Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that an “unidentified object” had been shot down by a US fighter jet over Canadian airspace on his orders.
“I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace. @NORADCommand shot down the object over the Yukon. Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled, and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
The object was “cylindrical” and smaller than the suspected Chinese balloon shot down last weekend, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Saturday evening.
Later on Saturday, the White House confirmed that Trudeau and US President Joe Biden authorized the shoot-down and the Pentagon said the object was first spotted over Alaska on Friday evening.
Trudeau said that he spoke with Biden on Saturday and that Canadian forces will lead the object recovery operation.
The object shot down Saturday marks the third time in one week that US aircraft have shot down an object in North American airspace. Saturday’s incident follows the downing of another unidentified object on Friday over Alaska, and the shoot-down of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon on February 4 by a US F-22 fighter jet.
It is not clear what the object shot down over Canada is or whether it is related to the spy balloon shot down last week or the unidentified object shot down over Alaska on Friday.
Both Biden and Trudeau authorized the take-down of the object, a White House readout of a call between the two leaders said on Saturday. And according to the statement regarding the call, the leaders “discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin.”
A statement from Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the object shot down on Saturday was first noticed over Alaska on Friday evening. Two F-22 fighter jets “monitored the object” with the help of the Alaska Air National Guard, Ryder’s statement said, “tracking it closely and taking time to characterize the nature of the object.”
“Monitoring continued today as the object crossed into Canadian airspace, with Canadian CF-18 and CP-140 aircraft joining the formation to further assess the object. A U.S. F-22 shot down the object in Canadian territory using an AIM 9X missile,” his statement added.
“As Canadian authorities conduct recovery operations to help our countries learn more about the object, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be working closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” Ryder said in his Saturday statement.
Anand tweeted Saturday that she had discussed the incident with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “and reaffirmed that we’ll always defend our sovereignty together.”
“The object was flying at an altitude of approximately 40,000 feet, had unlawfully entered Canadian airspace and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. The object was shot down approximately 100 miles from the Canada-United States border over Canadian territory in central Yukon,” Anand said in a news conference on Saturday evening.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command said earlier Saturday it was monitoring “a high altitude airborne object” over northern Canada, and military aircraft were operating in the area from Alaska and Canada, according to a news release from the agency.
Global News reported on NORAD’s detection of the object earlier Saturday.
Airspace over Montana briefly closed before being reopened
Airspace over Montana was also closed on Saturday evening “to support Defense Department activities,” according to a FAA spokesperson, but it was quickly reopened.
A statement from NORAD later on Saturday night said they “detected a radar anomaly and sent fighter aircraft to investigate,” but the aircraft “did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits.”
On Friday, the US military shot down a “high-altitude object” over Alaska after US officials determined that it posed a “reasonable threat to civilian air traffic” as it was flying at 40,000 feet. The object was brought down by fighter aircraft assigned to US Northern Command, and Biden referred to the operation as a “success.” Recovery teams are now attempting to retrieve the debris that is sitting on top of ice in US territorial waters.
While officials have given no indication so far that the object shot down over Alaska is at all related to the Chinese spy balloon, details have been scarce.
A week earlier, US military fighter jets shot down the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, ending a remarkable public drama that prompted a diplomatic fallout between Washington and Beijing as the American public tracked the balloon from Montana all the way to the Carolinas.
The Biden administration has been subjected to a slew of questions this week about the timing of the president’s decision to shoot the spy balloon.
The balloon was spotted after entering the US Air Defense Identification Zone over Alaska on January 28 before flying over Canada, a Department of Defense official told lawmakers last week. It then reentered continental US airspace three days later.
Officials said that the risk of intelligence collection against the US was low, while the risk to people and property on the ground, if the balloon were to be shot down over the US, was high given the balloon’s size and weight.
Instead, the military ultimately shot it down over water after it crossed over the East Coast of the US.
The second object was first spotted on Thursday, officials said, and F-35 fighter jets were sent up to examine the object further. The object was flying at 40,000 feet, which posed a “reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said on Friday.
Biden was first briefed on this object on Thursday evening, Kirby said.
A statement Saturday from US Northern Command said search and recovery operations for the object shot down over Alaska were ongoing.
“Recovery activities are occurring on sea ice,” the statement said. “We have no further details at this time about the object, including its capabilities, purpose, or origin.”
This story and headline have been updated.