US fighter jets have taken down another object flying at high altitude – the fourth in eight days – high over Lake Huron in Michigan on Sunday.
The news came amid admissions that the US and Canada have broadened their radar surveillance since the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ flew across the country and was shot down off Carolina on February 4.
The object shot down over Lake Huron passed close to ‘sensitive’ military sites in Montana in the US northwest, officials said, adding that they had not ruled out the possibility of some items being UFOs.
General Glen VanHerck, head of Norad and the US Northern Command, conceded that the US had adjusted its radar machines so it could track slower objects.
Asked if officials had ruled out the objects being sent up extraterrestrials, General VanHerck replied: “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point,” the Independent said.
Latest objects smaller
The objects downed over Alaska and Canada in recent days did not resemble the Chinese surveillance balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina and were much smaller, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said on Sunday.
“These objects did not closely resemble and were much smaller than the PRC balloon and we will not definitively characterise them until we can recover the debris, which we are working on,” the spokesperson said.
The statement came in response to queries about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s comment that US officials believed the unmanned objects were likely to be balloons.
China has said the first balloon was an airship to monitor the weather, however US officials say high-tech components seen in the undercarriage suggest it was designed to monitor missile silos and other sensitive sites in the US.
Airship suppliers blacklisted
On Friday the US Commerce Department blacklisted six businesses, alleging that they made the balloon and airship equipment used to gather intelligence for the People’s Liberation Army.
While balloons may be an “old school” device, the latest sanctions and the firms’ corporate profiles indicate US concern that China’s craft are wired for a new age in surveillance, The Wall Street Journal said.
It quoted the head of a balloon company in Arizona told the Journal “the fixed costs of the imaging equipment and solar systems carried by the balloon can cost millions of dollars”, while use of helium and other items for a single flight was likely to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On Monday, China hit back with its own accusations, saying the US has flown multiple surveillance balloons over their country in recent years but China had been professional and responsible (by not shooting them down) – although that looks set to change.
Meanwhile, officials in Taiwan said they had seen “dozens” in its airspace in recent years, with the latest just a few weeks ago, according to a report by Britain’s Financial Times, adding that these were suspected of undertaking reconnaissance for a full-scale invasion of the island.
Just ‘sky trash’?
A national security correspondent for CBS in the US cautioned that while the two unidentified objects shot down over Alaska and Canada on the weekend were “balloon-like”, they could just be what is known as “sky trash”.
“The prevailing wind brings everything that way, from east, west, across northern Alaska and northern Canada. And there is a lot of what officials call ‘sky trash’ up there,” David Martin told Face the Nation on February 12.
That “sky trash” includes “balloons that are put up by governments, that are put up by corporations, put up by research institutes, and probably just by private individuals, and not for nefarious purposes but to just collect scientific data,” he said.
- Jim Pollard with Reuters