Three downed unidentified airborne objects may have been commercial or benign, says White House

Three downed unidentified airborne objects may have been commercial or benign, says White House

NBC News reports:

The White House said Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community is considering that the three most recent unidentified objects shot down over North America were being used for commercial or benign purposes.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters the evaluation is based on what the U.S. knows from images of the three objects and cautioned that the assessment is preliminary because no debris from any of them has been recovered.

“One thing we have to consider, and we believe the intelligence community is considering as an explanation, is that these could be balloons tied to commercial or research entities and therefore totally benign,” Kirby said.

The U.S. has shot down four objects this month, beginning with a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. Since then, three more unidentified objects have been shot down over North America: one on Friday over Alaska, one on Saturday over Canada and one on Sunday over Lake Huron.

Initial assessments indicate there’s no evidence that the three more recent objects are part of the Chinese government’s spying program or intelligence collection against the U.S., Kirby said Tuesday. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

The United States is going to need a lot of missiles if its fighter jets are to shoot down every stray balloon that sets off a radar warning in American airspace.

“At any given moment, thousands of balloons” are above the Earth, including many used in the United States by government agencies, military forces, independent researchers and hobbyists, said Paul Fetkowitz, president of Kaymont Consolidated Industries, a maker of high-altitude balloons in Melbourne, Fla.

Mr. Fetkowitz and other experts say this flotilla may explain the origins of some of what John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, called the “slow-moving objects at high altitude with a small radar cross section” that were shot down over the United States and Canada in recent days.

Since Feb. 4, when the United States shot down a large Chinese surveillance balloon that was reportedly flying at a height of roughly 12 miles as it crossed the North American continent, federal officials have sought to enhance radars and atmospheric trackers so they can more closely scrutinize the nation’s airspace. Balloon experts say the upgrade might generate a paralyzing wave of false alarms.

On Friday, fighter jets in waters over Alaska fired on an object the size of a small car that a Defense Department official said was most likely a balloon. The next day, an American F-22 attacked a cylindrical object over the Yukon Territory in Canada that was smaller than the Chinese surveillance device. On Sunday, an octagonal structure with strings hanging off it and no evident payload was hit over Lake Huron. It had first appeared over Montana days before.

Those three objects posed threats to civilian aviation, Mr. Kirby said, but they were not transmitting communications signals.

“This is a total shocker,” Terry Deshler, an emeritus professor of atmospheric science at the University of Wyoming, said of the recent downings and the enhanced-tracking effort.

“For years you didn’t hear anything about balloons,” he said. “Now, we’re on the lookout for any kind of flying object.”

Mr. Fetkowitz said he worried that government officials in Washington might not realize how crowded American skies had become with high-flying balloons. “There’s a concern that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing,” he said of military and civilian activities.

Each year, around 60,000 high-flying balloons are launched just by the National Weather Service, the agency said. They rise into the stratosphere, a layer of the planet’s atmosphere that extends to a height of roughly 30 miles. The balloons used by the Weather Service are designed to rise 20 miles up — far higher than the altitude of any of the four objects detected in the past 10 days. [Continue reading…]

Vox reports:

The mysterious downing of three unidentified flying objects over the weekend has renewed attention on an issue that Congress has become increasingly interested in over the last few years: the presence of UFOs, also known as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs).

Since 2020, a growing chorus of both Democrats and Republicans have emphasized the need to study and track UAPs, which can include everything from drones to other unknown aerial items, as a potential national security threat. Those calls have only grown louder after the military shot down the latest objects, which were detected in US airspace after a Chinese surveillance balloon was identified in early February. At this point, the White House has said that it doesn’t believe the unidentified objects have extraterrestrial origins.

Lawmakers’ scrutiny of UAPs burst into public view in 2022. Last May, the House held the first hearing that it’s had in 50 years on the issue, featuring testimony from military officials who presented video and images that service members have captured of different aerial objects. Past reports of UAPs have included sightings of objects that have “unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities,” raising questions about whether they could have extraterrestrial ties, though officials say they haven’t found evidence of such connections. [Continue reading…]

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