U.S. shoots down unidentified object over Lake Huron
MICHIGAN (AP) - U.S. officials said an "unidentified object" has been shot down Sunday for the third time in as many days, this time over Lake Huron, after earlier downings in Alaska and Canada.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., tweeted that "the object has been downed by pilots from the US Air Force and National Guard." A U.S. official confirmed the shoot down.
U.S. and Canadian authorities earlier Sunday restricted some airspace over the lake as aircraft were scrambled to intercept and try to identify the object.
"As long as these things keep traversing the US and Canada, I'll continue to ask for Congress to get a full briefing based on our exploitation of the wreckage," Slotkin said in a Sunday social media post.
Michigan's governor said the state's national guard "stands ready."
"Our national security and safety is always a top priority. I’ve been in contact with the federal government and our partners who were tracking an object near our airspace. I’m glad to report it has been swiftly, safely, and securely taken down," she tweeted.
RELATED: US working to identify 3 objects shot down from sky as China concerns escalate
The state's airspace has since reopened after it was ordered closed.
Previous balloons downed over U.S., Canada
A previous object was shot down Saturday over the Yukon. It was described by U.S. officials as a balloon significantly smaller than the three school bus-size balloon hit by a missile Feb. 4 while drifting off the South Carolina coast after traversing the country.
A flying object brought down over the remote northern coast of Alaska on Friday was more cylindrical and described as a type of airship.
Both were believed to have a payload, either attached or suspended from them, according to the officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation. Officials were not able to say who launched the objects and were seeking to figure out their origin.
U.S. officials said the objects over Alaska and Canada were much smaller in size, different in appearance and flew at lower altitudes than the suspected Chinese spy balloon that fell into the Atlantic Ocean after the U.S. missile strike. They said the Alaska and Canada objects were not consistent with the fleet of Chinese aerial surveillance balloons that targeted more than 40 countries, stretching back at least into the Trump administration.
That large white orb first appeared over the U.S. in late January, and since then Americans have been fixated on the sky above them. U.S. authorities made clear that they constantly monitor for unknown radar blips, and it is not unusual to shut down airspace as a precaution to evaluate them.
On Sunday, the U.S. briefly closed the airspace over Lake Michigan; on Saturday night, that was done over rural Montana. Officials Sunday said they were no longer tracking any objects over those locations.
Michigan's lawmakers have confirmed that they'll push the federal authorities for updates.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told ABC's "This Week" that U.S. officials were working quickly to recover debris from all the sites. Using shorthand to describe the objects as balloons, he said the U.S military and intelligence officials were "focused like a laser" on gathering and accumulating the information, then compiling a comprehensive analysis.
READ MORE: White House: Improved surveillance caught Chinese balloon
"The bottom line is until a few months ago we didn’t know about these balloons," Schumer, D-N.Y., said of spy program that the administration has linked to the People’s Liberation Army, China's military. "It is wild that we didn’t know."
Eight days ago, F-22 jets downed the large white balloon that had wafted over the U.S. for days at an altitude of about 60,000 feet. U.S. officials immediately blamed China, saying the balloon was equipped to detect and collect intelligence signals and could maneuver itself. White House officials said improved surveillance capabilities helped detect it.
Chinese Foreign Ministry's said the unmanned balloon was a civilian meteorological airship that had blown off course. Beijing said the U.S. had "overreacted" by shooting it down.
READ MORE: China's conducted spy balloon program for years, Pentagon says
Then, on Friday, North American Aerospace Defense Command, the combined U.S.-Canada organization that provides shared defense of airspace over the two nations, detected and shot down an object near sparsely populated Deadhorse, Alaska.
Later that evening, NORAD detected a second object, flying at a high altitude over Alaska, U.S. officials said. It crossed into Canadian airspace on Saturday near the Yukon, a remote province, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered it shot down.
In both of those incidents, the objects were flying at roughly 40,000 feet, posing a potential threat to civilian aircraft that fly at that height.
The three cases have increased diplomatic tensions between the United States and China, raised questions about the extent of Beijing's American surveillance, and prompted days of criticism from Republican lawmakers about the administration’s handling.
Photos: US Navy recovers Chinese balloon in Atlantic ocean