The F-22 has fired another AIM-9X missile to shot down an aerial object. This time it took place over Alaska. The Pentagon described it as unknown “high-altitude object.”
At the order of President Joe Biden, a US Air Force (USAF) F-22 from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) shot down a “high-altitude object” near the coast of Alaska on Feb. 10, 2023, officials announced. But unlike the Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down after transiting the continental US last week, the origins of this new object, its purpose, and even its precise description remain unclear.
Responding to reporters’ shouted questions about the shootdown Friday afternoon outside the White House, Biden called the operation a “success.”
National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby said the object was about the size of a small car and was at flying about 40,000 feet.
He said because it posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight, that out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of the Pentagon, Biden ordered the military to down the object.
According to ABC when fighters were scrambled, the pilots did visuals, got images and said there was no sign the object had propulsion.
It was described as “cylindrical and silver-ish gray” and seemed to be floating, a US official said.
Asked if was “balloon-like,” the official said, “All I say is that it wasn’t ‘flying’ with any sort of propulsion, so if that is ‘balloon-like’ well — we just don’t have enough at this point.”
“It came in, inside our territorial waters, those waters right now are frozen, but inside territorial airspace and over territorial waters. Fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command took down the object within the last hour.”
“We don’t know who owns this object,” he said.
Kirby said the object came to US attention Thursday evening.
“It did not appear to have maneuverability capability, he said. “It was virtually at the whim of the wind.”
A pair of F-35s were first sent to identify the object in the night of Feb. 9, Alert 5 says. Two more F-22s were sent up on Feb. 10 to observe it and on the orders of the President, one of the Raptors fired an AIM-9X missile to take down the object, which fell onto frozen US territorial waters, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said.
The Chinese surveillance balloon also was first detected in Alaska, though on the opposite side of the massive state, near the Aleutian Islands, before flying over Canada. By the time President Biden gave the order to shoot it down, Pentagon officials have said, it had crossed over from Canada into Idaho and Montana, and Biden and his leaders made the decision not to shoot it until it was over water and not a threat to civilians on the ground.
Air &Space Forces Magazine reports that recovery operations for most recent air vehicle are underway; recovering operations off the coast of South Carolina continue by Navy and Coast Guard crews, which have begun to recover pieces of the Chinese balloon. Given the frozen conditions off the Alaska coast, Air Force and Army assets have initially been tasked with that recovery mission.
“In terms of recovery, we have HC-130, HH-60, and CH-47 aircraft participating in that recovery effort.”
Ryder specifically mentioned the Alaska ANG (in the form of the 176th Wing) as being involved in the operation, alongside the Federal Aviation Administration and FBI—US Northern Command Alaskan Command led the mission.
The 176th Wing (176 WG) is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. Three squadrons (210th Rescue Squadron, 211th Rescue Squadron, 212th Rescue Squadron) comprise the Combat Search and Rescue/Personnel Recovery (CSAR/PR) component of the wing. Equipped with HH-60G Pave Hawk Helicopters, HC-130J COMBAT KING II specialized Hercules transports and highly qualified pararescue personnel (CROs + PJs).
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force