What’s up with the unidentified objects that US fighter planes are shooting down?

Michigan’s Lake Huron was destroyed by an as-yet-unidentified object on Sunday afternoon, more than three days in a row. A US jet shot down a flying object over Canada on Saturday, and a US fighter jet shot down another over Alaska on Friday.

According to Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the objects dropped Friday and Saturday were likely “much smaller” than the Chinese balloon that shot one into US coastal waters off South Carolina. Last week. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) temporarily closed the airspace Montana on SaturdayAnd Lake Michigan Sunday “during NORAD operations.”

As of Sunday, the wreckage of the three objects was being recovered. Biden administration officials have been wary of linking the recent objects to suspected Chinese surveillance balloons, which officials said were gathering limited intelligence about U.S. military installations.

“We’ll probably be able to assemble this whole surveillance balloon and find out exactly what’s going on,” Schumer said of the balloon launch last weekend.

US officials only discovered China’s air balloon surveillance program last year, though the program dates back at least to former President Donald Trump’s administration. “We haven’t identified those threats and it’s a domain awareness gap that we need to address,” Gen. Glenn VanHark, the US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint operation with Canada, told reporters. monday The U.S. intelligence community reportedly told NORAD that the balloons were a threat, but VanHark did not specify at the time what U.S. intelligence knew about the balloon program or how it discovered the information.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered Canadian and U.S. fighters — whichever could fire better — to take down the object on Saturday. US F-22 aircraft shot down the object using Sidewinder missiles, and Canadian aircraft joined US jets on Friday to track the object as it moved from US to Canadian airspace.

“Canadian forces will now recover and analyze the object’s debris,” Trudeau wrote in a Twitter post.

“It’s wild what we didn’t know” about the Chinese balloon surveillance program until recently, Schumer said Sunday, despite the fact that such devices entered US airspace at least three times under former President Donald Trump and similar devices have been spotted. According to Axios, more than 40 countries on five different continents.

A US program studying UFOs helped identify the Chinese balloon program

It is unclear how extensive the Chinese program is; US systems often encounter “unexplained anomalous events,” as the government calls such objects, and the objects identified are mostly foreign intelligence collections or man-made debris.

The US government has a program studying UAP under the Department of Defense called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group. The Pentagon and the intelligence community coordinate through the group to “identify, identify and characterize objects of interest in special use airspace and to assess and mitigate any threats to flight and national security.”

US programming for UAP studies is not new; Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) urged Congress to fund the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, the predecessor of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, which began in 2007. Although the Pentagon claimed the effort had ceased in 2012 and indeed cut funding for it at that time, the New York Times reported in 2017 that the program continued.

ABC’s Luis Martinez reported Tuesday that information from the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group, as revealed in congressional reports, was one of the programs used to identify China’s balloon surveillance program. Many of the recent incidents of UAPs that the group has tracked have been balloons or balloon-like objects.

These events could create a major conflict between the United States and China

“All countries spy on each other, and the United States and China are no exception,” Vox’s Jane Kirby wrote last week, “and they have a myriad of tactics and strategies to do it, many of them less intrusive and more precise. Giant balloons.” ” Given that, the balloon – and potentially three objects – went down over the weekend — may serve another purpose, or tell us more about what China and its President Xi Jinping are trying to achieve.

There are legitimate security concerns about China’s surveillance tactics and what it’s doing with the data it collects — but frankly, the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t need a balloon for that, just your cellphone. And it is still unclear why China would allow the balloon to reach the US on the eve of this meeting with Blinken. Some possible theories include bureaucratic slip-ups or miscommunications, which could reveal mismanagement within the Chinese government and raise questions about Xi’s competence. Signs of such dysfunction are equally alarming, as it increases the likelihood of more serious miscalculations that could lead to more serious collisions.

In addition to national security concerns, the issues that the US has recently dropped raise questions about the fragile relationship between the US and China. Last week, after news that the first object was now determined to be a Chinese surveillance balloon, Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken decided to postpone his visit to China, signaling a further rift in relations between the two countries.

“While a ‘balloon’ sounds trivial – even ridiculous – the truth is that these are highly sophisticated surveillance and collection systems designed to long-range highly sensitive military facilities,” said Danny Russell, Asia Society Policy Institute’s Vice President for International Security and Diplomacy (ASPI). , told Vox via email last week. “The idea of ​​the foreign minister visiting Beijing while this slow-moving platform was still flowing across the United States was undoubtedly a factor in the decision to postpone the trip as was the recognition that the event would dominate the agenda and be strategically crowded. problem.”

Responding to China’s downing of what it claimed was a civilian weather observation balloon, China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “The US’s insistence on the use of armed force is clearly an overreaction that seriously violates international conventions.” So far, China on Friday, Saturday and Sunday did not respond to questions about the objects being taken down.