The U.S. has shot down a "high-altitude object" that had been flying over Alaskan airspace, National Security Council official John Kirby revealed Friday.
"Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object, and they did," Kirby told reporters around 2:30 p.m. ET. "And it came inside our territorial waters – and those waters right now are frozen – but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters. Fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command took down the object within the last hour." He said officials decided to down the object, which the Pentagon had been tracking for the last 24 hours, because it was traveling at an altitude that could have posed a threat to civilian aircraft.
"We're calling this an object because that's the best description we have right now," Kirby went on. "We do not know who owns it, whether it's state-owned or corporate-owned or privately-owned. We just don't know."
He added that the U.S. expects to recover the debris from Friday's object, and "then we can learn a little bit more about it."
The curious incident comes just days after the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, a moment that has mesmerized both Capitol Hill and the American public alike, The New York Times notes. The Biden administration has been fielding GOP criticism for having waited to down the balloon, though the administration has said the delay was out of concern the debris would hurt those on the ground.
On Friday, Kirby said the object was much smaller than the infamous surveillance balloon and was closer to the size of a "small car."