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US jet shoots down flying object 40,000 feet above Alaska

US officials said such balloons have flown in more than 40 countries, including at least four previous ones over United States territory.

Washington: The White House said a US fighter jet shot down an unidentified object flying over Alaska on Friday. The incident came just six days before reports of an alleged Chinese spy balloon falling, triggering a fresh diplomatic rift with Beijing. 

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said it was unclear what the purpose or origin of the new object was, but it was shot down because flying at 40,000 feet was a threat to civil aviation. 

Kirby said, “The president ordered the military to drop the object.”

Asked about the incident by reporters at the White House, Biden said the shoot-down was “successful.” Kirby said the object was much smaller than a giant Chinese balloon that crossed the United States last week and was shot down by US fighter jets off the Atlantic coast on Saturday. 

He said, “It was almost the size of a small car. We don’t know who owns it, whether state-owned or corporate-owned. We don’t understand the full purpose.”

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said an F-22 Raptor used an AIM-9X missile to bring down the object. This is the same aircraft and ammunition used to target the alleged Chinese spy balloon. 

The incident comes amid a new alarm by US officials about China’s ongoing program of flying surveillance balloons around the world to collect intelligence. 

US officials said such balloons have flown in more than 40 countries, including at least four previous ones over United States territory.

The Chinese balloon raised particular concerns last week as it hovered over areas where the United States keeps nuclear missiles in underground silos and bases strategic bombers. 

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