It’s a balloon, or it’s not a balloon. It was the size of a car. But we’re not sure what size of car. If the Pentagon knows what it shot down over the Arctic Ocean, it’s not saying. At this point, it’s still in the category of an unidentified flying “object” that was north of Prudhoe Bay until taken down by an F-22 out of Elmendorf.
The Department of Defense did give at least a few more details about the nature of the mission, which took place this morning over the Arctic, while it was still dark in northern Alaska. As revealed by Must Read Alaska earlier on Friday, the military had detected the object on Feb. 9, and determined it was unmanned. A jet from Anchorage to Red Dog Mine was rerouted toward Nome to avoid the item on Thursday.
“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. President Joe Biden ordered Northern Command to shoot down the object. Civilian airliners typically fly between 40,000 and 45,000 feet.
The object, whatever it was, fell onto sea ice off the coast of Alaska and U.S. Northern Command has begun recovery operations, Ryder said.
“U.S. Northern Command’s Alaska Command coordinated the operation with assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” he said.
The object was about the size of a small car, the general said, and does not resemble in any way the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this week. “We have no further details about the object at this time, including any description of its capabilities, purpose or origin,” he said.
Two F-22s flying out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, took down the object. The one missile shot was an AIM-9X Sidewinder. “We have HC-130, HH-60 and CH-47 aircraft participating in that recovery,” the press secretary said.
The shoot-down of a China spy balloon six days earlier has drawn criticism from many observers, who note that the White House didn’t acknowledge the spy balloon until it was photographed and reported by a newspaper in Billings, Montana. Only then did the Biden Administration admit it knew about the balloon, and it has changed stories about the timing and nature of its decisions ever since.