WASHINGTON/OTTAWA: A US F-22 fighter aircraft shot down an unexplained cylinder-shaped object above Canada on Saturday, the second such incident in as many days, as North America seemed on edge in the wake of a week-long Chinese spy balloon story that captivated the world.
Separately, the United States military sent fighter planes in Montana to examine a radar anomaly that prompted a temporary federal airspace restriction.
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) stated in a statement, “These aircraft did not detect any item to link the radar hits.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first acknowledged Saturday’s shootdown over the northern Yukon region, stating that Canadian soldiers will retrieve and analyse the aircraft’s wreckage.
The Canadian Minister of Defence, Anita Anand, refused to comment on the origin of the cylinder-shaped object.
She refrained from calling it a balloon, but said that it resembled the Chinese balloon that was shot down a week ago off the coast of South Carolina.
It was shot down at 3:41 EST (2041 GMT) because it presented a threat to civilian aviation traffic at a height of 12,000 metres (40,000 feet), she said.
Anand said during a press conference, “There is no reason to assume that the effect of the item on Canadian territory is of any public concern.”
The Pentagon said that NORAD spotted the object late Friday night over Alaska.
US fighter planes from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska observed the object as it entered Canadian airspace, where it was joined by Canadian CF-18 and CP-140 aircraft.
“A US F-22 shot down the item in Canadian territory with an AIM 9X missile after tight cooperation between US and Canadian officials,” said Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder.
After a phone chat between Biden and Trudeau, US President Joe Biden authorised the US military to collaborate with Canada to bring down the high-altitude plane, according to the Pentagon.
According to the White House, Biden and Trudeau vowed to continue working closely together to “protect our airspace.”
According to a statement, “the leaders emphasised the necessity of retrieving the artefact in order to learn more about its purpose or origin.”
Biden authorised the destruction of another unidentified flying object near Deadhorse, Alaska, a day earlier.
Saturday, the US military remained tight-lipped about what, if anything, it had learnt from recovery attempts on the sea ice of Alaska.
On Friday, the Pentagon provided just a few information, including that the object was the size of a compact car, was flying at an altitude of around 40,000 feet (12,200 m), was immobile, and looked to be unmanned.
Since the object was originally discovered on Thursday, US authorities have been attempting to learn more about it.
“At this time, we have no more information regarding the item, including its capabilities, intent, or origin,” stated Northern Command on Saturday.
It cited arduous Arctic weather conditions, such as wind cold, snow, and short sunshine, which might impede search and rescue efforts.
“Staff will adapt recovery procedures to ensure safety,” the report continued.
After a week-long flight across the United States and parts of Canada, a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down by a United States F-22 fighter aircraft off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.
China asserts that the vessel was a civilian research vessel.
Some United States politicians criticised Vice President Biden for not shooting down the Chinese balloon sooner. The U.S. military advised waiting until it was over the water for fear of debris-related casualties.
Since the downing of the 60-meter-tall Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon, US soldiers have been combing the seas for wreckage and electronic equipment.
The Pentagon has said that a substantial portion of the balloon has been recovered or identified, indicating that American authorities may soon have further information about any Chinese spying capabilities onboard.
Northern Command said that the sea conditions on February 10 “permitted dive and underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) operations and the recovery of more debris from the sea bottom.”
The public may see US Navy warships travelling to and from the station in the course of unloading and replenishment operations.