A US Air Force F-22 fighter shot down a second “high-altitude object” off the Northern coast of Alaska, Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Friday.
Unlike the larger Chinese surveillance balloon that spent several days over the continental United States earlier this month, this object was shot down immediately as it was deemed a threat to civilian airliners due to its lower flight altitude.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected the object February 9 using ground radar and sent aircraft to identify the object. The pilots ascertained the object was unmanned.
“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” Ryder said.
President Joe Biden ordered Northern Command to shoot down the object. Civilian airliners typically fly between 40,000 and 45,000 feet.
The object fell onto sea ice off the coast of Alaska and US Northern Command has begun recovery operations, Ryder said. “US 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 Pentagon said it still has no information on the object’s capabilities, purpose, or origin.
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 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 same fighter and missiles were used to bring down the Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. The US Navy and other agencies are working on picking up the downed balloon’s debris some six miles off the coast of South Carolina in about 50 feet of water.