It appears that one of the objects President Joe Biden authorized fighter jets to shoot down last week may have been nothing more than a hobby club's balloon.
While the government has not confirmed what pilots downed over the Yukon in northern Canada, the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade said one of its balloons is "missing in action." That balloon was last seen off the coast of Alaska last Saturday morning.
The trajectory of the balloon's flight tracks with the object that a U.S. Air Force F-22 shot down on Saturday using a AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. Each missile costs more than $400,000.
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But the circumstantial evidence is at least intriguing. The club’s silver-coated, party-style, “pico balloon” reported its last position on Feb. 10 at 38,910 ft. off the west coast of Alaska, and a popular forecasting tool—the HYSPLIT model provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—projected the cylindrically shaped object would be floating high over the central part of the Yukon Territory on Feb. 11.
In fact, according to Aviation Week, "descriptions of all three unidentified objects shot down Feb. 10-12 match the shapes, altitudes and payloads of the small pico balloons."
President Joe Biden confirmed that intelligence officials believe the unidentified flying objects were balloons.
"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," Biden said on Thursday.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, meanwhile, disclosed that the FBI has spoken to the Illinois hobbyist club whose balloon was likely targeted.
"I have no information for you from NORAD on the objects," said NORAD spokesperson Air Force Col. Elizabeth Mathias. "I understand FBI spoke with that hobby group, and I expect the [National Security Council] task force to have more on the potential identification of the objects."
A top Canadian general has also said the downed object is a "suspected balloon." Recovery of its debris has been hampered by its remote crash location.
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