Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) called the effort to shoot down an unidentified object over Alaskan air late this week a “varsity-level” military operation.
Sullivan’s remarks come after the Pentagon said on Friday that it shot down an object roughly the size of a small car several miles off the coast of Alaska.
“This is varsity-level military operation,” Sullivan said during an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “A lot of people don’t understand the challenge and professionalism and just incredible military effort that occurs when you do an op like this.”
“Alaska is a huge state with giant airspace. This included F-22s, F-35s, F-16s, Alaska National Guard tankers,” he continued. “We have rescue operation units that are on the ground right now doing a search for this operation, so really, really incredible work that the Alaska military has done and is continuing to do.”
Sullivan said that the area where the object was shot down was “one of the most important energy areas in America.”
Sullivan’s comments come as an experienced F-15 fighter pilot told the media on Friday that some of the details released by U.S. officials on the incident are “unusual.” The unidentified object reportedly had a “cylindrical shape” and was much smaller in size than the Chinese spy balloon that was shot down last week.
“We have no further details about the object at this time, including any description of its capabilities, purpose, or origin,” said Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. “The object was about the size of a small car, so not similar in size or shape to the high-altitude surveillance balloon that was taken down off the coast of South Carolina.”
A U.S. official told Politico that the object did not appear to have any “observable surveillance equipment.” The object was reportedly flying around 40,000 feet, making it a threat to civilian aircraft.
Randy Reep, an experienced F-15 pilot, said the size of the object was suspicious.
“In modern times, the opportunity to see drones in the air is not uncommon,” said Reep. “What you’re seeing that’s unusual is the size of these unmanned vehicles that are transient in our airspace.”
Reep said that U.S. officials would not shoot down the object “until they knew it was an unmanned vehicle.”
“They will have to wait to have all the data so they can provide a good briefing on the exact situation that it was,” Reep said.
Related: U.S. Military Shoots Down Unidentified Object Over Alaska