U.S. Air Force fighters downed three unidentified objects in U.S. airspace over the weekend out of an abundance of caution and to ensure civilian flight safety, the White House said Monday.
And while U.S. military officials still aren’t sure just what the objects shot down are, there is no indication they are related to extraterrestrial activity, according to the Biden Administration.
The comments come one week after the military launched a recovery mission to collect the remains of a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon that was shot down off the South Carolina coast by an F-22 Raptor.
In the past week, the military ramped up surveillance, which illuminated the presence of more objects, defense officials say.
“In light of the Chinese balloon program and this recent incursion into our airspace, the United States and Canada—through NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command]—have been more closely scrutinizing that airspace, including enhancing radar capabilities, which… may at least partially explain the increase in objects that have been detected,” John Kirby, White House national security spokesperson, told reporters Monday afternoon.
The enhanced scrutiny led to at least three incidents over the weekend.
On Friday, a USAF F-22 shot down a “high-altitude” object flying off the coast of Northern Alaska.
“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
On Saturday, another detected object was shot down by a U.S. F-22 after it flew into Canadian airspace from Alaska, also at around an altitude of around 40,000 feet.
Sunday afternoon, shortly before 3 p.m. EST, a third object flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet was taken out by an F-16 that fired an AIM9x Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile in U.S. airspace over Lake Huron in Michigan.
“Its path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation,” the Pentagon said following the incident. “[NORAD] detected the object Sunday morning and has maintained visual and radar tracking of it. Based on its flight path and data we can reasonably connect this object to the radar signal picked up over Montana, which flew in proximity to sensitive DOD sites.”
U.S. intelligence officials have been studying China’s high-altitude, low-speed aircraft—such as balloons—used for intelligence collection over dozens of countries, Kirby said.
In each of the four cases reported, the downed aircraft were unmanned, not communicating, not maneuvering, and had no propulsion capabilities, Kirby said.
“We did, however, assess that their altitudes were considerably lower than the Chinese high-altitude balloon and did pose a threat to civilian commercial air traffic,” Kirby said.
In 2021, the Department of Defense launched a new office to study such incidents, which are classified as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), near U.S. military training ranges and installations. The move, made in collaboration with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), aims to expand UAP data collection that intelligence officials say is needed to better understand the nature or intent of the incidents.
ADNI report described numerous UAP sightings acknowledging that at least 143 reports of “unidentified aerial phenomena” were reported since 2004 that could not be explained.
In October, NASA launched a nine-month study on UAPs, with a focus on aviation safety and to determine their cause, earthly or otherwise.
Recent incidents, however, were not extraterrestrial, according to White House officials.
“I don’t think the American people need to worry about aliens with respect to these craft, period,” Kirby said.