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'Radar anomaly' triggers airspace closure; senator warns of EMP risks amid balloon, unmanned craft incidents

Photo by William Campbell/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction over a portion of Montana on Saturday, briefly classifying the area as "[national] defense airspace."

The FAA issued the Notice to Air Missions (formerly Notice to Airmen) at 3:20 pm local time that covered airspace over Havre, Montana. The TFR was lifted about an hour later.

Saturday evening, the North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command issued a statement attributing the issue to a "radar anomaly."

"NORAD detected a radar anomaly and sent fighter aircraft to investigate," the agency said in a press release.

"Those aircraft did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits," the agency also said, adding that they will "continue to monitor the situation."

The NOTAM warned that pilots who violated the TFR "may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement" as well as subjected to a litany of civil and criminal penalties and charges.

"I've been warning for years about the risk of a high-altitude nuclear blast," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) told Fox News Channel's Maria Bartiromo Sunday morning.

Johnson was addressing a pair of high-altitude balloons shot down by American fighter jets over Alaska and Canada, and another balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier in the week.

"It could create an electromagnetic pulse that could wipe out our electronics. Even a geomagnetic disturbance could do the same thing," Johnson continued.

"We are not prepared for this. . .we do not have the A-team on the field right now, and that should alarm Americans."

Montana lawmakers responded quickly with public statements following the "radar anomaly" that triggered airspace closure on Saturday.

"I am aware of the object in Montana air space and remain in close contact with senior DOD and Administration officials," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) tweeted shortly after the FAA issued the TFR.
"I am closely monitoring the situation and am receiving regular updates. I will continue to demand answers for the American public," Tester added.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) echoed his colleague's comments.

"I’m in direct contact with the Pentagon regarding the object in Montana’s airspace & will receive frequent updates," Daines said in a tweet.

"Montanans still have questions about the Chinese spy balloon that flew over our state last week. I’ll continue to demand answers on these invasions of US airspace," Daines added.

Rep. Matt Rosendale similarly took to Twitter to update Montanans and other Americans about the then-ongoing flight restriction. According to Rosendale, the Department of Defense planned to resume its efforts to address the "object" in the light of day.

"Airspace is closed due to an object that could interfere with commercial air traffic — the DOD will resume efforts to observe and ground the object in the morning," the Congressman added.

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