An unidentified object was shot down 10 miles off the frozen coast of Alaska on Friday afternoon, US officials announced, but details about

An unidentified object was shot down 10 miles off the frozen coast of Alaska on Friday afternoon, US officials announced, but details about the object are scarce.

It marked the second time US jets had taken down an object in less than a week, following the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina last Saturday.

The object, which officials have not characterized as a balloon, was shot down at 1:45 p.m. EST, according to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder.

“[I]t came inside our territorial waters – and those waters right now are frozen – but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “Fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command took down the object within last hour.”

Asked about the operation on Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden told CNN, “It was a success.”

Here’s a look at what we know so far.

According to Kirby, Biden was first briefed on the object on Thursday evening, as “soon as the Pentagon had enough information.” It “did not appear to be self-maneuvering,” Kirby said.

It’s unclear what the object looks like, or where it came from. On Friday, Ryder said it was traveling north east across Alaska. He declined to provide a physical characterization, only saying that it was “about the size of a small car” and “not similar in size or shape” to the Chinese surveillance balloon that was downed off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.

“We’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” Kirby said. “We don’t know who owns it – whether it’s state-owned or corporate-owned or privately-owned, we just don’t know.”

Object first detected Thursday
F-35 fighter jets were sent up to investigate after the object was first detected on Thursday, according to a US official.

There was not a significant concern about damage to people or property if the object was shot down, which was the primary reason the Chinese surveillance balloon was allowed to traverse the continental US last week.

Ryder also emphasized that officials do not know the origin of the object, which did not appear to be manned, and that it was shot down because it posed a “reasonable threat to civilian air traffic” as it was flying at 40,000 feet.

Kirby told reporters that the first fly-by of US fighter aircraft happened Thursday night, and the second happened Friday morning. Both brought back “limited” information about the object.

Ultimately, the object was downed near the Canadian border and northeastern Alaska by a F-22 fighter jet out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, equipped with an AIM-9X – the same aircraft and missile used to take down the surveillance balloon. A US official said the military waited to shoot the object down during daylight hours to make it easier for the pilots to spot it. Ryder said the mission was “supported with aerial assets from the Alaska Air National Guard.”

The Alaska National Guard and units under US Northern Command, along with HC-130 Hercules, HH-60 Pave Hawk, and CH-47 Chinook are all participating in the effort to recover the object, Ryder said.

No apparent connection to the Chinese balloon
Officials have given no indication so far that the object is at all related to the Chinese surveillance balloon downed last weekend, debris of which is still being recovered on the Atlantic Ocean floor.


Ryder said on Friday that recovery teams have “mapped the debris field” and are “in the process of searching for and identifying debris on the ocean floor.”

“While I won’t go into specifics due to classification reasons,” Ryder said, “I can say that we have located a significant amount of debris so far that will prove helpful to our further understanding of this balloon and its surveillance capabilities.”

When asked Friday if lessons learned about China’s balloon assisted in detecting the object shot down over Alaska, Ryder said it was “a little bit of apples and oranges.”

The object did not appear to have any surveillance equipment, according to a US official, which would make it both smaller and likely less sophisticated than the Chinese balloon shot.

Governor Dunleavy Issues Statement on Unidentified Object Shot Down Over Alaska

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy issued the following statement today regarding the unidentified object shot down this morning over Alaskan waters.

“Today’s announcement by the Pentagon that an unidentified object was shot down by an F-22 from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson over Alaska’s coastline raises serious national security concerns that should concern every American. I want to thank our Alaska-based military for eliminating the potential threat before it was flying over our land.

This latest intrusion into our airspace raises serious questions about the White House’s decision to not shoot down a Chinese spy balloon last week when it was above the Aleutian Chain and prevent it from flying over important military sites in the Lower-48.

Unlike other states, Alaska is truly on the front lines. Because of our close proximity to our neighbors there is very little margin for error. Russian territory is only a few miles away. We are the one state closest to the Korean Peninsula and China. Alaska is truly on the front lines.

As such, decisions need to be made quickly to preserve the territorial integrity of Alaska and the United States. This incident is further evidence that the military capability of Alaska is robust. An important discussion should ensue about improving those capabilities, including icebreakers, Army, Air Force and Navy capabilities.

If the last few days are any indication, this may be the new norm and we must be prepared. The Alaska National Guard is working closely with USNORTHCOM and other agencies to provide any support as requested.

This latest incident demonstrates that Alaska remains the most strategic place on earth for both geopolitics and national defense.”

U.S. Shoots Down High-Altitude Object Over Alaska

The incident comes less than a week after a U.S. fighter jet brought down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic during a diplomatic crisis.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said it shot down an unidentified object over frozen waters around Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden, less than a week after a U.S. fighter jet brought down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic in an episode that increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.

U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm whether the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.

At a news conference on Friday, John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Biden ordered the unidentified object near Alaska downed “out of an abundance of caution.”

The Friday shootdown showed Mr. Biden taking direct and forceful action far more quickly than he did last week, when some Republican lawmakers criticized him for letting the spy balloon linger over the United States for several days before destroying it. But that period of observation last week allowed American officials to collect intelligence about the spy balloon, while in the episode on Friday, officials seemed unsure about what exactly they shot down.

Pentagon officials said they were able to immediately bring down the object over water, so they could easily avoid the dilemma posed by the spy balloon drifting over populated areas, which had prompted commanders to recommend to Mr. Biden to wait to shoot down the machine in order to avoid any chance of debris hitting people on the ground.


Three U.S. officials said that as of Friday evening, the government did not know who owned or sent the object seen above Alaska, which, like the Chinese balloon last week, was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet using a Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

Several officials said they believed the object shot down Friday was a balloon, but a Defense Department official said it broke into pieces when it hit the frozen sea, which added to the mystery of whether it was indeed a balloon, a drone or something else.

Mr. Kirby said that the object was “much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday” and that “the way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car, as opposed to the payload that was like two or three buses.”

He added that pilots confirmed it was unmanned before bringing it down over the Arctic Ocean near Canada.

In a statement on Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said he was briefed on the matter and “supported the decision to take action.”

American radar picked up the object around 9 p.m. on Thursday, Alaska time, and U.S. Northern Command sent an AWACS surveillance aircraft, accompanied by an aerial refueling plane, to track it. The object, officials said, had traversed over land in Alaska and was back over the sea heading toward the North Pole, traveling at 20 to 40 miles per hour, before it was struck down.

The Chinese spy balloon flew across the United States at 60,000 feet, far above the range of commercial airlines. Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said because the second object flew much lower, it had the potential to interfere with air traffic over Alaska. Senior Pentagon officials recommended that it be shot down.

A U.S. official said there were “no affirmative indications of military threat” to people on the ground from the object.

Officials said that they could not confirm whether there was any surveillance equipment on the object, and that an effort to recover debris was underway.

The breach of U.S. airspace was relatively short, according to officials, which is one reason they could not immediately identify what type of object was involved.

Michael P. Mulroy, a former Pentagon official, said that shooting the object down over Alaska was the right action.

“If it was another Chinese spy balloon, that indicates that China is either incompetent in operating these platforms or potentially deliberately provoking the U.S.,” Mr. Mulroy said. “It is also important for the U.S. and China to maintain direct communications during times like this. Especially between the militaries.”

U.S. officials said Friday evening that they had no evidence that the object over Alaska had come from China. General Ryder said it was traveling northeast when Northern Command began tracking it. But he would not speculate on its provenance. He said the Pentagon had made no effort to contact China since Beijing rebuffed a phone call from Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III last week.

The spy balloon episode last week has increased U.S.-China tensions at a time when the relationship between the two nations is at one of the lowest points in decades. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken canceled a trip last weekend to Beijing, where he had been expected to meet with President Xi Jinping, after the Pentagon told reporters about the balloon.

Pentagon officials said the spy balloon had posed no threat, and allowing it to stay in the air longer gave the U.S. military time to study it, including having U-2 spy planes take high-resolution images of its equipment.

During internal deliberations, some U.S. officials pressed for options to shoot down the balloon earlier. Officials also reviewed whether the military could use a giant net or hook to bring down the balloon.

U.S. officials say the spy balloon was part of a fleet directed by the Chinese military that has flown over more than 40 countries on five continents in recent years. The balloons are made by one or more civilian-run companies that officially sell products to the military, officials said, though the Biden administration has not publicly identified the company that made the downed balloon.

U.S. officials say a balloon that was drifting over Latin America last week was also part of the Chinese surveillance program.

The New York Times reported last Saturday that a classified intelligence report given to Congress last month highlighted at least two instances of a foreign power using advanced technology for aerial surveillance over American military bases, one in the continental United States and the other overseas. The research suggested China was the foreign power, U.S. officials said.

The report gave details of a recent government review of unidentified aerial phenomena and, in that context, discussed earlier episodes of surveillance balloons as well as other flying objects.

The Commerce Department announced on Friday that it was banning most trade between U.S. companies and several Chinese companies that it had identified as aerospace and technology enterprises that have ties to the People’s Liberation Army of China, the Chinese military. Among other things, the companies help supply airships, balloons or related components to military intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance programs, the department said.

The Chinese companies are mostly based in large cities and manufacturing hubs, including Beijing, Guangzhou and Dongguan. U.S. companies will have to apply for a license to do business with those companies, which are being put on an “entity list,” but the licenses would most likely be denied, the department said.

The announcement framed the move as a response to the spy balloon incursion last week, but it is unclear whether U.S. officials had already been discussing possible sanctions against these companies earlier.

“The P.R.C.’s use of high-altitude balloons violates our sovereignty and threatens U.S. national security,” Alan Estevez, the under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said in the announcement, referring to the People’s Republic of China. “Today’s action makes clear that entities that seek to harm U.S. national security and sovereignty will be cut off from accessing U.S. technologies.”

China asserts that the two balloons spotted last week, in the United States and Latin America, were both civilian machines used for weather research or test flights. They drifted off course and are Chinese property, officials in Beijing said.

U.S. officials say there have been at least three intrusions into U.S. airspace by Chinese spy balloons during the Trump administration and two during the Biden administration, mainly in coastal areas. Before last week, officials said, they entered and left U.S. territory quickly.