A fourth airborne object which strayed into US airspace on Sunday afternoon over Lake Huron resulted in the Pentagon scrambling a F-16 fighter jet, as these potential balloons have been deemed hazardous to civilian aviation.
But what US defense officials described as an unidentified "octagonal" object wasn't taken down so easily, with the first Sidewinder missile fired from the F-16 reportedly missing its target. Each AIM-9x Sidewinder missile costs the American taxpayers a cool $400,000.
"The first Sidewinder heat-seeking missile missed the target," a US official confirmed. It's additionally unclear where that errant missile ultimately landed. Another obvious question is why an advanced heat-seeking missile would have to be deployed at all, and not another weapon.
According to details released in a Pentagon briefing, it was the fourth object to be shot down since the Feb.4 downing of the alleged Chinese spycraft off the South Carolina coast:
None of the debris from the object has been found in the lake, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday. The Defense Department, or DOD, said President Biden, just before 2:42 p.m., directed an F-16 to fire an AIM-9x missile to shoot down an airborne object flying at nearly 20,000 feet over Lake Huron.
From all of those intercept incidents, the US and Canadian militaries are still working to recover all of the downed debris, in order to analyze it, with active recovery operations still ensuing in Alaska, Canada, South Carolina, and Michigan.
As for the first 'spy' balloon being recovered in the Atlantic, officials say a significant portion of the balloon's undercarriage - believed to contain surveillance equipment - has been recovered as of Monday.
Flying objects, or likely balloons, shootdown map locations and altitudes: