligence scanner, Open Source Intelligence Monitor.
Some of the pilots, OSIM reported, did not experience interference with their systems and could not agree on a description of the object.
Open Source Intelligence Monitor did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
CNN reported an anonymous source with knowledge of the briefing said the pilots shared conflicting observations about the object, including that it had interfered with their systems and that they could not explain how it stayed in the air.
Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena are showing up in more places than the sky
In December, the Department of Defense established the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office to identify “unidentified anomalous phenomena” — in space, in the air, on land, or in the sea — that may threaten national security. The term UAP replaces the traditional “unidentified flying object” or UFO designation, as officials expect to evaluate anomalies “across all domains.”
While it is unclear if unknown terrestrial objects have been seen recently, former Navy pilots David Fravor and Alex Dietrich told CBS News in 2021 about an encounter with an unknown object while conducting pre-deployment training in 2004.
The pair described flying their aircraft over the ocean, and seeing an area of roiling whitewater on the surface below. Just above the whitewater was a “white Tic Tac looking” object with “no predictable trajectory.”
“It was unidentified,” Dietrich said. “And that’s why it was so unsettling to us. Because we weren’t expecting it. We couldn’t classify it.”
Footage released by the Pentagon in 2020 also revealed unknown objects speeding across the ocean surface that had been spotted by Navy pilots.
“Dude, this is a f–king drone, bro,” CBS News reported one of the pilots exclaims in the video. Another person says “there’s a whole fleet of them.”
“They’re all going against the wind,” the first pilot said. “The wind’s 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing, dude! It’s rotating!”
A 2021 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said “in 18 incidents, described in 21 reports, observers reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics. Some UAP appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernable means of propulsion. In a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.”
The 2022 report noted that, among the 171 uncharacterized incidents, “some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis.”
Representatives for the Pentagon and US Northern Command did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Officials have acknowledged surveillance balloons have been seen floating in US airspace several times over the last few years, though they have not always been immediately identified — three devices spotted during the Trump administration were initially classified as UFOs.
This story has been updated.