Objects shot down over Alaska, Yukon were balloons, US Senate leader says

Schumer says devices downed from 40,000 feet in air were smaller than Chinese balloon downed off South Carolina earlier this month, officials trying to analyze debris for data

FBI special agents assigned to the evidence response team process material recovered from the high altitude balloon recovered off the coast of South Carolina, February 9, 2023, at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. (FBI via AP)
FBI special agents assigned to the evidence response team process material recovered from the high altitude balloon recovered off the coast of South Carolina, February 9, 2023, at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. (FBI via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States believes the unidentified objects shot down by American fighter jets over Canada and Alaska were balloons, though smaller than the Chinese balloon downed over the Atlantic Ocean last weekend, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

Schumer told ABC’s “This Week” that he was briefed on Saturday night by US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, after the incident hours earlier over the Yukon. On Friday, an object roughly the size of a small car was downed over remote Alaska, according to the White House.

Asked whether those two recent objects were balloons, Schumer said, “They believe they were, yes, but much smaller than the first one.”

The government has said the first balloon was about the size of three school buses. It was shot down February 4 off the South Carolina coast after it had traversed the United States.

The Biden administration said it was used for surveillance. China claims it was on a meteorological research mission.

Schumer said teams were recovering debris from the objects and would work to determine where they came from.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks during a bill signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, December 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The ones downed on Friday and Saturday were smaller and flying at a lower altitude of about 40,000 feet, within the airspace occupied by commercial flights, compared with about 60,000 feet for the first one.

“The bottom line is until a few months ago we didn’t know about these balloons,” Schumer said. “It is wild that we didn’t know…. Now they are learning a lot more. And the military and the intelligence are focused like a laser on first gathering and accumulating the information, then coming up with a comprehensive analysis.”

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