The object was flying at an altitude of about 40,000 feet (12,000 meters) and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. He described the object as the size of a small car and indicated it was shot down close to the Canadian border.
It is the second time in a week that US officials have shot down a flying object over the United States. On Saturday, fighter jets shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina.
White House officials pointed to major differences between the two events. Kirby said it was still unknown who owned the object and did not say it was a balloon. Authorities also couldn’t say whether he had any kind of surveillance equipment. Kirby also still didn’t know where he came from or what his purpose was.
Kirby added that fighter pilots who visually examined the object determined that it was unmanned.
The object fell into frigid waters and authorities hoped to be able to recover the wreckage faster than last week’s huge balloon.
The incident came nearly a week after the United States shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina after it passed over military sites. China has insisted the overflight was accidental and involved a civilian air vehicle, threatening repercussions.