Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that on his order a U.S. fighter jet shot down an "unidentified object" that was flying high over the Yukon, acting a day after the U.S. took similar action over Alaska.
North American Aerospace Defense Command, the combined U.S.-Canada organization that provides shared defense of airspace over the two nations, detected the object flying at a high altitude Friday evening over Alaska, U.S. officials said. It crossed into Canadian airspace on Saturday.
Trudeau spoke with President Joe Biden, who also ordered the object to be shot down. Canadian and U.S. jets operating as part of NORAD were scrambled and it was a U.S. jet that shot down the object.
In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday night it had closed some airspace in Montana to support Defense Department activities and referred further questions to NORAD. The airspace was later reopened, an FAA spokesman said.
F-22 fighter jets have now taken out three objects in the airspace above the U.S. and Canada over seven days, a stunning development that is raising questions on just what, exactly, is hovering overhead and who has sent them.
At least one of the objects downed was believed to be a spy balloon from China, but the other two had not yet been publicly identified. While Trudeau described the object Saturday as "unidentified," a NORAD spokesman, Maj. Olivier Gallant, said the military had determined what it was but would not reveal details.
Trudeau said Canadian forces would recover the wreckage for study. The Yukon is westernmost Canadian territory and the among the least populated part of Canada.
Just about a day earlier, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said an object roughly the size of a small car was shot out of the skies above remote Alaska. Officials couldn’t say if it contained any surveillance equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had.
Kirby said it was shot down because it was flying at about 40,000 feet (13,000 meters) and posed a "reasonable threat" to the safety of civilian flights, not because of any knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance.
According to U.S. Northern Command, recovery operations continued Saturday on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska.
In a statement, the Northern Command said there were no new details on what the object was. It said the Alaska Command and the Alaska National Guard, along with the FBI and local law enforcement, were conducting search and recovery.
"Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight, are a factor in this operation, and personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety," the statement said.
The balloon was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for "several years," the Pentagon has said. The U.S. has said Chinese balloons have flown over dozens of countries across five continents in recent years, and it learned more about the balloon program after closely monitoring the one shot down near South Carolina.
China responded that it reserved the right to "take further actions" and criticized the U.S. for "an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice."
The Navy continued survey and recovery activities on the ocean floor off South Carolina, and the Coast Guard was providing security. Additional debris was pulled out Friday, and additional operations will continue as weather permits, Northern Command said.