Lauren C. Moye, FISM News
President Joe Biden gave his much-anticipated remarks Thursday on the three unmanned aerial objects destroyed by the U.S. military this week, but his speech answered very few questions beyond stating they were most likely connected to private companies rather than foreign espionage programs.
After receiving much criticism from a delayed response to the discovery of a Chinese “high-altitude balloon” moving across the continental states, the Biden administration stepped up their surveillance of U.S. airspace, Biden said yesterday. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) changed its radar settings to search for additional slow-moving objects in airspace “around the world.”
This led to the military’s destruction of three unidentified flying objects in Alaska, over Lake Huron in the Midwest, and in Canada at the joint decision of both governments. The government has released few details on these objects, which has allowed public anxiety over the unknowns to increase.
“We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were. But nothing — nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from other — any other country,” Biden said.
The president said that the military forces of the U.S. and Canada were still attempting to recover fragments of unidentified items in Alaska, Canada, and over Lake Huron. However, Canadian authorities announced yesterday that they were suspending this search.
Released audio communications from the F-16 fighter pilots who shot down the unidentified object show that they were confused by what the object was. The stated that it was about the size of a “four-wheeler.” had “strings hanging below” the object (though no identified payload attached) and was some sort of metallic black color. The pilots said it resembled a balloon, though they seemed unsure of its exact nature.
“I wouldn’t really call it a balloon … I don’t know what … I can see it outside with my eyes,” one of the pilots stated. “Looks like something … there’s some kind of object that’s distended… it’s hard to tell, it’s pretty small.”
“I’m gonna call it a balloon,” one of the pilots adds.
Meanwhile, the president stated that the intelligence community’s current assessment is that the objects were “likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions” conducting scientific research.
In fact, one of the mystery objects may have been a globe-trotting balloon that belonged to an Illinois hobby club. The Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade told Aviation Week on Thursday that their balloon has gone “missing in action,” while its last reported data and simulations show that it would have been over the Yukon Territory on Feb. 11.
This is the same day that the U.S. Air Force sent a Lockheed Martin F-22 to shoot down an unidentified object. If true, this means that a $400,000 missile was used to destroy a cheap tracker-equipped pico balloon that cost between $12-$180.
Biden and his administration have faced intense criticisms for the perceived weakness in allowing a known Chinese balloon of unknown purpose and abilities to traverse the entire nation. The president responded to these concerns in yesterday’s remarks, saying that the destruction of the China spy balloon was a “clear message: The violation of our sovereignty is unacceptable.”
However, he now faces accusations that he has overreacted to the three other mystery objects.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karinne Jean-Pierre denied that Biden was refusing to brief the public because he was “embarrassed” that the military might have destroyed weather balloons.
“I don’t think the President should be embarrassed — right? — by the fact that he took action to make sure that our air — our airspace, civilian airspace, was safe,” Jean-Pierre said.
Biden also defended the military’s actions as acting “out of an abundance of caution” to prevent hazards to commercial air traffic and the risk of sensitive facilities being surveilled. The government will now “sharpen rules” for assessing if an object is a national security risk or a harmless hobbyist weather balloon.
This includes establishing a better inventory of unmanned objects in the U.S. airspace that will be made public and kept up to date. Some kind of regulatory process is also likely to be established for launching and maintaining unmanned objects in the U.S.