U.S. warplane downs object over northern Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau says

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gesturing with his left hand as he speaks at a lectern
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his military would recovery the aircraft wreckage for study.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that on his order a U.S. fighter jet shot down an “unidentified object” flying high over the Yukon, acting a day after the U.S. took similar action over Alaska.

North American Aerospace Defense Command, the U.S.-Canada organization known as NORAD that provides defense of airspace over the two nations, detected the object at a high altitude Friday evening over Alaska, U.S. officials said. It crossed into Canadian airspace Saturday.

Trudeau spoke with President Biden, who also ordered the object to be shot down. Canadian and U.S. jets operating as part of NORAD were scrambled, and a U.S. jet hit the object.


Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said at an Ottawa news conference that the object, flying about 40,000 feet, had been shot down at 3:41 p.m. EST, roughly 100 miles from the Canada-U.S. border in the central Yukon. A recovery operation was underway involving the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday night that it had closed some airspace in Montana to support Defense Department activities. NORAD said the closure, which lasted more than an hour, came after it had detected “a radar anomaly” and sent fighters to investigate. The aircraft did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits,
NORAD said.

F-22 fighter jets have taken out three objects in the airspace above the U.S. and Canada over eight days, raising questions of what is hovering overhead and who has sent the aircraft.

A Chinese balloon alleged to be a spy aircraft was shot down Feb. 4 off South Carolina. The other two objects have not yet been publicly identified.

While Trudeau described the object Saturday as “unidentified,” Anand said it appeared to be “a small cylindrical object, smaller than the one that was downed off the coast” of South Carolina. A NORAD spokesman, Maj. Olivier Gallant, said the military had determined what it was but would not reveal details.

Anand refused to speculate whether the object shot down over Canada came from China. “We are continuing to do the analysis on the object, and we will make sure that analysis is thorough,” she said. “It would not be prudent for me to speculate on the origins of the object at this time.”

The object was flying at about 40,000 feet near Alaska’s coast and posed a “reasonable threat” to civilian flights, a National Security Council spokesman said.

Feb. 10, 2023

Anand said that, to her knowledge, this was the first time NORAD had downed an object in Canadian airspace.


“The importance of this moment should not be underestimated,” she said. “We detected this object together, and we defeated this object together.”

She was asked why a U.S. jet, and not a Canadian plane, shot the object down.

“As opposed to separating it out by country, I think what the important point is, these were NORAD capabilities, this was a NORAD mission and this was NORAD doing what it is supposed to do,” she said.

Anand didn’t use the word “balloon” to describe the object. Canadian Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the Defense Staff, said the instructions given to the planes was “whoever had the first, best shot to take out the balloon had the go-ahead.”

Trudeau said Canadian forces would recover the wreckage for study. The Yukon, in westernmost Canada, is among Canada’s least populated areas.

After the airspace closure over Montana, congressional members including Montana Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester said they were in touch with U.S. Defense officials. Daines tweeted that he would “continue to demand answers on these invasions of US airspace.”

About a day earlier, White House National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby said an object roughly the size of a small car was shot out of the sky above remote Alaska. Officials couldn’t say whether it contained surveillance equipment, where it came from or what purpose it had.


Kirby said it was shot down because it was flying at about 40,000 feet and posed a “reasonable threat” to the safety of civilian flights, not because of knowledge that it was engaged in surveillance.

For the record:

11:15 p.m. Feb. 11, 2023A previous version of this story said Deadhorse is in Alabama. It is in Alaska.

According to U.S. Northern Command, recovery operations in that incident continued Saturday on sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska.

The Navy is carrying out an extensive operation to gather all of the pieces of the massive Chinese spy balloon a U.S. fighter jet shot down off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday.

Feb. 7, 2023

In a statement, the Northern Command said there were no new details on what the object was. It said the Alaska Command and the Alaska National Guard, along with the FBI and local law enforcement, were conducting search and recovery.

“Arctic weather conditions, including wind chill, snow, and limited daylight, are a factor in this operation, and personnel will adjust recovery operations to maintain safety,” the statement said.

The balloon shot down Feb. 4 over the Atlantic Ocean was part of a large surveillance program that China has been conducting for several years, the Pentagon has said. The U.S. has said Chinese balloons have flown over dozens of countries across five continents in recent years, and it learned more about the balloon program after closely monitoring the one shot down off South Carolina.

China contends that the balloon was for weather research, not spying. It said that it reserved the right to “take further actions” over the balloon’s downing and criticized the U.S. for “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”


The Navy continued survey and recovery activities on the ocean floor off South Carolina, and the Coast Guard was providing security. Additional debris was pulled out Friday, and operations will continue as weather permits, Northern Command said.