The shootdown is the second such action in as many days and comes amid tensions over a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
A US fighter jet shot down an unidentified cylindrical object over Canada in a joint operation between the North American neighbors.
Saturday’s downing was the second such action in as many days and comes as North America has been on high alert following the week-long saga surrounding an alleged Chinese spy balloon.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first announced the crash over the Yukon Territory in the north of the country and said Canadian forces would retrieve and analyze the wreckage.
Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand declined to speculate on the origin of the object, which she said was cylindrical in shape. She did not describe it as a balloon, but said it was smaller than the Chinese balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina a week ago, but similar in appearance.
It said it was flying at 12,100 meters (40,000 feet) and posed a risk to civilian air traffic when it was shot down at 3:41 a.m. EST (20:41 GMT).
“There is no reason to believe that the impact of the facility on Canadian territory is of any public concern,” Anand told a news conference.
The Pentagon said the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected the object over Alaska late Friday night. US fighter jets from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, tracked the object as it crossed into Canadian airspace, where Canadian CF-18s and CP-140s joined the formation.
“A US F-22 shot down a facility on Canadian territory using an AIM 9X missile following close coordination between US and Canadian authorities,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden has authorized the country’s military to work with Canada to shoot down a high-altitude aircraft following talks between Biden and Trudeau, the Pentagon said. The White House said Biden and Trudeau agreed to continue close coordination to “defend our airspace.”
“The leaders discussed the importance of returning the item to determine more details about its purpose or origin,” the White House said in a statement.
A day earlier, Biden ordered another downing of an unidentified flying object near Deadhorse, Alaska. The U.S. military remained tight-lipped Saturday about what, if anything, it has learned as recovery efforts are underway on the Alaskan sea ice.
The Pentagon offered few details on Friday, including that the object was the size of a small car, flew at about 12,100 meters and was unable to maneuver and did not appear to be in control. US officials have been trying to learn more about the object since it was first spotted on Thursday.
“At this time we have no additional details about the object, including its capabilities, purpose or origin,” the Northern Command said on Saturday.
Severe arctic weather conditions were noted, including wind chill, snow and limited daylight that could hinder search and recovery efforts.
“Personnel will adjust extraction operations to maintain security,” the Northern Command said.
On February 4, a US F-22 fighter jet shot down what the US government called a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina, after a week-long trip across the US and parts of Canada. The Chinese government said it was a civilian research vessel.
Some US lawmakers criticized Biden for not busting China’s bubble sooner. The US military recommended waiting until it flew over the ocean for fear of injury from falling debris.
US personnel are searching the ocean for debris and electronic undercarriage from the downing of a 60-meter (200-foot) Chinese surveillance balloon.
The Pentagon said a significant number of the balloons had already been found or located, suggesting that US officials may soon have more information about any Chinese spying capabilities on board.
Sea conditions on February 10 “allowed for diving and underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) activities and the recovery of additional debris from the seabed,” Northern Command said.
“The public can see US Navy ships moving to and from the site as they conduct unloading and supply activities.”