The U.S. military will have spent over $1.5 million to shoot down three balloons, which are now believed to have belonged to private entities for recreation or research, according to the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden recently said that “the intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
"Make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down," the president said previously.
The missiles used to shoot down the balloons, AIM-9X Sidewinders, come in at $400,000 each for the four that were used in the missions. An extra missile comes from the fact that one missed in an attempt to take down a balloon that was flying over Lake Huron.
"First shot missed on the fourth balloon," Gen. Milley said. "The second one over Alaska ... that one hit. The third one that landed in the Yukon, that one hit. On the fourth one over Lake Huron, first shot missed second shot hit," he explained.
The search for the downed balloons in Alaska, Canada's Yukon, and Lake Huron has since been abandoned, despite no formal findings being made by the FBI.
The Pentagon does not consider the cost of the flights or manpower used to detect the balloons as legitimate costs to factor into the equation and considers the flights part of pilot training exercises, and as such it has already budgeted for those flight hours, the defense officials said, according to the report.
North American Aerospace Defense Command now says that the balloons could have threatened commercial air traffic, flying at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet. In comparison, the Chinese spy balloon that flew across the continent was estimated to be traveling at a height of approximately 60,000 feet.
“Every day, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) watches the skies over North America. We do so using radars and aircraft, to detect, track, identify, and assess potential threats in accordance with standard NORAD procedures,’’ said Air Force Col. Elizabeth Mathias, a spokeswoman for NORAD.
China's original claim was that its balloon was also a weather balloon; however, since threatening revenge and receiving additional U.S. sanctions, China retaliated with sanctions on American defense contractors.
The president has requested new guidelines for such situations in the future and will share “these classified policy parameters when they’re completed."
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