By Andrew Thornebrooke
The United States shot down an unknown flying object off the coast of Alaska on Feb. 10, according to National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.
The object was flying at 40,000 feet, Kirby told reporters at a White House press briefing at around 2:30 p.m. ET, and was shot down “within the last hour.”
“I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours,” Kirby said.
Kirby described the device as an “object,” saying, “I am not classifying it as a balloon right now.”
The object was traveling near the Arctic Ocean, and came inside U.S. territorial waters, he said.
It was spotted yesterday, and President Joe Biden was briefed on the matter “as soon” as the object was tracked, Kirby said. Biden then ordered its shootdown this morning.
“The president will always act in the interests of the American people and national security,” he said.
The object was about the size of a small car, did not appear to have maneuverable capability, and presented a reasonable threat to the “safety of civilian flight,” he added.
“It did not appear to have the ability to independently maneuver,” Kirby said.
The downed objected landed on frozen water, meaning it’d be easier to recover debris, he added.
The incident appears to be related to a no-fly warning issued by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier in the day to allow for defense operations.
Kirby said that the United States currently has “no idea” who was behind the aircraft’s operation, adding he was not aware of efforts to communicate with China’s communist regime about the issue.
Asked if the United States has spoken to China, Kirby said he believed the Chinese regime was still not answering calls from the U.S. military.
“I think we’re going to continue to learn a lot about how these things are or can be detected in a better way,” he said.
Washington is working to learn more and improve its own detection capabilities, Kirby added.
“We just don’t know what this object was. It would be difficult for me to point to a threat … when we just don’t know what this object was doing.”
The incident follows the illegal incursion into U.S. airspace by a Chinese spy balloon last week, which was ultimately shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.
That balloon first entered U.S. airspace over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands on Jan. 28.
Kirby said the United States would “remain vigilant” about its airspace.
“The president takes his obligations to protect our national security interests and the safety and security of the American people as paramount. He’s always going to decide and act in a way that is commensurate with that duty,” he said.