Object shot down near Lake Huron

By Oren Liebermann and Kylie Atwood, CNN

Updated 0938 GMT (1738 HKT) February 13, 2023
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5:10 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

NORAD has readjusted its filters to better track slow-moving targets

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

One reason why additional “objects” have been detected by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in recent days could be because the command recently readjusted its filters to better spot slow-moving targets operating above a certain altitude, a source briefed on the matter told CNN.  

The filters were only readjusted and broadened in the past week, the source said, after a high-altitude, suspected Chinese spy balloon transited the US and ignited a debate over the United States' ability to detect and defend against any potentially threatening objects entering its airspace. 

The Washington Post first reported on NORAD’s adjustment.

The US was able to track the spy balloon’s path before it entered US airspace -- and ultimately shoot it down off the coast of South Carolina -- in large part because the US intelligence community developed a method within the past year to track the balloons using a particular set of signals they emit, as CNN has previously reported.

But, in general, NORAD has tended to prioritize the detection of fast-moving targets below a certain altitude -- at which threatening planes or certain missiles, for example, might fly.

The more narrow filters were meant to allow NORAD and defense officials to better make sense of the mass of data that was being collected on any particular day, the source said. If they didn’t filter out slow-moving objects, early warning air defense systems would pick up lots of noise, such as weather balloons and birds. 

Two of the three objects shot down in the past three days-- near Alaska and over northern Canada -- were flying at around 40,000 feet, US and Canadian officials said, posing a potential risk to civilian aircraft. Both of the objects also appeared to feature a balloon, with a small metal cylinder underneath, officials said.

Very little is known so far about the third object shot down near Lake Huron on Sunday.

4:58 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer: Michigan National Guard stands ready

Michigan's governor said Friday that the object was taken down "swiftly, safely and securely."

5:38 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

US military shoots down high-altitude object over Lake Huron on Sunday

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and Kylie Atwood

The Pentagon is seen November 29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia.
The Pentagon is seen November 29, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The US military shot down another high-altitude object over Lake Huron on Sunday afternoon, according to a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter.

Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan said Sunday that the operation to down the object over Lake Huron was carried out by pilots from the US Air Force and the National Guard.

“Great work by all who carried out this mission both in the air and back at headquarters. We’re all interested in exactly what this object was and it’s purpose,” she said in a tweet.

Republican Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan also confirmed the operation Sunday, tweeting, “The US military has decommissioned another ‘object’ over Lake Huron.”

“I appreciate the decisive action by our fighter pilots,” he said.

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4:39 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Here is what we know about the unidentified objects shot down over North America

From Haley Britzky,. CNN

A US official said Sunday there has been caution inside the Biden administration on the pilot descriptions of the unidentified objects shot down over the United States and Canada due to the circumstances in which the objects were viewed.

“These objects did not closely resemble and were much smaller than the PRC balloon and we will not definitively characterize them until we can recover the debris, which we are working on,” a National Security Council spokesperson said, referring to the suspected Chinese spy balloon.

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh also noted the difference between the incidents.

“These objects shot down on Friday and Saturday were objects and did not closely resemble the PRC balloon. When we can recover the debris, we will have more for you,” she said Sunday

Earlier Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told ABC News that he was briefed on the object by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and that the object shot down over Canada was likely another balloon – as was the high-altitude object downed over Alaska on Friday.

On Saturday, 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.

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5:38 p.m. ET, February 12, 2023

Fourth object shot down in a week

From Haley Britzky,. CNN

An unidentified object was shot down near Lake Huron Sunday, marking the third time in a week that US fighter jets have taken down objects in North American airspace.

An unidentified object was shot down over northern Canada on Saturday. On Friday, an unidentified object was shot down in Alaska airspace by a US F-22, and last weekend, a Chinese surveillance balloon was taken down by F-22s off the coast of South Carolina.

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.

On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration briefly restricted some airspace over Lake Michigan near Wisconsin for “national defense airspace.” The FAA made similar flight restrictions ahead of the operations to shoot down the spy balloon and the unidentified object over Alaska.

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