Why the Military Keeps Spotting so Many Unidentified Flying Objects—and Then Shooting Them Down

February 14, 2023


In the first two weeks of February, the U.S. Air Force has shot down four flying objects that have intruded on the skies over North America. The deployment of force is unprecedented for the U.S. during peacetime—leveraging some of the U.S. military’s most advanced fighter planes, surveillance tools, and expensive air-to-air missiles.

The first object shot down was an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that the Biden Administration says was part of a years-long scheme to spy on nations across the Earth. But so far, officials have been much less clear what the other objects are. One shot down over Alaska Feb. 10 was described as a “car-sized object” that did not appear to have a propulsion source. One downed over Canada the next day was described as “cylindrical,” potentially a balloon, but smaller than the Chinese balloon.

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