Pentagon admits ‘UFO encounter’ blunder
The Pentagon has acknowledged that it failed in its first attempt to shoot down a mysterious object spotted in the skies over Michigan last weekend, saying one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile fired by an F-16 fighter jet missed its mark and landed “harmlessly” in a body of water. The target was one among three mysterious entities seen in North American airspace in recent days, though officials are still unable to identify any of them.
Speaking to reporters for a press briefing on Tuesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley was asked to comment on the object shot down over Lake Huron days prior, following reports that the military was unable to hit its target on the first go.
“First shot missed. Second shot hit,” he said, adding “the missile landed harmlessly in the water of Lake Huron” and did not detonate on impact.
While Milley said the military is “very, very careful to make sure that those shots are in fact safe” during such missions, he provided no explanation as to why the Sidewinder missile might have missed the object. The weapon uses an infrared homing system to lock on to airborne targets; it remains unclear if the missile experienced a technical glitch on Sunday.
The object over Michigan was not the only mysterious entity seen in North American skies over the last week, with two others appearing in Alaska and northern Canada in recent days. These were also brought down by US fighter jets.
Earlier this month, a craft identified as a Chinese high-altitude balloon was also shot down over the Atlantic Ocean after crossing much of the continental US, prompting allegations of spying from American officials, who claimed the craft was outfitted with technology used for espionage.
Despite speculation the other three objects might also be linked to foreign spying, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has suggested they were not Chinese in origin, and posed no threat to US national security.
“We don’t see anything that points right now to being part of [China’s] spy balloon program,” Kirby told reporters, adding that the objects could instead be “tied to some commercial or benign purpose.”
Though officials have repeatedly claimed the Chinese balloon that entered US airspace was sent to spy on military sites and other sensitive locations, Beijing has denied the allegations, instead saying the airship drifted off course by accident.
According to several US officials reached by the Washington Post, analysts are now considering the possibility the incident was a mistake after all, noting that the craft “encountered strong winds” that appear to have pushed it into the United States, off its original path.