By Jack Phillips
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs said Tuesday that the first U.S. F-16 missile that was fired at an unknown object near Lake Huron on Sunday missed its target, prompting the jet to fire a second one that successfully hit.
In a news conference, Joint Chiefs of Staffs Chairman Mark Milley confirmed anonymously sourced reports that emerged on Monday that the first missile did not make it to its intended target.
The missile “landed harmlessly” in the waters of Lake Huron, he said. But, “Yes, the first shot missed,” he stated.
“We’re very very careful to make sure that these shots are in fact safe,” Milley told a news conference while in Brussels, to “make sure we minimize collateral damage,” reported The Associated Press. The top general said the U.S. military also went to “great lengths” to ensure that the missile strikes over American territory did not put civilians or property at risk.
Milley also said the Department of Defense also works to make sure that the airspace is clear and evaluate whether the missile strike and taking down of the object would leave a sizable debris field.
Officials previously said the F-16 jet that shot the object, described by officials as “octagonal” in shape, used AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
The object that was shot down Sunday was the third in as many days. U.S. and Canadian officials have confirmed that objects were shot down in Alaska and the Yukon Territory on Friday and Saturday, coming days after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon near the South Carolina coast, coming after it had traveled over much of the continental United States.
While U.S. military teams have recovered portions of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon, details about the three other objects have not been provided. It’s not clear if the military is making progress regarding the recovery efforts in Lake Huron, the Yukon, or Alaska.
Milley was speaking in Brussels along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had went there to meet with members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group regarding more weapons for Kyiv’s government ahead of anticipated Russian offensives in the spring, according to the AP.
The unidentified object shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon is located in “what is probably very deep water,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. Officials are still trying to locate the debris.
“When the takedown occurred, all of the debris fell into Lake Huron, so there was no damage to property or human life,” Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) said in a statement this week. Previously, Bergman told Fox News that the object was “octagonal” in shape.
After the shootdown, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) told local media that “we’re still are not sure exactly what it was, who owned it, or what its operation was … this will be determined once the debris field has been accessed.” He confirmed the U.S. Coast Guard is attempting to recover it.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refuted claims that the object shot down over Lake Huron that it was extraterrestrial in origin.
“And one last thing before I turn it over to the Admiral. I just wanted to make sure we address this from the White House. I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no—again, no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity—with these recent takedowns,” she told reporters.
On Monday, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand confirmed that Canada’s Royal Air Force deployed multiple aircraft to search for debris from the Yukon object.
“Additional support is being provided from units forward deployed to Whitehorse, and Dawson City, Yukon Territory,” she wrote on Twitter. “The debris is located in a remote location northeast of Dawson City, in complex alpine terrain that is prone to challenging northern weather conditions.”
Earlier this week, Anand told CNN that the object taken down in the Yukon by a U.S. F-22 jet was “cylindrical” and “smaller” than the “object shot down over the United States East Coast.”
“But it would be imprudent for me to speculate at this time until we gather the debris and until we do the analysis. The FBI is involved in that analysis as is the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) here in Canada,” the minister added.
As for the object that shot down near Deadhorse, Alaska, the U.S. military’s recovery of its debris faces Arctic weather conditions. As of Tuesda, temperatures were around -30 degrees Fahrenheit.