US shoots down four ‘flying objects’: What we know so far

Joe Biden is expected to deliver his most in-depth public remarks early on Thursday over the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that entered US airspace, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The US president will use his address to explain how his administration is tackling the issue of aerial balloons and other unidentified objections and the future strategy, NBC news reported today.

His speech is expected to answer swirling questions over the shooting down of aerial objects by the US military as federal investigators salvage and analyse the wreckage.

US agencies tracked a Chinese balloon for several days after it launched from Hainan Island near China’s south coast, though intelligence officials are reportedly considering the possibility that strong air currents may have inadvertently pulled the balloon off its planned course to send it over mainland America.

At least three objects were shot down by American fighter jets in recent days which were likely used for commercial or other “benign” purposes, officials have said.

The Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have continued to deny the balloon was being used for surveillance and suggested they will take “countermeasures”.


Joe Biden to deliver national address on downing of aerial ‘objects’

Joe Biden is expected to address the shooting down of suspected Chinese surveillance balloons that entered US airspace in his most extensive public remarks yet, three people familiar with the matter said.

Biden will deliver his remarks early today but the exact timing of his address has not been settled yet, NBC reported.

Mr Biden is scheduled to take a physical exam today which is expected to last several hours.

The president, it is understood, will use his address to explain how his administration will tackle the issue of aerial balloons and other objects spotted in the future.

His speech is expected to answer swirling questions over the shooting down of aerial objects by the US military as federal investigators salvage and analyse the wreckage.

Shweta Sharma16 February 2023 04:14


ICYMI: First F-16 missile strike at flying object over Lake Huron missed its target

US officials confirmed on 14 February that the object above Lake Huron – the third spotted above North American airspace in as many days – was taken down with a second shot when it appeared above the lake on 12 February. The first shot landed in the waters straddling the state of Michigan and the Ontario province of Canada.

Alex Woodward16 February 2023 03:00


China mocks America’s balloon obsession while seemingly ignoring Ohio

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying mocked America’s scrutiny into the suspected surveillance balloon, accusing the nation of ignoring the threats posed by the train derailment in Ohio that has sparked widespread contamination fears, with Hua Chunying comparing it to the disaster at Chernobyl.

“Apparently some in the US take a wandering civilian balloon as a big threat while the explosive train derailment and toxic chemical leak Not. #OhioChernobyl,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Independent is covering the Ohio disaster here:

Alex Woodward16 February 2023 01:00


New details emerge about China and US diplomatic attempts to resolve balloon chaos before its destruction

Emerging details about the decisions made among US and Chinese officials as a balloon made its way across America reveal some confusion and critical misreadings among the world powers that boiled over into partisan battles and media frenzy.

US officials reportedly told The New York Timesthat a self-destruct function did not operate when the Chinese surveillance balloon entered North American airspace over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, though it is unclear whether the operators refused to detonate the device or if it failed.

Officials also told the newspaper that they believe that China then may have been reluctant to detonate the balloon once it was over the mainland, fearing political fallout if the debris had caused any damage below.

It also is unclear whether operators misread wind currents that carried the balloon in and out of American airspace or allowed it to drift to see what it could collect, The Times reported, echoing similar findings from intelligence officials who spoke with The Washington Post.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and deputy secretary Wendy Sherman reportedly issued a formal notice to a senior Chinese diplomat at about 6.30 pm ET on 1 February, telling him that his government must do something about the balloon.

More than 24 hours later, Chinese foreign ministry officials in Beijing spoke privately to diplomats in the US Embassy to tell them the balloon was a harmless civilian machine that had gone off course, according to the newspaper.

Early on 4 February, Chinese officials told their US counterparts that operators were trying to speed it out of the country, but by then the Biden administration was planning to shoot it out of the sky once it reached the coast of South Carolina.

Alex Woodward16 February 2023 00:00


Here is everything we know about the objects shot down by American fighterjets

Four objects were shot down by US Air Force fighter jets within eight days across North America.

After an F-22 struck down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon on 4 February, US military discovered three other objects in North American airspace within as many days.

What are they, why are we suddenly seeing them, and why did the US shoot them down?

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 23:00


Did China launch the other objects shot down by American fighter jets?

They could be “sky trash” or “benign” weather balloons or any number of other objects, and may or may not have come from China.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on 13 February that the US has not yet seen “any indication” that three objects shot down US fighter jets were part of China’s spy balloon program or any other intelligence-collecting efforts.

While the White House and members of Congress stay mum on what they’ve heard in classified briefings, speculation and conspiracy theories are thriving.

The US military, meanwhile, has widened its range of radar data as it monitors North American airspace for objects that might have otherwise been filtered out, with officials comparing their expanded radar search to search filters a prospective car buyer would use to broaden the parameters to find what they’re looking for.

That means objects that have been in US airspace for some time could now literally be on the nation’s radar, revealing information that otherwise would have been filtered out as clutter in the past.

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 22:30


State Department: US ‘acutely aware’ of China’s ‘challenges’ but relationship has not strained in balloon aftermath

Asked about TikTok and the aftermath of the spy balloon, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US is “acutely aware” of “challenges” that China presents to the US, pointing to incidents of “espionage” and the “misuse of private or confidential information”.

The US is “determined to do everything we can to counter it,” stressing the importance of maintaining “open lines of communication” between Washington and Beijing.

He also echoed other US officials who are adamant that the balloon incident has not fractured the relationship between the two nations.

“America’s relationship today is where it has been some time,” he told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday, adding that the US relationship with China is “the most complex and consequential we have on the face of the earth.”

“The same could be true of any number of countries around the world in their own bilateral relationship with China,” he said. “We are clear eyed to these areas of competition, and it is competition that we think dominates this relationship.”

The administration has sought to establish “guardrails” to prevent that competition from veering into conflict, he said.

“As two leading powers in the world, there are challenges the world simply cannot address unless the United States and China cooperate together,” he said, pointing to efforts to address the climate crisis as a “prime example” of that necessary cooperation.

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 22:00


State Department: China’s allegations that US deployed balloons are ‘misinformation’

Asked to respond to China’s threats of “countermeasures” in the wake of the balloon incident and China’s accusations that the US has deployed spy balloons of its own over the nation, State Department spokesperson Ned Price defended a decision to shoot down the balloon and rejected allegations that the US launched a similar surveillance program.

“The United States is always going to take responsible, prudent and appropriate actions,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s precisely what this government did in response to the PRC violating our sovereignty [and] violating international law by sending a high-altitude surveillance balloon deep into the heartland of the United States.”

Chinese authorities have claimed that the US sent surveillance balloons over China 10 times since May 2022, which the White House and US officials have denied.

“This is not the type of program that the United States is conducting over China,” Mr Price said. “The PRC’s attempts to accuse [the US] of doing the same, it is just more misinformation, disinformation. It is just not true.”

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 21:30


Why some people believe aliens are visiting us right now

In the decades after the Roswell incdient, the world has seen a growing interest in UFOs, and where they might have come from. And sceptics have long argued that rather than being any new technology – either of this Earth or another planet entirely – many of those sightings might indeed be weather balloons.

It is fitting, then, that the latest excitement has been prompted by what appear to be observation balloons of some kind, though that is still unconfirmed. And that official secrecy, too, is in keeping with the mystery that has surrounded those objects ever since that material fell to Earth in the New Mexico desert.

The Independent’s Andrew Griffin reports:

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 21:00


ICYMI: Marjorie Taylor Greene draws wild comparison between Chinese spy balloon and 9/11

US military officials contend that it was safer for American fighter jets to shoot down the massive balloon once it crossed into accessible waters rather than shoot it out of the sky while it was potentially a risk to people and buildings below.

But during an event in Idaho over the weekend, far-right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene called the reasoning from the Pentagon “pathetic, absolutely pathetic” and “a bunch of bull****”.

She compared the size of the balloon, which was roughly the size of three buses, to a plane – specifically, the United Airlines jetliner, one of four aircraft hijacked on 9/11. Passengers prevented hijackers from reaching their target in Washington DC by downing the craft in a field, killing all on board.

Alex Woodward15 February 2023 20:30

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