Why Biden ordered ‘object’ shot down over Alaska so quickly

President Joe Biden ordered the shootdown of an “object” that crossed into US airspace over Alaska because it posed a threat to civilian airline traffic, administration officials have said.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said in a briefing on Friday that the “high altitude object” was tracked by the Pentagon over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours.

“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. Out of an abundance of caution, at the recommendation of the Pentagon, president Biden ordered the military to down the object,” he said.

The Pentagon said the object, which was about the size of a car, was shot down by an F-22 fighter jet with the Northern Command at 1.45pm EST.

Mr Kirby said there was little information available about the object at the time it was shot down, but clarified that it was “much smaller than the spy balloon we took down last Saturday” and had “no significant payload.”

Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said F-22 fighter downed the object using an AIM-9x “Sidewinder” air-to-air missile.

The quick response and rapid shootdown order is a stark contrast to how Mr Biden handled the Chinese-owned espionage airship which the Defence Department downed off the coast of South Carolina last weekend.

In that case, Mr Biden said he’d ordered the large balloon — which combined with its payload was the size of multiple buses — to be shot down early last week, but deferred to Pentagon advisers who said to hold off on executing the order until the airship was no longer over land and could not rain debris down onto civilian-occupied areas.

The difference between the two aerial invaders was the height at which they were flying above US territory.

While the latest object that was shot down on Friday was floating 40,000 feet above the ground, the Chinese-owned balloon was observed at a much higher altitude, around 60,000 feet above sea level.

That observed altitude is roughly twice the cruising altitude of most civilian airliners, which, according to SimpleFlying.com, generally fly at somewhere between 30,000 to 42,000 feet above sea level.

Dan Sullivan, the Republican who serves as Alaska’s junior senator, said on Friday that the altitude of the object was very close to where airliners were known to travel, during an interview with Fox News on Friday.

“This was about 40,000 feet altitude, unlike the spy balloon from China last week … that starts to get very dangerous for … commercial air traffic, that is another reason you’re hearing they decided to shoot this down,” he said.

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