US military shoots down ‘car-sized’ object off Alaska coast

Incident comes six days after US shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon

The United States has shot down an “unidentified high-altitude object” over the state of Alaska.

US officials said it was not confirmed if the object was a balloon, but it was travelling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.

White House spokesman John Kirby said US president Joe Biden had ordered on Friday that the object be brought down “out of an abundance of caution”.

He said the object was shot down by a F22 fighter jet over waters off the coast of Alaska just before 7pm Irish time.


Mr Kirby said the object was travelling at 40,000 feet. He said officials were describing it as an object because that was the best description they had of it.

Officials said it was not manoeuvrable and was at the mercy of the prevailing winds.

Last weekend the US military shot down a Chinese balloon which the Biden administration has insisted was on a spying mission. China maintained it was a weather balloon that had strayed from its planned track.

Mr Kirby said the object discovered over Alaska was much smaller – “about the size of a small car”.

The payload on the balloon shot down over the coast of South Carolina last Saturday was estimated to be about the size of two or three single-deck buses. The Pentagon said on Friday that a “significant amount of debris” has been recovered from the downed balloon.

The object over Alaska was discovered on Thursday, the White House said. It said Mr Biden had been briefed about it on Thursday night.

US president Joe Biden in brief comments described the shooting down of the object as “a success”.

The Pentagon said several US military helicopters had been deployed to retrieve debris that had fallen on to frozen Arctic waters off Alaska. US officials said they did not know as yet who owned the object.

Mr Biden has faced strong criticism from opposition Republicans over delays in shooting down the Chinese balloon last week.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent