U.S. fighter jet shoots down unidentified cylindrical object over Canada

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA, Feb 11 (Reuters) – A U.S. F-22 fighter jet shot down an unidentified cylindrical object over Canada on Saturday, the second such instance in as many days, as North America appeared on edge following a week-long Chinese spying balloon saga that drew the global spotlight.

Separately, the U.S. military also scrambled fighter jets in Montana to investigate a radar anomaly that triggered a brief federal closure of airspace.

“Those aircraft did not identify any object to correlate the radar hits,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, based out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, flies alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker during an aerial refueling mission above an undisclosed location, in this undated handout picture released by U.S. Air Force on July 29, 2019. Chris Drzazgowsk/U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced Saturday’s shootdown over the northern Yukon territory, saying Canadian forces would recover and analyze the wreckage.

Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand declined to speculate about the origin of the object, which she said was cylindrical in shape.

The Pentagon said NORAD detected the object over Alaska late on Friday.

U.S. fighter jets from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, monitored the object as it crossed over into Canadian airspace, where Canadian CF-18 and CP-140 aircraft joined the formation.

The Alaska Highway is surrounded by boreal forest running north toward Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Andy Clark

“A U.S. F-22 shot down the object in Canadian territory, using an AIM 9X missile following close co-ordination between U.S. and Canadian authorities,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the U.S. military to work with Canada to take down the high-altitude craft after a call between Biden and Trudeau, the Pentagon said.

The White House said Biden and Trudeau agreed to continue close coordination to “defend our airspace.”

“The leaders discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin,” it said in a statement.

A day earlier, Biden ordered another shootdown of an unidentified flying object near Deadhorse, Alaska.

On Saturday, the U.S. military remained tight-lipped about what, if anything, it had learned as recovery efforts were underway on the Alaskan sea ice.

On Friday, the Pentagon offered only a few details, such as that the object was the size of a small car, was flying at about 40,000 feet (12,200 m), could not maneuver and appeared to be unmanned.

U.S. officials have been trying to learn about the object since it was first spotted on Thursday.

“We have no further details at this time about the object, including its capabilities, purpose, or origin,” Northern Command said on Saturday.

It mentioned difficult Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight that can hinder search and recovery.

“Personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety,” it added.

On Feb. 4, a U.S. F-22 fighter jet brought down what the U.S. government called a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina following its week-long journey across the United States and portions of Canada.

China has said it was a civilian research vessel.

Some U.S. lawmakers criticized Biden for not shooting down the Chinese balloon sooner. The U.S. military had recommended waiting until it was over the ocean, for fear of injuries from falling debris.

U.S. personnel have been scouring the ocean to recover debris and the undercarriage of electronic gadgetry since the shootdown of the 200-foot (60-meter) -tall Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon.

The Pentagon has said a significant amount of the balloon had already been recovered or located, suggesting American officials may soon have more information about any Chinese espionage capabilities aboard.

Sea conditions on Feb. 10 “permitted dive and underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) activities and the retrieval of additional debris from the sea floor,” Northern Command said.

“The public may see U.S. Navy vessels moving to and from the site as they conduct offload and resupply activities.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, David Shepardson, Andrea Shalal, Michael Martina, Richard Cowan in Washington, Steven Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by David Gregorio and Clarence Fernandez

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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