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NYTimes
New York Times
11 Feb 2023


NextImg:U.S. Jet Shoots Down Flying Object Over Canada

WASHINGTON — An American fighter jet, acting on the orders of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shot down another unidentified flying object on Saturday, Canadian and American officials said, in the latest twist of the ongoing drama playing out over the skies of North America.

“I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement he posted on Twitter. He said an American F-22 with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is operated jointly by the United States and Canada, “shot down the object over the Yukon.”

As with the object that President Biden ordered shot down on Friday, officials said they have yet to determine just what was shot down over the Yukon Territory.

Mr. Trudeau said he had spoken with Mr. Biden Saturday afternoon. “Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object,” he said in his Twitter post, adding, “Thank you to NORAD for keeping the watch over North America.”

In a statement, NORAD said that it had “positively identified a high-altitude airborne object over Northern Canada” and declined to discuss specifics.

Meanwhile, military troops with U.S. Northern Command were working with Alaska National Guard units, the F.B.I. and local law enforcement in wind, snow and ice to recover the still unidentified flying object that Mr. Biden ordered shot down on Friday, Defense Department officials said Saturday.

With the recovery activities taking place on sea ice, in freezing temperatures and in limited daylight near Deadhorse, Alaska, the service members are being forced to move slowly, adjusting their pace to maintain safety, the officials said.

“We have no further details at this time about the object, including its capabilities, purpose and origin,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The disclosure on Friday that for the second time in several days, an American F-22 fighter jet had shot down an object in the sky with a Sidewinder missile capped another week of high-altitude tensions between Washington and Beijing, which were stoked by the discovery in late January of a Chinese spy balloon in American skies that was brought down on Feb 4.

At around 9 p.m. Alaska time on Thursday, American radar picked up an unidentified object entering American airspace. U.S. Northern Command sent an AWACS surveillance aircraft, accompanied by an aerial refueling plane, to track it. Officials said on Friday that they could not tell if the object, which they described as about the size of a tiny car, was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.

President Biden ordered the object downed “out of an abundance of caution,” said John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in a press briefing on Friday.

A U.S. official said there were “no affirmative indications of military threat” to people on the ground from the object, which was shot down over the Arctic Ocean near Canada.

Pentagon officials have said that the spy balloon shot down a week ago posed no military threat. Based on that assessment, and out of concern for civilians on the ground who might be harmed by the debris, they counseled against shooting it down over land after it entered American airspace on Jan. 31 over Idaho. The balloon was allowed to make its way to the Atlantic Ocean, where it was brought down off South Carolina. That gave the U.S. military time to study it, including having U-2 spy planes take high-resolution images of the equipment, the officials said.

Northern Command was continuing to carry out recovery of debris from the surveillance balloon on Saturday, the Pentagon statement said.

Mr. Biden, who came under criticism from Republicans for exercising restraint with the balloon episode earlier this month, took more forceful action on Friday with the second flying object. Pentagon officials noted that since it was over water, they were able to easily avoid the dilemma posed by the spy balloon drifting across populated areas.