Breaking Feb. 10, from the National Security Council, the US military has shot down a second high-altitude object penetrating Alaskan airspace. The last “airship” was not destroyed until it transited Alaska, Canada, and the contiguous US states from Idaho to the shores of South Carolina – supposedly to reduce risk. That was not the case this time, as John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman, explained:
“I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours out. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. Out of an abundance of caution and the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object. And they did. And it came in inside our territorial waters.”
Again, caution was used as the reason for shooting down the object when the US did. Early reporting has not provided details on what kind of an object it was or its origin and purpose. The fact that it was unidentified at this point and was flying lower than the Chinese balloon taken out last week prompted its destruction. There is no ruling out the immense criticism the Biden administration received for its failure to shoot down the previous Beijing intelligence-gathering craft as a likely prompt to take swifter action this time.
F-22s, AIM-9Xs Were the Weapons of Choice
“At the direction of the president of the United States,” Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon spokesman explained during a press conference, “fighters assigned to US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) successfully took down a high-altitude airborne object off the northern coast of Alaska at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today within US sovereign airspace over US territorial water.” Ryder went on to say the object was shot down by an F-22 assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska using an AIM-9X air-to-air heat-seeking missile. This is the same munition that destroyed the Chinese balloon. The US Air Force has F-22 fighters in Alaska that routinely intercept Russian aircraft skirting the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone and were used again in the intercept and downing of this object.
Ryder went into more detail on the shootdown, saying, “On February 9, North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) detected an object on ground radar and further investigated and identified the object using fighter aircraft. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. US Northern Command is beginning recovery operations now.” The Pentagon doesn’t have any information regarding details on the capabilities or origin of the unknown craft. Ryder did not say whether the craft was or was not a balloon. However, the Defense Department is confident the object, believed to be the size of an automobile, was unmanned.
During the briefing, none of the reporters asked about the fighter jet’s video of this shootdown or the previous one. Generally, when the US is going to kill something there is always a video. Why not this time? When F-111s bombed Tripoli, video was released within a day.
President Biden was briefed on the second object shortly after it was first observed on Thursday night. The next morning, the president gave the order. “A fighter aircraft conducted two flights – one on Thursday and another earlier Friday – to assess the object, “ The Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials. “The object was downed early Friday afternoon.” There was no information yet about where the object came from or what nation owned the craft.
Recovery Operations Underway
Among those flying recovery missions are HC-130s as well as HH-60s and CH-47 helicopters. The Pentagon believes it will learn much more about the origin and ownership of the craft once the debris is recovered and analyzed.
The debris has landed on “frozen waters” in northeastern Alaska. That will make recovery and exploitation of the instrument package easier. Ryder explained that each of these incidents is assessed on its individual level of risk and threat. The decision to take swifter action in this case came about because the incursion into US sovereign territory was at an altitude and location where civilian corporate and commercial aircraft routinely fly. Therefore, it was a hazard and needed to be removed.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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