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U.S. ends its search for remnants of aerial objects shot down over Alaskan airspace and Lake Huron

Debris from the balloon taken down off the coast of South Carolina, however, was collected and will be analyzed by the FBI, U.S. Northern Command said.
U.S. Navy sailors recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Sunday.
U.S. Navy sailors recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Feb. 5, 2023.Petty Officer 1st Class Tyler Thompson / U.S. Navy

U.S. Northern Command said Friday it recommended an end to the search for debris from two objects shot down in United States airspace this month.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin backed the recommendation, the command said in a statement. The end of recovery efforts could mean the country may never know what, exactly, the objects were, how they were propelled, and where they came from.

The conclusion applies to airborne objects shot down by U.S. fighter jets Feb. 10 near Deadhorse, Alaska, and Feb. 12 over Lake Huron, off the coast of Michigan.

"The U.S. military, federal agencies, and Canadian partners conducted systematic searches of each area using a variety of capabilities, including airborne imagery and sensors, surface sensors and inspections, and subsurface scans, and did not locate debris," the command said.

Efforts in Deadhorse were hampered by Arctic conditions and sea ice instability, it said.

The recommendation does not cover the Feb. 4 takedown of what the United States has described as a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

Military officials said recovery efforts in the Atlantic, which ended Thursday, were successful, and recovered items were taken to an FBI lab "for counterintelligence exploitation," according to the statement Friday.

Airspace and maritime limits around all three recovery operations have been lifted, the command said.

One other incident involving the takedown of an airborne object took place in Canadian airspace Feb. 11 and is the purview of Canadian authorities.

The Biden administration announced Monday it was forming an interagency group to address the recent cluster and future unidentified objects.

President Joe Biden delivered remarks about the objects Thursday, downplaying the possibility that the non-balloon objects shot down might also be tied to surveillance efforts.

"We don’t yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program, or they were surveillance vehicles from other any other country," Biden said in public remarks.