The rise in the number of high-altitude objects recently identified flying in U.S. airspace is due in part to the government enhancing its radar systems, a top Pentagon official said on Sunday.
Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, told reporters in a briefing on Sunday that officials have been closely scrutinizing U.S. airspace ever since the first Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down on Feb. 4 after making its way across the United States and approaching the Atlantic coast.
“In light of the People’s Republic of China balloon that we took down last Saturday, we have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we detected over the past week,” Dalton said.
She added that the Pentagon is also aware that a number of high-altitude objects can be used by a range of companies, countries, and research organizations for “purposes that are not nefarious, including legitimate research.”
With that being said, Dalton noted that officials had not been able to definitively assess or verify what the recent objects that were discovered flying over U.S. airspace were being used for, and thus the government acted out of an “abundance of caution” to protect national security.
4 Objects Shot Down in Recent Days
The Pentagon said on Sunday that a U.S. F-16 fighter jet shot down another airborne object flying at approximately 20,000 feet over Lake Huron, bordered by Michigan, earlier in the day at the direction of President Joe Biden.
According to officials, the object flew over sensitive Department of Defense sites. An assessment found that it was not a “kinetic military threat to anything on the ground” but was a flight safety hazard.
“Its path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation,” the Pentagon statement said.
Sunday’s downing of the object marked the fourth such object in recent days to be shot down over North American airspace. On Feb. 10 and 11, unidentified flying objects were shot down by U.S. jets over Alaska and northern Canada.