Investigation of the China Airborne Anomaly and the President’s Follow-up on the China-Bearing-Balloon All-clear
There’s no indication at this point that the unidentified objects have any connection to China’s surveillance balloon but it seems that national security officials across the continent remain on edge. Airspace was briefly closed over Montana before being reopened on Saturday evening after a radar anomaly prompted a jet to investigate before the all-clear was given.
The “tipper” sent by the DIA also goes out across government channels routinely, and although US officials have access to these reports, whether they read them or whether those reports are included in briefings to senior policymakers is a matter of discretion.
Instead of treating it as an immediate threat, the US moved to investigate the object, seeing it as an opportunity to observe and collect intelligence.
Biden, according to senior administration officials, was not briefed until three days later, on January 31, when the balloon crossed out of Canada and into the continental United States. At that point, Biden asked the military to present options “immediately” to shoot the balloon down, officials said.
According to defense officials, on January 28, when a balloon entered US airspace, the NORAD sent fighter jets to identify it.
There were no reasons for officials to be alarmed by the balloon. At the time, the balloon was supposed to sail over Alaska and then go on a northern trajectory that intelligence and military officials could track and study.
Military officials said it is not necessarily surprising that the president was not briefed until January 31, given the expectations for the balloon at the time.
Congress has taken a keen interest as more information has trickled out about the decision-making process on the balloon.
The Lockdown of an F-22 Fighter Jet from Joint Base Elmendorf over US Territional Water: A Senate Republican Adviser Explains Alaska’s Transit Problem
There are still many questions to be answered about Alaska, a Senate Republican aide said. There’s a reason that Alaskans aren’t told if they’re transiting without telling anyone but the continental US is different.
The image of a pilot taking a selfies in the cockpit that shows him and the balloon is already considered legendary by NORAD and the Pentagon.
President Joe Biden told CNN that the shoot down a “high-altitude object” hovering over Alaska on Friday “was a success,” shortly after American national security officials disclosed that the commander-in-chief gave the US military approval to take the action.
The Pentagon says an F-22 fighter jet from Joint Base Elmendorf took down an object in US airspace over US territorial water. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Friday.
Ryder said that the Defense Department had no details about the object’s “capabilities, purpose or origin.” The object was about the size of a small car so it was not as large as the high altitude balloon that was taken down off the coast of South Carolina.
According to Kirby, Biden was first briefed on the object on Thursday evening, as “soon as the Pentagon had enough information.” Kirby said it didn’t appear to be self-maneuvering.
“We were able to get some fighter aircrafts up and around it before the order to shoot it down, and the pilots assessment was this was not manned,” Kirby added.
The object was down near the Canadian border by a F-22 fighter jet, using an AIM-9X missile, the same aircraft and missile that was used to take down the balloon. A US official said the military waited to shoot the object down during daylight hours to make it easier for the pilots to spot it. The mission was supported by aerial assets from the Alaska Air National Guard.
US Northern Command’s Alaska Command coordinated the operation with assistance from the Alaska Air National Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ryder said.
The Discovery of a High-Energy Object Shot Down by a Surveillance Balloon in the North East of Alaska
The best description we have is that of an object. We don’t know who the owner is, whether it’s a state owned or private company.
The object came to the attention of the US government. Biden was first briefed Thursday night “as soon as the Pentagon had enough information,” Kirby said.
The object was at the mercy of the prevailing winds, making it less predictable.
The military took action against an object on Friday, which prompted the FAA to issue a temporary flight restriction in the area.
The chairman of the Intelligence Committee told CNN that when the Chinese spy balloon was seen coming over some of the most sensitive sites, the Biden administration appeared “trigger-happy” but it was certainly preferable to the laissez-faire environment they showed.
A large fleet of spy balloons is thought to be part of the reason the US has discovered them. Forty countries have been identified by the US as being covered by the balloons.
In a week, US fighter jets have shot down three objects in North American airspace.
It is unclear how the object came to be. The driver said it was going north east across Alaska on Friday. He said that it was smaller than a small car and not as big as the Chinese balloon that crashed off the coast of South Carolina.
There was not a significant concern about damage to people or property if the object was shot down, which was the primary reason the Chinese surveillance balloon was allowed to traverse the continental US last week.
The disclosures seemed to put to rest any speculation about the origins of the balloons, the remnants which are still to be collected by investigators. Administration officials have increasingly cast doubt on their ability to fully recover debris from the objects, given tough conditions where they landed.
Ryder said on Friday that recovery teams have “mapped the debris field” and are “in the process of searching for and identifying debris on the ocean floor.”
When asked if the lessons that were learned from China’s balloon helped in detecting the object shot down over Alaska, Ryder said “a little bit of apples and oranges.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner: We Need to Invest more in the Defense of Airspace Security and Protect Our Freedoms from Threats from the Cold War
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner said Sunday he prefers how the US shot down unidentified objects over North American airspace in recent days to allowing them to traverse the country.
Turner said in an interview he would prefer the Biden administration to be happy than to be restrictive, but that we would have to see if it was just the administration trying to change headlines.
“What I think this shows, which is probably more important to our policy discussion here, is that we really have to declare that we’re going to defend our airspace. And then we need to invest,” the Ohio Republican said. “This shows some of the problems and gaps that we have. We need to fill them as quickly as possible because we now know there is a threat.
This administration is particularly annoying because of this. The Biden administration needs to stop briefing Congress through our television sets and actually come and sit down and brief us,” he said. “I do think that there needs to be more engagement between the administration and Congress.”
The assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs told reporters on Sunday that they were taken down out of anabundance of caution.
News of a high-altitude object shot down by an F-16 over Lake Huron: Is it a military threat or a flight hazard?
A range of companies, countries and research organizations have the ability to use high-altitude objects for a number of purposes, including legitimate research.
Over the past several days, areas of the federal government have been occupied by three mysterious aerial devices. There are so many conditions ripe for conspiracy that the administration has not been able to say with certitude what they were doing.
Canada’s chief of defense staff, Gen. Wayne Eyre, also made mention of a “balloon” when describing instructions given to the team that worked to take down the object.
The objectsshot down on Friday and Saturday did not look like the PRC balloon, as noted by the deputy Pentagon press secretary. We’ll have more for you when we can recover the debris.
The findings have allowed the US to develop a consistent technical method for the first time, which they have used to track the balloons in near-real time across the globe, the sources said.
CNN reported Sunday that NORAD changed its filters to better spot targets operating above a certain altitude.
Is NORAD now picking up objects that are potentially hostile given a state of heightened alert after Chinese balloon crisis? Is it possible that there has been a sudden increase in such flights, or did they fly with no repercussions in the past? Given the already increased threat to civilian aircraft – for instance from more low flying drones – is this a new problem that that should concern the aviation industry?
It’s still unclear, but it appears to be quite large. News of a Chinese balloon that was floating in the US airspace last week has led to new revelations about what is now understood to be a global surveillance operation by the People’s Liberation Army.
In the latest event, a high-altitude object was shot down on Sunday afternoon by an F-16 over Lake Huron, which lies between Michigan and Ontario. The Pentagon said the object was not assessed to be a military threat but was a flight hazard. It connected the craft to a signal on the radar over Montana, which is where the US intercontinental missile silos are located.
CNN reported that the Department of Defense called Rep. Slotkin and said the US military had a close eye on an object above Lake Huron.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want answers. Politicians on both sides of the aisle met the news of further objects being shot down with a range of responses Sunday.
Jim Himes, who is also on the Intelligence panel, said that he was worried about why the administration was not being more forthcoming with information.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, said Congress needs to investigate why it took so long for the US to catch on to the Chinese government’s use of spy balloons.
A deepening national security mystery is threatening a political storm after US fighter jets scrambled three days in a row to shoot down a trio of unidentified aerial objects high over the North American continent.
The intrigue is also unfolding against a tense global situation, with already difficult relations with rising superpower China becoming ever more hostile and with the US leading the West in an effective proxy war against Russia in Ukraine.
Tester said that the last 10 days have been a “cesspool of craziness.” He spoke about the shooting down of the object on Sunday on CBS.
In fact, NORAD commander Gen. Glen VanHerck said recent objects shot down were likely the first “kinetic action” that NORAD or the US Northern Command had taken against an airborne object over US airspace.
So the events of the last few days do provoke serious national security and political questions that stretch far beyond the often narrow political battle in Washington, and that can only be assessed once more details are understood.
Are these strange objects flying over North America linked to a hostile power or group, either corporate or private? Are they even connected to one another or are they simply the result of coincidences at a time of heightened awareness and tensions?
Why did Biden and Schumer shoot down the black-tie at the Yukon and Alaska border? The blame game is heating up
The blame game is heating up. Republican Rep. Mike Turner, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN that he was not briefed enough by senior officials about Republican claims that Biden was not protecting the southern border. And he also adopted a novel critique of Biden given claims that the president didn’t act quickly enough before.
It’s premature to speculate on such things. But fierce political debate over the balloon has clearly changed Biden’s tolerance threshold for unknown aerial objects.
Biden did not speak to Americans in person about the new intrusions at the black-tie event with state governors on Saturday.
“They are getting lots of positives that they did not get before. Kayyem, who was an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, said most of that would be airplanes.
“What we can’t answer now is, is this bigger aperture picking up lots of stuff that has essentially been forgiven, around in the skies, because it didn’t pose a threat, or is it part of something organized for whatever surveillance?”
There was a lot of confusion on Sunday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the two objects shot down over Alaska and the Yukon were balloons but smaller than the original Chinese intruder, after saying he had earlier been briefed by Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.
Even if there is no confirmation that the Chinese balloon and objects are connected, it appears that Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale made a link between the two on “CNN Newsroom.”
White House and Senate Majority Leader Kirby questioned the possibility that the “debris balloons” had any threat to the American people
“It doesn’t give me much safe feelings knowing that these devices are smaller,” he said. “I am very concerned with the cumulative data that is being collected. I need answers, and the American people don’t have any.
The White House wanted to make sure that the objects could not have come from a hostile state or outer space. On Tuesday, a top White House official suggested they were likely harmless.
“The intelligence community’s considering as a leading explanation that these could just be balloons tied to some commercial or benign purpose,” John Kirby, the strategic communication coordinator at the National Security Council, said Tuesday.
After hearing from administration officials that the objects posed no threat to the people of America, senators said they were reassured.
“There are a lot of these things that are up in the air from time to time, some commercial, some government and maybe there’s some things we don’t know,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, adding he wasn’t worried “in the slightest” that the objects themselves pose a threat to the American people.
It was added to the consideration that it could take a while for the debris to be recovered and that a comprehensive analysis of what those objects might have been is a process that officials acknowledge could take some time.
He said the efforts have been hampered by what he described as ” pretty tough conditions.” They’ve been hampered by the geographic challenges on Lake Saginaw, in the Yukon wilderness and on sea ice north of Alaska.
The Chinese spy balloon debrisrecovery off the coast of South Carolina was hampered by high seas in the ocean due to the time of year and the tough weather conditions, according to Kirby.
Kirby said the government was relying on information and expertise from the Federal Aviation Administration and the intelligence community.
The Canada-US High-Altitude Airborne Object Search and Recovery: A Brief Briefing on the First Shot Down Objects
Trudeau said Monday the search area was large in the dense wilderness. Other Canadian officials were candid Monday about the difficult task of recovering debris from high-altitude objects shot down over Canada and the US.
There is no guarantee that we will find them. While we are working hard to recover from this disaster, the terrain of the Yukon may pose a significant challenge as well as the current weather conditions in Lake Huron.
Officials also disclosed that the object that was shot down over Lake Huron was first detected in Southern Alberta. Canadian officials said they have deployed investigators with explosives, chemical, biological and radiological expertise.
But in the briefing filled with unanswered questions, one statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was as definitive as anything else: The US military had not shot down any UFOs from outer space.
She said that there was no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity. “Wanted to make sure that the American people knew that, all of you knew that. And it was important for us to say that from here because we’ve been hearing a lot about it.”
Officials have been particularly sensitive to the inherently mysterious nature of the airborne objects, and how ripe the recent series of events was for conspiracy theories.
“Everyone wants answers that no one has at the moment,” one official said, conceding there was a risk with the void of information that conspiracies could sprout.
Sources said that the public had a right to be aware of the possibility of extraterrestrial activity even though there wasn’t much concrete information about the downed objects.
Administration officials don’t like the fact that circumstances are not ideal for effective communication and still want to provide as much information as possible.
Biden himself has expressed a desire to be as transparent as possible about the devices with both Congress and the American public, according to officials, but the president has acknowledged that without a full picture of what the objects were, his ability to communicate on them is limited.
One lawmaker who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee had told CNN on Monday that it would be prudent for Biden to directly address the public, particularly given that the situation was ripe for conspiracy theories.
Mr. Kirby’s comments came as senior Pentagon and intelligence community officials, including Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the head of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, visited the Capitol on Tuesday to deliver a similar message to the full Senate. The administration has been trying to update lawmakers on the series of strange floating objects they have been shooting down.
But the admission that the administration had more questions than answers about three of the objects prompted a fresh wave of frustration among lawmakers, who criticized not only the slow recovery effort but also the administration’s lack of clarity about what was floating overhead in the first place.
“Everyone’s talking, acting like this is the first time we’ve ever seen these things,” said Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “No it isn’t.” Mr.Rubio, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wondered if the craft should have been brought down.
The only way to get answers is to understand how similar the cases are, and that is what you will get when you retrieve whatever is leftover.
The Discovery and Recovery of an Intrusive Airborne Object by a High-Altitude Balloon in the South Carolina Sea
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who chairs the committee, said the government’s tracking of airborne objects launched for legitimate purposes needs to be improved, adding that “there is not anywhere near as formal a process as there probably should be.”
Crews using salvage equipment successfully have retrieved important elements of the Chinese balloon that was shot down off the South Carolina coast 10 days ago, the U.S. military says.
The recovery operation includes the use of a crane to bring up pieces of the giant balloon which was kept aloft for most of its life.
The payload’s size has been categorized by Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD, as “a jet airliner type of size, maybe a regional jet,” weighing more than 2,000 pounds.
News of the intrusive Chinese balloon touched off alerts in the U.S. and beyond. When the Pentagon said last week that a similar high-altitude balloon had been identified over Latin America, China responded by saying it was another research balloon that was badly off-course, deeming it “an unexpected, isolated incident caused by force majeure,” meaning events beyond the country’s control.
The US blew up the balloon in the sky after it flew over much of the continental U.S.
Analysts warned the administration against allowing the craft to return to China and to allow the U.S. to gain its own insights by recovering the equipment.
As for how the U.S. will handle cases of unidentified aerial objects objects in the future, Kirby said on Tuesday that the National Security Council likely will present new guidance by the end of the week.
Senate intelligence briefing on the balloon incident and other recent U.S. airborne objects – and what they could have to say about them
The balloon incident quickly became an imposing challenge to smoothing out snarled U.S.-Chinese relations. The Secretary of State called off his trip to Beijing just hours before he was due to leave.
Questions about the balloon and other objects that were recently shot down — and the U.S. approach to the airborne objects — prompted a classified intelligence briefing for the entire Senate Tuesday morning. The closed hearing by the Senate intelligence committee is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.