Unidentified objects across American airspace
This week the United States shot down several airborne objects. After the initial Chinese balloon was downed off the coast of North Carolina, three new objects were shot down: one over Canada, one over Alaska, and one over Lake Huron. The objects ranged in size and shape from a much smaller balloon, a cylindrical object, and an octagonal object; none of which have been definitively traced.
The most recent object, shot down over Lake Huron, was considered too small to be shot down using radar-guided weaponry, which was a problem for the U.S.'s radar-reliant weapons. Without it, guns and a number of missile locks would fail, forcing American aircraft to rely on heat-seeking missiles, which can be significantly less accurate. The object was flying at 20,000 feet, making it a serious risk for passenger airplanes.
These incidents beg the question: What happened? The U.S. government has indicated that the other objects were likely not spy balloons, and the one over Alaska could have been a hobbyist balloon. According to members of an Illinois-based amateur club, “The thing [the U.S. government] described as having shot down is not inconsistent with what we're flying out there.”
The other shot down balloons have not been recovered, and the U.S. called off the search for their debris. It seems the U.S. and Canadian governments have agreed that neither object threatened the U.S. and do not deserve an exhaustive search.
While the fear that the U.S. is under attack from an aerial threat seems to have died down, there is now the matter of finding out what else the Chinese balloon contained, why it wasn’t shot down over Alaska when the government first noticed it, and how to counter these balloons without spending a missile on them. The balloon debris remains under the government’s protection, and tests are being taken. Initial reports suggest that the balloon was equipped with steering capabilities, which makes the odds of it just drifting off course very unlikely. Government officials seem to have concluded that China was lying about the balloon based on evidence from their investigation. At the same time, China has yet to confirm their balloon was there intentionally.
Biden has announced an inter-agency task force to figure out what happened, what to do, and how to change U.S. policy in the future in order to close this gap.