Around 1:45 p.m. Friday, a F-22 pilot, with the U.S. Northern Command, flew from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, and shot an AIM-9x at the object, which was flying at about 40,000 feet, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a Friday press briefing.
“The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and pose a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” Ryder said. “U.S. Northern Command is beginning recovery operations now.”
The object flew into U.S. airspace on Thursday, Ryder said. The press secretary said that the object was not currently being classified as a balloon.
The Pentagon does not currently know the origin of the flying object, Ryder said. Once the debris is recovered, the Department of Defense will learn more. The balloon was identifiable as Chinese due to the Pentagon’s understanding of the Chinese surveillance program, he said.
The decision to shoot the object down quicker than the Chinese surveillance balloon, which was downed off the coast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was due to the threat to civilian air travel, Ryder said.
Amphibious warship USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., Friday to drop off the first load of recovered debris from the downed spy balloon, according to automatic identification system information seen by USNI News.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2, operating from Carter Hall, used underwater unmanned vehicles to detect and collect the remains of the 200-foot-tall balloon and the regional jet-sized surveillance package that weighs thousands of pounds.
The EOD sailors operated from rigid hull inflatable boats to recover pieces as well as diving in the 50-foot shallow water, according to photos released by the Navy.
Officials have said the remains will travel to FBI laboratories in Quantico, Va., for further analysis once they are unloaded in Little Creek.
“We have identified or located a significant amount of debris on the ocean floor that will be very beneficial to us learning more about it, but at this point in time, I’m not gonna have more details,” Ryder said during Friday’s press briefing.
Carter Hall is set to return to the scene, about six miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, defense officials told USNI News earlier this week. Meanwhile, a contracted offshore supply vessel, HOS Rosebud is on the scene with additional divers and equipment to collect more of the remaining debris.
HOS Rosebud departed Little Creek on Wednesday and arrived late Thursday off South Carolina, according to AIS.
High seas anticipated over the weekend, according to the National Wester Service could slow the search
Ryder told reporters on Friday the hunt for more material from the spy balloon would continue, weather permitting.