The Pentagon on Friday confirmed that the U.S. military shot down an unidentified “object” tens of thousands of feet over Alaska, less than a week after an F-22 fighter jet downed a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic.
John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, briefed members of the press on the incident, which he said involved a much smaller object than the spy balloon.
The object was flying at about 40,000 feet and was determined to pose a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian aircraft.
“We’re calling this an object because that’s the best description we have right now,” Kirby told one reporter who asked whether it should be described as an aircraft, air ship, or balloon.
He added that it was “roughly the size of a small car.” The balloon that was shot down last Saturday was about the size of three school buses, according to officials.
Fighter pilots who observed the object over Alaska on Friday before shooting it down determined that it was not manned, according to the Pentagon. The object reportedly crashed into waters off the Alaska coast that are currently frozen, and Kirby said authorities have not yet determined whether it’s owned by a government, corporation, or private owner.
He added that the White House expects to be able to recover the downed material so it can determine who owns the object and whether it held surveillance equipment or weaponry.
Last week’s incident alarmed some peace advocates after Republicans claimed the Chinese balloon posed a security threat to the U.S. and “American sovereignty,” as House China Select Committee Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said.
China denounced the Pentagon’s decision to shoot down the balloon as “excessive” and said it violated “international convention.”