Still no answers on mysterious object shot down off Alaska’s north coast

sailors recover balloon
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Feb. 5, 2023. U.S. fighter aircraft shot down the balloon the day before. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson/U.S. Navy)

White House officials said Monday that they had not come to any conclusions about what U.S. fighter jets shot out of the skies near Deadhorse on Friday, in the Yukon on Saturday, or over Lake Huron on Sunday. 

“I think we all need to be humble here, in terms of what our ability is to positively identify stuff from fighter craft that are going several hundred miles an hour, past, essentially, in terms of relative motion, a stationary object that was not very big,” said John Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman. 

Kirby said Monday that efforts to recover debris were actively underway for all three.

Kirby said these objects were not being maneuvered, and didn’t appear to have any self-propulsion. He said it’s likely they were moving with the prevailing winds, which blow west to east.  

Unlike these three objects, U.S. authorities have said the first of four objects they shot down in this spate of apparent incursions since Feb. 4 was a Chinese spy balloon. 

All three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Mike Dunleavy have publicly weighed in on the matter, and they all made similar points: Securing Alaska’s airspace is a national security imperative, Alaska needs a strong military presence to counter or deter neighboring foreign adversaries, and the American people need answers about these objects. 

Sen. Dan Sullivan emphasized that last point on Monday, speaking to a Fox News host

“Our military intel agencies, they’re normally secretive, but we live in a democracy,” he said. “If you don’t start providing information, people can wildly speculate, and we don’t want that. What we need right now is more information on all of these kinds of incidences so the American people have full information. I think that’s going to be really important in the next few days.”

Over the years, the Inuit Circumpolar Council has nervously watched military activity increase in the Arctic. Jimmy Stotts was the organization’s president and recently retired. 

“Some of these conflicts elsewhere spilling over into the Arctic, I’m worried about that,” Stotts said. “Relationships, particularly over there in northern Europe, the Scandinavian countries and Russia – how things there could pretty easily, I think, go sideways. 

He said these aerial objects may be a distraction from wider threats that come with militarizing the Arctic. 

KNBA’s Rhonda McBride contributed to this report. 

Jeremy Hsieh has worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He lived in Juneau from 2008 to 2022 and now lives in Anchorage.

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