Enhanced Radar May Explain Recent Shot-Down Flying Objects, U.S. Officials Suggest


Enhanced radar detection might explain what seems like a sudden increase in foreign objects over American airspace, according to some U.S. officials during a briefing for reporters on Sunday.

Key Facts

American airspace is under increased scrutiny following the week-long incursion of a Chinese surveillance balloon in American airspace two weeks ago, confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Melissa Dalton and NORAD Commander, Gen. Glen VanHerck, during a briefing with reporters.

The three unknown objects shot down over Alaska, Canada and Lake Huron weren’t hostile, says VanHerck, but were in close proximity to military sites and posed a danger to civilian air travel.

There’s no definitive evidence showing these objects were collecting foreign intelligence, the White House announced Tuesday.

The objects were too small to shoot with guns and too elusive to target with radar-guided missiles, according to VanHerck, so they were shot down AIM9x–heat seeking–missiles that detected infrared differences between the objects and the air around them.

All three objects were reportedly small and traveling at wind-speed, making them difficult to track on radar.

Key Background

Before the three objects were shot down this weekend, a Chinese surveillance balloon spent three days over the continental United States before being shot down off the South Carolina coast on February 4. There’s no initial evidence linking the three most recent objects to the Chinese balloon or balloon surveillance program, the White House announced Tuesday.

Key Background

NORAD radars filter information by speed and altitude, explained VanHerck. The speed parameters and altitude parameters have been widened to include objects like the Chinese spy balloon, which might travel at slower speeds and lower altitudes than traditional foreign objects. It’s possible, says Dalton—though she would not confirm definitively—that the seemingly sharp increase of unknown objects in U.S. airspace is partly due to increased radar sensitivity. It’s also possible, Dalton continues, that the objects are domestic or private research instruments with no nefarious purpose.

What To Watch For

When asked if the U.S. would adjust its policies on unknown objects and foreign aircraft, Dalton said U.S. officials are taking each unknown object on a case by case basis but that the public would be informed if any permanent changes are made.

Further Reading

Everything We Know About The Chinese Balloon–And 3 Other Objects–Shot Down By The U.S. (Forbes)

White House: No indication objects were part of China spy program (The Hill)

Further Viewing

NORAD commander talks about unidentified object shot down over Lake Huron (Fox 32 Chicago)

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