U.S. Defense Department Explains Increase in Detection and Shoot-Downs of Unidentified Flying Objects
In the wake of a U.S. fighter jet shooting down an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron, the Defense Department (DOD) on Sunday attributed the increase in the detection – and shoot-downs – of unidentified flying objects to increased scrutiny of U.S. airspace and enhancing its radar systems.
Melissa Dalton, assistant defense secretary of Homeland Defense, and Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. North Command, held a press conference Sunday evening to explain the recent events.
Increased Scrutiny of U.S. Airspace
Dalton said officials could not “definitively assess” what these objects were so they “acted out of an abundance of caution to protect [U.S.] security and interest.”
“These most recent objects did not pose a kinetic military threat but their path and proximity to sensitive DOD sites and the altitude that they were flying could be a hazard to civilian aviation and thus raised concerns,” Dalton said.
She said officials have been more closely scrutinizing their space at these altitudes, including enhancing their radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that they’ve detected over the past week.
U.S. Fighter Jets Scrambled
Gen. VanHerck said NORAD detected a “radar contact” in Canada, approximately 70 miles north of the U.S. border, around 4:45 p.m. ET Saturday. When it became clear it was an unknown object, NORAD scrambled F-15 fighters from Portland, Oregon and KC-135 tanker support from Fairchild Air Force Base Washington to investigate the object.
The object crossed into the United States sovereign space around 6 p.m. EST but as the evening waned on, officials lost track, VanHerck said. NORAD identified an “intermittent radar contact” in Montana hours later as it approached Wisconsin.
“It’s likely, but we have not confirmed the track that we saw in Wisconsin was the same track in Montana,” VanHerck said.
Object Shot Down Over Lake Huron
The object was monitored as it passed over the Great Lakes region in Michigan. When NORAD assessed that it was no physical or military threat, officials shot down the object about 15 nautical miles east of the Upper Peninsula over Lake Huron.
Operations are underway with multiple agencies, including the Coast Guard, to gather the object’s remains and determine where it came from.
Adjustments to Radar
VanHerck said the U.S. adjusted its radar so it could track slower objects. “With some adjustments, we’ve been able to get a better categorization of radar tracks now,” he said, “and that’s why I think you’re seeing these, plus there’s a heightened alert to look for this information.”
He refused to classify the recent shot-down objects as balloons, saying they are “objects” and could be a gaseous type of balloon inside a structure, or it could be some type of a propulsion system.
VenHerck cautioned reporters not to attribute the objects to any specific country as officials are waiting to get their hands on the remains and further assess and analyze what they are.
Asked by a reporter whether he has ruled out aliens VanHerck said: “I haven’t ruled out anything at this point.”
The Defense Department’s explanation of the increase in the detection and shoot-downs of unidentified flying objects is an important step in understanding the recent events. While the objects do not pose a kinetic military threat, it is important for U.S. authorities to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to protect U.S. security and interest.