WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) – U.S. military fighter jets on Sunday shot down an octagonal object over Lake Huron, the Pentagon said, the latest incident since a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon put North American security forces on high alert.
It was the fourth flying object to be shot down over North America by a U.S. missile in a little more than a week. China’s foreign ministry said it had no information on the latest three flying objects shot down by the United States.
U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, who is tasked with safeguarding U.S. airspace, told reporters that the military has not been able to identify what the three most recent objects are, how they stay aloft, or where they are coming from.
“We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason,” VanHerck, head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command, said.
VanHerck said he would not rule out aliens or any other explanation.
ALSO CHECK OUT MORE WORLDWIDE NEWS UPDATES
“I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out,” he said.
Another defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, subsequently said the military had not seen any evidence that the objects were extraterrestrial.
On President Joe Biden’s order, a U.S. F-16 fighter shot down the object at 2:42 p.m. local time over Lake Huron on the U.S.-Canada border, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said in an official statement.
Don’t worry, just some of my 👽 🛸 friends of mine stopping by …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 12, 2023
Though it did not pose a military threat, the object could have potentially interfered with domestic air traffic as it was traveling at 20,000 feet (6,100 m), and it might have had surveillance capabilities, Ryder said.
The object appeared to be octagonal in structure, with strings hanging off but no discernible payload, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.
The object was believed to be the same as one recently detected over Montana near sensitive military sites, prompting the closure of U.S. airspace, the Pentagon said. The military will try to recover the object downed over Lake Huron to learn more about it, VanHerck told reporters.
He said it likely fell into Canadian waters.
The incident raised questions about the spate of unusual objects that have appeared over North American skies in recent weeks and raised tensions with China.
“We need the facts about where they are originating from, what their purpose is, and why their frequency is increasing,” said U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, one of several Michigan lawmakers who applauded the military for downing the object.
U.S. officials identified the first object as a Chinese surveillance balloon and shot it down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4. On Friday, a second object was shot down over sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska. And a third object was destroyed over Canada’s Yukon on Saturday, with investigators still hunting for the wreckage.