The U.S. fighter jet that shot down an unidentified object over Lake Huron on Sunday reportedly missed taking down the object with its first shot, and there is no sign of where the missile went.
The Air Force F-16 jet that took down the object fired two $472,000 Sidewinder AIM-9X missiles at the target before it was shot down.
“The first Sidewinder heat-seeking missile missed the target,” a defense official told Fox News.
The object was shot down while flying at an altitude of approximately 20,000 feet inside U.S. airspace near Michigan.
U.S. officials said that they believe that this is the object that was detected late Saturday night over Montana that U.S. fighter jets could not locate at the time.
“Based on its flight path and data we can reasonably connect this object to the radar signal picked up over Montana, which flew in proximity to sensitive DOD sites,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “We did not assess it to be a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground, but assess it was a safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities.”
Debris from the object has not yet been located.
The object that was shot down over Lake Huron came a day after the Air Force shot down an object over Canada and two days after the Air Force shot down an object over Alaska. On February 4, the Air Force shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had crossed the country from Montana to South Carolina.
U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, the commander who oversees North American airspace, said that U.S. officials seemed confident that the objects were not balloons.
“I’m not going to categorize them as balloons. We’re calling them objects for a reason,” VanHerck said. “I’m not able to categorize how they stay aloft. It could be a gaseous type of balloon inside a structure or it could be some type of a propulsion system. But clearly, they’re — they’re able to stay aloft.”
VenHerck said that U.S. officials considered trying to use the fighter jet’s machine guns to shoot down the objects so that the objects would be better preserved after they were shot down.
“We assessed taking a gunshot yesterday in that event, as well as today, and the pilots in each situation felt that that was really unachievable because of the size, especially yesterday in the altitude, and also because of the challenge to acquire it visually because it’s so small,” VanHerck said.
“We have taken extreme caution to ensure that we limit potential collateral damage, so today, we worked closely with the FAA to clear out the airspace,” he added. “I gave direction specifically to the pilots to use their visual acuity to check for mariners on the ground, airplanes in the air to clear with their radars as well. And when they were comfortable, that we can minimize collateral damage, they selected the best weapon today that was the AIM 9x [missile]. And they took the shot.”