Right now, efforts are still underway to determine the nature of an unknown high-altitude object that was spotted and then subsequently shot down by a U.S. fighter jet over the state of Alaska on Friday, February 11. According to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the object had been traveling at an altitude of around 40,000 feet (the same altitude as jet airliners) and was deemed to be a risk to civilian traffic.
It was ultimately downed by an F-22 Raptor which fired a single AIM-9X Sidewinder missile.
Officials are currently in the process of retrieving and investigating the debris. As things stand, there’s not much we know about the object other than that it was around the size of a car and was “cylindrical and silver-ish gray.”
“The object was about the size of a small car so not similar in size or shape to the high-altitude surveillance balloon that was taken down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4,” said Ryder. When asked if it was “balloon-ish”, he replied, “All I say is that it wasn’t ‘flying’ with any sort of propulsion, so if that is ‘balloon-like’ well – we just don’t have enough at this point.”
In total, four objects have been shot down by U.S. aircraft over the past week including the Chinese balloon that many speculated was being used for information-gathering purposes. Authorities say they don’t believe the objects held a military threat but they were a hazard for commercial airliners and were near “sensitive” sites for U.S. national security.
On the television show “Face the Nation,” CBS News’ national security correspondent David Martin called shooting down these objects an “expensive habit.” He also that the winds bring many objects to Alaska and northern Canada, and for a long time they were ignored, however, the Chinese balloon changed that.
“There is a lot of what officials call sky trash up there,” said Martin. “And sky trash includes balloons that are put up by governments, that are put up by corporations, that are put up by research institutes, and probably just by private individuals, and not for nefarious purposes, but just to collect scientific data.”
Still, not everyone believes it’s “sky trash” — and they shouldn’t.