If the U.S. government knows much about the three unidentified objects shot down by U.S. fighter jets since Friday, they aren't saying so publicly.
The Chinese airship a U.S. F-22 shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 "was clearly a balloon," Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command, said Sunday. The other three objects, "we're calling them objects for a reason. I'm not able to categorize how they stay aloft." Asked about the possibility the objects were extraterrestrial, VanHerck said he hasn't "ruled out anything at this point."
The FBI and the Canadian Mounties are in charge of analyzing the debris, once it is recovered. "But in interviews Sunday, national security officials discounted any thoughts that what the Air Force shot out of the sky represented any sort of alien visitors," The New York Times reports. After VanHerck's remarks, an unidentified Pentagon official said there's "no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns."
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Here's what we do know about the three "unidentified objects":
- Feb. 10: The "high-altitude object" shot down Friday by a U.S. F-22 Raptor off the coast of Alaska was "roughly the size of a small car," U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. It is believed to have been carrying a payload underneath, U.S. officials told The Associated Press, but it broke into pieces after being shot down and probably wasn't a balloon, a Pentagon official told the Times. The object was flying at about 40,000 feet.
- Feb. 11: The object shot down by a U.S. F-22 over Canada's remote Yukon territory on Saturday was "cylindrical in nature," Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said. U.S. officials said this object was more likely to have been a balloon or airship, and appeared to be carrying a payload. This object similarly flew at about 40,000 feet.
- Feb. 12: The object downed by a U.S. F-16 over Lake Huron on Sunday was first detected on Saturday afternoon about 70 miles north of the U.S.-Canada border. The U.S. monitored it, on and off, over Montana and Wisconsin before shooting it down over Michigan's upper peninsula. U.S. officials described it as an "octagonal structure" with strings hanging off but no visible cameras or other equipment. It was flying at about 20,000 feet.
U.S. officials said they adjusted the filters on their aerial surveillance software and are now tracking smaller and slower objects after the incident with the Chinese balloon, but it's also possible more objects are flying into U.S. and Canadian airspace.
"What's happening now is you have low-end technology being used to harass America," Luis Elizondo, the military intelligence officer who ran the Pentagon's UFO program until 2017, speculated to the Post. "It is a high-impact, low-cost way for China to do this, and the more you look up in the sky, the more you will see."
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