US v. UFOs: What's Known So Far About the Car-Sized Object Downed Over Frozen Alaska Waters?

© Flickr / Expert InfantryA USAF F-22 Raptor flying out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska
A USAF F-22 Raptor flying out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.02.2023
US-China tensions over the last several days reached a new heated level after the Biden White House ordered the downing of a balloon off the US East Coast over surveillance concerns. The Saturday shoot down came after China stressed the device was simply a civilian Chinese weather balloon that had blown off course.
The US Defense Department on Friday confirmed that a "high-altitude object" had been shot down over the frozen territorial waters of Alaska after military officials determined the device posed a "reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight."
News of the downing was first confirmed by White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, with Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder later providing a follow-up briefing on the latest known details.

The 'Not a Balloon' High-Altitude Object

Official remarks by the Biden administration revealed the unidentified object was first detected Thursday night, and that the official shoot down order was issued by US President Joe Biden early Friday. It was not until roughly 1:45 p.m. ET that the object was officially taken out.
Unlike the earlier downed Chinese balloon, officials underscored the high-altitude object was "much smaller" and appeared to be the size of a small car.
"The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet, and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” Kirby told reporters at a Friday briefing, adding that officials have had no "outreach" with China over the development.
At present, US authorities have no idea what entity owns the device, or what its nature entailed.
Kirby underscored the US is "calling this an object because that's the best description we have right now."

Elmendorf AFB to the Rescue

The US military tapped on Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force base to assist in the takedown operation, which first saw fighter pilots fly alongside the object and conclude the device was unmanned. Officials have said there is no indication the device was maneuverable.
In the end, a single F-22 fighter jet from Elmendorf base was used in the operation, marking the second such occasion in which the aircraft model was involved in an air-to-air combat mission. An AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, which first entered service in 1956, was used in the downing.
© Flickr / Jamal WilsonAn Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018.
An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.02.2023
An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018.
An hour before the the object was officially taken down, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction within the airspace around Deadhorse, Alaska. The agency effectively warned that any aircraft that did not adhere to the order could be "intercepted, detained and interviewed" by officials.
A recovery operation is in the works; however, officials have not given a timeline on when the object may be retrieved from the frozen Alaskan waters.

Biden: It Was a Success

Asked whether he had any comment on the Friday downing, the US president told reporters the incident "was a success."
It should be noted Biden's quick response to the high-altitude object paled in comparison to that given for the Chinese balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina over the weekend. Biden had been widely criticized for his delayed response.
Twitter screenshot - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.02.2023
US Navy Divers Search for Chinese 'Spy Balloon' Wreckage
The commander-in-chief briefly spoke to reporters on the White House South Lawn as he awaited the arrival of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Unlike past meetings with foreign dignitaries, Biden did not host a joint address with the newly-elected Brazilian president.

Briefing With Officials in Alaska, Canada

Ahead of the eventual downing, the Biden White House looped in a multitude of officials, as is protocol for such an operation.
Among the trove of figures briefed on the matter were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand, and staffers with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"I was briefed on the matter and supported the decision to take action," Trudeau wrote in a Twitter post. "Our military and intelligence services will always work together, including through [the North American Aerospace Defense Command], to keep people safe."
Similarly, Anand reiterated that both the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defense would coordinate with US officials to "ensure the protection of North American airspace."
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