The U.S. military abandoned its search for the two mysterious airborne objects downed within U.S. airspace roughly one week ago, having found no debris, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said in a statement Friday night.
Arctic conditions and instability caused by sea ice contributed to the decision to call off the military and FBI’s search for the object shot down on Feb. 10 in Deadhorse, Alaska, despite employing a variety of search capabilities, the statement said. Surface searches and underwater scanning likewise failed to turn up any evidence of debris related to the object an F-22 fighter jet shot down over Lake Huron just two days later.
“The U.S. military, federal agencies, and Canadian partners conducted systematic searches of each area using a variety of capabilities, including airborne imagery and sensors, surface sensors and inspections, and subsurface scans,” the joint command said.
However, searches “did not locate debris,” the statement added.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin concurred with the recommendation to discontinue the search, according to NORTHCOM/NORAD. Air and maritime safety perimeters established around the search areas were also lifted.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also halted efforts to locate debris from the object shot down over Canadian airspace on Feb. 11, saying the area where remains of the object had the “highest probability” of crashing down to earth did not yield search results.
“Given the snowfall that has occurred, the decreasing probability the object will be found and the current belief the object is not tied to a scenario that justifies extraordinary search efforts, the RCMP is terminating the search,” the force said in a statement Friday.
President Joe Biden said Thursday the intelligence community believes the most likely explanation for the objects terminated in quick succession over U.S. airspace are benign and of civilian origin. They could have been research balloons or recreational, he said, and are unrelated to the known Chinese spy balloon that floated over the North American airspace for several days.
The spy balloon was much larger and traveling at altitudes at least 20,000 feet higher than the remaining three objects.
“I gave the order to take down these objects due to hazards to civilian commercial air traffic, and because we could not rule out the surveillance risk of sensitive facilities,” Biden said.
At least one organization has come forth with a possible explanation for one of the objects. The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade, a hobby group, says one of their globetrotting balloons mysteriously disappeared in Alaska the same day NORAD shot down an object in the same area, Aviation Week reported.
Also on Friday, the military completed recovery operations for the Chinese spy craft downed on Feb. 4 in waters near the coast of South Carolina and transferred the retrieved equipment to an FBI lab for analysis. Preliminary analysis suggeststhe balloon carried a “sensor” thought to be connected to China’s global surveillance operations.
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