A U.S. fighter jet shot down an unidentified object in the skies over Canada on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s orders Saturday, Canadian and U.S. officials confirmed.
After U.S. and Canadian military aircraft were sent aloft, a U.S. F-22 shot down the object over the Yukon, Trudeau tweeted Saturday afternoon.
The operation was coordinated by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the combined U.S.-Canada air defense organization.
Trudeau said Sunday that investigators are hunting for wreckage.
“Recovery teams are on the ground, looking to find and analyze the object,” Trudeau told reporters before he departed for a scheduled fund-raising event in Yukon.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC News that U.S. officials believe the object and another flying object shot down Friday near Deadhorse, Alaska, were balloons.
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The shoot-down Saturday was the third in the skies over North America in less than two weeks.
In a streamed news conference Saturday evening, Canada’s defense minister, Anita Anand, described the object as cylindrical and smaller than an object that was recovered off the U.S. coast after it was shot down Feb. 4. She said it was otherwise “potentially similar” to the one that was shot down off South Carolina.
The object was shot down at 3:41 p.m. ET Saturday about 100 miles from the U.S.-Canada border and 40,000 feet aloft after crews in U.S. and Canadian aircraft put eyes on it, Anand said. She described the area as central Yukon.
"This was the first time that a NORAD operation has downed an aerial object," Anand said. "The importance of this moment should not be underestimated."
The White House and Defense Department officials confirmed earlier Saturday that the decision was made in consultation with President Joe Biden, who was informed about the object Friday.
“Following a call between the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States, President Biden authorized U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to work with Canada to take down a high-altitude airborne object over northern Canada today," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. An AIM 9X missile was used, he said.
A White House official said that the military recommended taking the object down out of an abundance of caution and that both leaders agreed.
Biden authorized U.S. aircraft under NORAD command to conduct the operation in close coordination with Canadian authorities, the official said.
The object was known to the U.S. as early as Friday, and it had been closely monitored by NORAD over the previous 24 hours, with Biden receiving updates, the official said.
Ryder subsequently said NORAD launched aircraft to follow the object Friday evening when it was over Alaskan airspace.
"Two F-22 aircraft from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska monitored the object over U.S. airspace with the assistance of Alaska Air National Guard refueling aircraft, tracking it closely and taking time to characterize the nature of the object," he said.
Trudeau tweeted Saturday: "I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace."
"I spoke with President Biden this afternoon," he added. "Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object. "
Trudeau thanked NORAD "for keeping watch over North America."
The FBI was working with Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate the source of the object, he said.
Anand said debris was being recovered Saturday night. Anand said that although the object's origins were not yet known, Canada and the U.S. needed to proceed with "eyes wide open" to the possible involvement of China.
According to a White House readout of Saturday's call, Biden and Trudeau discussed the importance of recovering wreckage to determine the object's purpose and origin.
A national security spokesperson said the objects shot down over Canada and Alaska “did not closely resemble and were much smaller than” the suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down Feb. 4.
On Saturday, NORAD and U.S. Northern Command reported that fighter aircraft had been sent to investigate a radar-detected “anomaly” in airspace over Montana.
“Those aircraft did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits,” the agencies said in a statement. “NORAD will continue to monitor the situation.
Airspace in the area was closed temporarily.
NORAD and other agencies were still grappling with earlier incursions. The command said Friday that it was continuing recovery efforts off South Carolina for a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described the object that was shot down Friday as a "high-altitude object" flying over Alaskan airspace and Arctic waters. Kirby said it was "roughly the size of a small car."
Efforts to recover what was left of the object were underway near Deadhorse, Alaska, on Saturday, but the team was challenged by sea ice, wind chill, snow, limited daylight and other conditions that envelop the region in winter.
U.S. Northern Command said in a statement that its Alaska Command and the Alaska National Guard were coordinating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The effort was not explicitly connected to the suspected spy balloon of Feb. 4, but information about recovery efforts off South Carolina was included in the statement.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Friday on NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that the balloon shot down Feb. 4 was “a threat to our sovereignty.”
On Saturday, she commended U.S. military efforts to take down the object over Canada and said Americans need to know as much as possible about the apparent incursions.
“I will continue to encourage maximum transparency so that Alaskans have the greatest possible understanding of what they are and what we are doing, on the front line of our nation’s defense, to take them safely out of the sky,” she said in a statement.
Fellow Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska urged rapid recovery and investigation of the object shot down over Canada “to fully understand the nature of the threat we are facing right now.”
The Chinese Defense Ministry said Thursday that the Feb. 4 balloon takedown “seriously violates international practice and sets a bad precedent.”
It also described a unanimous resolution by U.S. House lawmakers condemning China’s use of the balloon as "political manipulation and hype." Chinese government officials maintain it was a civilian airship.