(CNSNews.com) – The White House on Friday confirmed that the U.S. military downed a “high-altitude object” the size of a small car flying over Alaska air space Friday afternoon.
“So I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high-altitude object over Alaska air space in the last 24 hours. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said.
“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, and it came inside our territorial waters. 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.
“So another aircraft of some sort, balloon was shot down today. Who owns it? What were the circumstances? Was the president directly involved in ordering this? And is wreckage being recovered?” NBC White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell asked.
KIRBY: Yes, the president absolutely was involved in this decision. He ordered it at the recommendation of Pentagon leaders. He wanted it taken down, and they did that. They did it using fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command. The Pentagon will have more to say about the details of this later on this afternoon. It’s only just within the last hour.
We’re calling this an object, because that’s the best description we have right now. We do not know who owns it – whether it’s state owned or corporate owned or privately owned. We just don’t know. We don’t know, so I said state owned. We don’t know if it’s state owned, and we don’t understand the full purpose. We don’t have any information that would confirm a stated purpose for this object.
We do expect to be able to recover the debris since it fell not only within our territorial space, but on what we believe is frozen water, so a recovery effort will be made, and we’re hopeful that it’ll be successful, and then we can learn a little bit more about it.
’DONNELL: Was its appearance like the Chinese aircraft?
KIRBY: No, it was much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday. The way it was described to me it was roughly the size of a small car as opposed to a payload that was two or three buses size so much, much smaller, and not of the same, not, no significant payload if you will.
O’DONNELL: Is it now the policy of the United States that if unidentified aircraft are over U.S. territory that it is likely the president will choose to shoot it down?
KIRBY: The president will always act in the best interest of our national security and the safety and security of the American people.
When asked whether the president’s decision to shoot down this latest object means that the Pentagon regrets taking down the first Chinese spy balloon before it crossed the United States, Kirby said, “I’m not going to speak for the Pentagon. I can tell you that the president doesn’t regret the way that we handled the first balloon.
Kirby said the two objects are “apples and oranges here in terms of size.”
“As I said, this was the size of a small car. It was over very sparsely populated area, but also more critically over– it was over water, water space when we ordered this down as we did the last one, but a completely different size and the debris field for this we expect to be much, much smaller than it would have been for the other one. That’s difference one,” he said.
“Difference two, we knew for a fact that the PRC balloon that we shot down last week was in fact a surveillance asset and capable of surveillance over sensitive military sites and that it had self-propulsion and maneuver capabilities. There’s no indication that this one did,” Kirby said.
“The other one, the first one was able to maneuver and loiter, slow down, speed up. It was very purposeful, that flight path with inside the jet stream,” he said.
“That was just over Alaska too though,” Fox News White House Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich said.
KIRBY: And the Pentagon’s already spoken to this question about whether or not they shoot over, shot it down over Alaskan air space. It was hours and hours of testimony yesterday on that,” Kirby said.
HEINRICH: On the communications though, we still don’t know … what intelligence or communications could have been collected or what devices they were targeting as I understand it. So that being said, how can the president say it was not a major breach if we don’t know that?
KIRBY: What we do know is we knew the basic flight path of this thing, and we were able to take steps at sensitive military sites that we believed would be all along the flight path to significantly curtail any intelligence ability that the Chinese could get from the balloon, certainly curtail anything that would be above and beyond what they normally try to collect through other means.
When asked whether the latest object was shot down based on any information learned from monitoring the last balloon, Kirby said, “I think I’d be careful saying that anything specific to what we’ve learned from that last platform, and we were able to collect some information from it while it was in flight. That was another reason why we let it traverse over land the way it did, but I would be– I would not say that information gleaned from our surveillance of that surveillance balloon provided insights that permitted this detection and tracking.”
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