RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The US Military announced that the first attempt to shoot down an unidentified object flying over Lake Huron missed its target. The missile landed in the water.
This was the third aerial object shot down over the weekend, just a week after fighter jets downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
First, US fighter jets shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Within about a week, the military took down three more flying objects.
“The other three are unidentified so it seems they may have been balloons as well, or possibly also drones,” said Dr. Armin Krishnan, Director of Security Studies at East Carolina University.
He said the objects could have a completely innocent purpose.
“They could be privately owned; they could be operated by a corporation, or they could be experimental aircraft as well,” he noted.
He said it’s also possible they could belong to another country.
“Since it was not detected early on, it could have some stealth capabilities,” he said. “If it’s stealth technology, that would be a foreign power doing that.”
He says we won’t really know what the objects are until investigators can examine debris from them. The recovery process may take a while because the pieces of the objects are in remote areas, and some are underwater.
If they are balloons, Krishnan says they could have various uses.
“For reconnaissance purposes, and for other kinds of experimental purposes, atmospheric research,” he noted.
The National Weather Service uses balloons for forecasting.
“There’s about a hundred, a little less than 100 stations. Each launches [a weather balloon] usually twice a day,” explained Kyle Chudler, a hydrometeorologist at RTI International.
“They can travel sometimes over 100 miles and be up in the air for hours at a time, but beyond just what the weather service launches, there’s other agencies and other people that are launching balloons pretty regularly,” he added.
He said weather balloons fly at an altitude of about 20 miles.
US officials say these unidentified objects were flying lower, and some of them could have posed a risk to planes, which is one reason the pentagon gave for shooting them down.
While Dr. Krishan says a risk to air travelers is a reason for shooting down an object, he added that the decision to shoot all of them down could have also been an overreaction prompted by the negative feedback about not shooting down the spy balloon earlier.