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- The unidentified flying objects shot down over North America could be harmless commercial or research balloons, the Biden administration says.
- There is also the possibility that the public may never know what the US military shot down over the skies of Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron.
- The North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD, had adjusted its filters and radar capabilities to more easily view such objects.
- Biden administration officials visited Capitol Hill to brief the Senate on the latest developments.
Washington: The unidentified flying objects shot down over North America in the past few days could turn out to be harmless balloons relating to commercial or research efforts, the Biden administration says.
But there is also the possibility that the public may never know what the US military shot down over the skies of Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron in the aftermath of this month’s Chinese spy balloon controversy due to the difficulty of recovering debris.
An unidentified aerial phenomena on a screen during a hearing on Capitol Hill in May.Credit:AP
“They’re in very difficult terrain,” said General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and the nation’s highest ranking military officer.
“The one off the coast of Alaska is up in some really, really difficult terrain in the Arctic Circle with very, very low temperatures in the minus 40s. The second one is in the Canadian Rockies in the Yukon (wilderness) so it’s very difficult to get that one. And the third one is in Lake Huron, probably at a couple of hundred feet depth.”
The comments came as Biden administration officials visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday (US time) to brief the Senate on the latest developments amid claims the President has not been transparent enough about the series of shoot-downs and the potential national security implications.
The outrage erupted earlier this month, when the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was allowed to float across the country for days, traversing sensitive military sites along the way, before it was finally taken down.
Since then, adjustments to radar settings, following the discovery of the China spy balloon, helped the US detect the latest series of unidentified flying objects.
Three objects were taken down in as many days: one that was roughly the size of a small car over the coast of Alaska last Friday; a cylindrical shaped object over Canadian skies in central Yukon on Saturday; and an octagon-shaped object over Lake Huron in Michigan near the Canadian border.
While questions continue to be asked about that kind of objects they are and who owns them, National Security Council adviser John Kirby said today that it was quite possible that they could be “totally” harmless items linked to private entities.
A US F-22 Raptor shot down a second UFO over North America at the weekend.Credit:AP
It did not appear, from what was known at this stage, that they had any surveillance capabilities, he said, and no one had claimed the objects.
“One thing we have to consider – and we believe the intelligence community is considering as an explanation – is that these could be balloons tied to commercial or research entities and therefore totally benign,” Kirby said.
Asked if there was a possibility that that debris from the objects may never be recovered, he replied: “It’s a difficult question to answer because, you know, we haven’t found it yet. So I think we’re taking this day by day and doing the best we can.”
Senators who emerged from today’s briefing on Capitol Hill said they learned little beyond what had already been reported in the media, and politicians from both sides called for the government to be more forthcoming with information.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he was confident the objects were not posing the threat of attack, but added: “I think it would probably serve the country well to have the President explain what’s going on.”
Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal echoed the comments, telling reporters he was “not afraid in any way that we are under threat of attack or physical harm to our homeland… but the American people need to be reassured with more facts.”
As mystery surrounds the latest objects, questions have also emerged about whether the US has effectively developed a “shoot now, identify later” policy given the quick succession of take-downs in recent days.
Pentagon and White House officials have explained that part of the reason the last three objects were shot down was because of the threat to civil aviation, as all were operating at much lower altitudes than the sky balloon.
The North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD, had also adjusted its filters and radar capabilities so it can now look “more discretely at high-altitude, small radar cross-section and low-speed objects”.
Asked if objects being regularly shot down would be the “new normal” in America, Kirby said this would be examined by the new UFO taskforce, which set up under the orders of national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to examine potential security risks of aerial objects in US airspace.
“We expect that by the end of this week, we’ll be able to communicate to the interagency what some of the parameters need to be going forward,” he said.
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