Listen to this article
The United States Air Force (USAF) has reportedly launched a $439,000 missile to take down an unknown flying object that could have been a $12 hobby balloon. According to The Guardian, the Northern Illinois Balloon Brigade, a hobby group in the US, reported that one of its pico balloons had gone “missing in action” over Alaska on February 11, when a USAF F-22 fighter jet coincidentally shot down an object flying in the vicinity of Canada’s Yukon territory.
The pico balloon is equipped with trackers typically used to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, or wind currents. Although the group did not link the two events, the balloon’s trajectory suggests a possible connection. The group’s website indicates that the balloon, identified as K9YO, was last reported to have been flying at an altitude of 11,560m near Hagemeister Island in Alaska.
However, since “no part of the object shot down… has been recovered,” the group said it was unable to confirm definitively if it was indeed one of their balloons. The unidentified flying object that was shot down over Yukon was the second one to be felled, with US President Joe Biden issuing orders to take down three of them on consecutive days, starting on February 10.
Officials from the US Department of Defense have stated that the objects did not pose a military threat, but their flight paths and proximity to sensitive sites, as well as their altitudes, were potential hazards to civil aviation, causing concern. They have since revealed that the objects were possibly commercial or used for climate research purposes.
The downing of the objects comes after the US in early February shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon that had flown into its airspace. According to declassified intelligence by the State Department, the balloon was equipped with an antenna that could pinpoint the locations of communication devices, as well as intercept calls made on said devices. The balloon has since been recovered by US authorities.
Ever since the Chinese balloon was spotted, many people around the world have been transfixed on similar sightings. Some even claimed that the objects sighted were extraterrestrial in origin, prompting White House officials to issue a statement on February 14 that there was no indication that any of the objects shot down were linked to aliens.
Meanwhile, efforts have been made to locate and identify the remains of the objects; however, these attempts have been hampered by the remoteness of the locations and frigid temperatures, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
The incident has sparked debates on the use of high-tech weapons to take down low-value targets, such as hobby balloons. Critics argue that the cost of the missile used is disproportionate to the value of the object it was aimed at, while supporters point out that the USAF has a responsibility to ensure the safety of civil aviation and protect sensitive sites.
The incident also highlights the growing concern over unidentified flying objects, with governments and organizations around the world struggling to identify and classify these objects. While some sightings may be easily explained as natural phenomena or human-made objects, others remain unexplained, fuelling speculation about their origins and purpose. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that more sightings of unidentified objects will be reported, and the need for effective identification and response protocols will become even more critical.