US and Canadian military aircraft in the vicinity of the Beaufort Sea during a 2021 training exercise. Photo: RCAF
Canada says fighter aircraft have shot down what defence minister Anita Anand called a “small, cylindrical object” 40,000 feet above central Yukon.
The object was downed shortly before 2pm Yukon time on Saturday, Anand said in a statement, while giving little further detail about what the cylinder may have been or where it may have come from.
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen Wayne Eyre asserted a balloon was again involved as the object’s means of transport.
“At this point, we are continuing to do the analysis,” Anand said, “and we will make sure that analysis is thorough. It would not be prudent for me to speculate on the origins of the object at this time.”
The minister did, though, say she had information that the object was “potentially similar” to others shot down in the past week, and is believed to be smaller than one destroyed by US forces a week ago.
Anand said the object “posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight” and, in a first for the North American Aerospace Defense Command – known as Norad – was shot down while still airborne.
“Canada was tracking a high-altitude object over central Yukon. Norad detected this object and launched Canadian and US fighter aircraft to investigate. The object was visually identified using fighter aircraft assigned to Norad,” Anand told reporters at a press conference.
She said the object was fired upon some 100 miles over the US-Canadian border in central Yukon and will now be recovered by Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP personnel.
Aircraft from bases in Alaska and Cold Lake, Alberta were involved in the mission. A Lockheed CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft is working to pinpoint the wreckage and a broader investigation continues.
Anand said Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai had been contacted.
“We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the territory and continue to reach out to Indigenous peoples potentially affected by this incident to provide information and updates as needed,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had earlier confirmed a “take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace” over Yukon.
It’s the third such downing of an intruder into North American airspace in the past week. The US military destroyed a suspected Chinese spy balloon last weekend and then, on Friday, shot down another unidentified object off the coast of Alaska.
The reported Chinese spy balloon is said to have crossed over the Northwest Territories before reaching contiguous US airspace. A Canadian North flight reported unexplained lights over Yellowknife at roughly the same time as the balloon is understood to have been over the NWT, but it’s not clear if those events were one and the same or entirely separate.