Norad aircraft on patrol over the Beaufort Sea in 2021. Photo: Norad
Mysterious objects shot down by fighter jets over Yukon and Lake Huron were fired upon in part over the threat they posed to commercial air travel, officials said on Monday.
The objects were unmanned and, unlike a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down earlier, had no apparent means of propulsion other than the wind, said US national security council spokesperson John Kirby.
Speaking at the White House, Kirby said the most recent two objects were travelling at a lower altitude than the balloon, which had been some 60,000 feet above ground – well above the range of commercial airliners.
“We acted out of an abundance of caution to protect … our security, our interests and flight safety,” Kirby said.
The object shot down by Norad jets over central Yukon on Saturday had been around 40,000 feet above the territory, defence minister Anita Anand earlier said.
Two more objects have been identified and shot down within US territory, first over Alaska on Friday and again over Lake Huron on Sunday.
As of now, Kirby said, there are “no active tracks” of other objects over North America. Norad continues to monitor the situation, and Kirby acknowledged that one explanation for the sudden flurry in mystery objects was an increased effort to scour the skies after the suspected spy balloon’s initial incursion into North American airspace.
At the outset of Monday’s briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sought to reassure residents that there is no indication of alien intervention associated with the recent aerial takedowns.
“There is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity,” Jean-Pierre told reporters, smiling.
“We wanted to make sure the American people knew that – all of you knew that – and it was important for us to say that from here, because we’ve been hearing a lot about it.”
Recovery efforts continue
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, coincidentally visiting Whitehorse to celebrate a key Indigenous land claims anniversary with Yukon First Nations leaders, said the mystery objects presented “a cause for interest and close attention.”
While Kirby at the White House appeared reticent to conclude a link definitively exists, Trudeau referred to “some sort of pattern” in the recent detections of objects.
Speaking to reporters, the prime minister said RCMP and members of the Canadian Armed Forces continue to work on recovering Saturday’s object from the Yukon backcountry. In a later tweet, he said he had discussed with Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai “how we’ll continue to protect our airspace here in Yukon.”
In a Monday CBC interview, Pillai said he expected the search for the object would take “quite a while.”
“Yukoners who have either hiked or hunted in that area would know, there’s lots of elevation,” Pillai told the broadcaster. “It’s big country.”