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US shoots down unknown object over Alaska, White House says

February 10, 2023

The US military shot down the high-altitude object over Alaska. It is the second foreign incursion into US airspace in two weeks.

A formation of US Air Force F-35 fighter jets at Eielson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska
The incident was the second this week in which US jets shot down foreign objects in their airspace Image: Jose Miguel Tamondong/U.S Ai/Planet Pix/ZUMAPRESS/picture alliance

The White House on Friday said a US fighter jet had shot down an as yet unidentified high-altitude object over state of Alaska. It was the second time in a week that jets were scrambled to down foreign objects in US airspace.

The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,200 meters) and is reported to have come down in US waters just off the far northeastern coast of Alaska, near the Canadian border.

The White House said it was notified of the object late Thursday. 

"The president ordered the military to down the object," National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

The incident comes after the Pentagon downed what it says was a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on February 4.

Kirby did not describe the object shot down Friday as a balloon, saying instead that a fighter jet had shot down a high-altitude object that was the size of a small car and had posed a "reasonable threat" to civilian flights.

The Pentagon on Friday added that the object shot down Friday "wasn't an aircraft per se."

Kirby told reporters Friday: "We do expect to be able to recover the debris, since it fell not only within our territorial space, but what we believe is frozen water, so a recovery effort will be made," adding, "We do not know who owns it, whether state-owned or corporate-owned. We don't understand the full purpose."

Kirby also said the US military had sent a plane to observe the object before it was shot down. The pilot assessed that it "was not manned."

js,ab/jcg (Reuters, AFP, AP)