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Something Extremely Weird is Going on in Our Skies Right Now
"That's no moon."
As of this writing, I am aware of no less than six unknown objects that have been officially recognized to have appeared in the airspace of four different countries in the past few days. Three over the United States, one over Canada, one over Uruguay, and one over China — some of which remain in the air.
Three of these object have been shot down — those over Alaska, Lake Michigan/Huron, and the Yukon territory in Canada — and military interceptors have been scrambled over Lake Michigan as of this morning for a third.
None of these were the Chinese spy balloon that captivated the world last week as it slowly made its way across the United States, entirely unmolested, until finally being shot down over the Atlantic off the coast of South Carolina.
The reason why that balloon wasn’t shot down before it traversed the country, hovering (against the wind) over certain sensitive military sites, remains cloaked in bureaucratic cover story. The most we seemed to get was the Pentagon’s supposed worry that the debris from an overland shoot down would be too dangerous, and the claim that it had taken measures “to protect against the collection of sensitive information.” The United States has been resolute in its determination that the Chinese balloon was a sophisticated surveillance platform, not a simple scientific instrument that had blown off course.
Initial reports indicated that the balloon was merely drifting — a claim China bolstered as it stomped its diplomatic feet and claimed it was merely a weather balloon that had drifted off course that the United States had no right to destroy:
China said Monday that the decision by the United States to shoot down the balloon was a test of Washington’s “sincerity in improving and stabilizing China-U.S. relations and its way of handling crises.”
Biden administration officials called the episode an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty” by China.
Beijing is denying such a claim, insisting that it was a civilian scientific aircraft that had blown into U.S. airspace by mistake.
But National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby told the press that it had propulsion and steering:
"It is true that this balloon had the ability to maneuver itself — to speed up, to slow down and to turn. So, it had propellers, it had a rudder, if you will, to allow it to change direction," he said. "But the most important navigational vector was the jet stream itself, the winds at such a high altitude," about 18,000 meters (11 miles) above the Earth.
When most of us think about a balloon, we envision something of modest size. Perhaps the largest image that may come to mind are the hot air balloons capable of carrying passengers that are so popular at summer festivals in certain regions of the country.
But the Chinese balloon was massive. How big? Pretty damned big.
As far as size, the balloon was 200 feet tall, with a payload the size of a regional jet weighing over a couple thousand pounds, VanHerck said, which fed into concerns of what would happen if it was shot down.
“[Y]ou know from a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky. That’s really what we’re kind of talking about,” he said. “So glass off of solar panels, potentially hazardous material, such as material that is required for a batteries to operate in such an environment as this and even the potential for explosives to detonate and destroy the balloon that could have been present.”
VanHerck clarified later that there was not reason to believe there were explosives on the balloon, but said it is an assumption officials have to make out of an abundance of caution.
Photos released by the Navy shows some of the debris being recovered:
I’m not entirely inclined to accept the argument that safety was the main reason why the balloon wasn’t shot down, despite the dangers inherent in dropping such a large payload. There’s a lot of very empty space between where the Chinese balloon entered American airspace, and where it got the business end of an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile launched from an F-22 Raptor over the Atlantic Ocean off the US Coast.
I am absolutely prepared to believe that they thought they’d have a harder time recovering the wreckage, from which they wanted to gather as much intelligence as possible. It appears that this came up in a senate subcommittee hearing on February 9th:
Dalton explained that shooting it down over Alaska was deemed to be unviable as it would make recovering the high-altitude aircraft far harder and far less likely to yield strong intelligence.
"A key piece of this is the recovery," she said. "For us to be able to exploit and understand the balloon and its capabilities fully, if we had taken it down over the state of Alaska—which is part of the United States—it would have been a very different recovery operation."
Dalton noted that the water depths 6 nautical miles off the Alaskan and Aleutian coast fall quickly from 150 feet to 18,000 feet, and the freezing cold waters made a salvage operation "very dangerous". There was also ice cover in the waters, which would have complicated efforts to recover the balloon.
By comparison, the waters 6 nautical miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach—where the balloon was eventually shot down—range from 35-45 feet, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and have a mean water temperature of 66.4 Fahrenheit, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data shows.
But the same logic did not apply to the UFO — strictly speaking here, an aerial object that has not yet been identified — that was shot down over Alaska on Friday, Feb. 10:
Intriguingly, at a press conference at the White House on Friday, Kirby refused to call this new object that had been shot down over Alaskan waters a “balloon”:
Q All right. Well, it’s — have you ruled out — I mean — or not “ruled out.” But you have not determined that it was surveillance in nature, correct? You’ve not —
MR. KIRBY: We haven’t ruled anything in or out. We — and that’s why we’re calling this thing an “object.” And —
Q But you just — Kirby, you just called it a balloon. You misspoke there in the — your answer?
MR. KIRBY: I’m sorry. It’s not a — yes, I’m sorry. You guys have —
Q But you can’t say it’s a “balloon” even?
MR. KIRBY: You guys have me with balloon on the brain right now. (Laughter.)
This was —
Q On all of our brains.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, seriously. (Laughs.)
MR. KIRBY: This was an object. Let me just clarify: I’m not classifying it as a balloon right now. It’s an object. We’re still trying to learn more from it.
That it landed on — on wat- — on water that is frozen, could help us assist — make it easier for us to try to recover some of the debris. U.S. Northern Command is examining what the possibilities for that are.
And then, just hours later, another American F-22 took down a similar object over Canada’s Yukon territory:
But believe it or not, that’s not all. China had its own UFO to contend with yesterday:
A report out today says China has not shot it down yet, but plans to do so soon.
Then, it was reported that airspace over Montana was being locked down because of another unidentified radar contact:
They still don’t know what they detected over Montana:
Then, an object was reported over Uruguay:
Then, ANOTHER object was reported in US Airspace, this time over Lake Michigan. That’s happening right now, as I’m writing this. More fighter jets were scrambled:
And an update on the object in this region (as I was preparing final edits of this piece, new info came in):
It seems as though every time I’ve opened twitter for the past 48 hours there’s been another sighting, another airspace alert, another giant question mark about just what the hell is going on up there. If you search Twitter for the locations, you’ll get videos of various alleged UFO sightings. It’s impossible to tell when the videos are actually from or what’s being seen, so I won’t share them here. But people are absolutely noticing something going on in their skies.
In fact, I had my own first “unknown lights in the sky” UFO sighting just last month. As you can imagine, it’s only deepened my curiosity about what is happening.
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Are they Balloons, or Something Else?
In the aftermath of the Chinese Balloon, that’s what most of our brains are looking for. That’s why I found it very interesting when John Kirby made clear he was not willing to classify the object shot down over Alaska as a balloon. He didn’t know what it was, who owned it, or what it was doing there. Canada’s own defense minister, when discussing the object taken down over the Yukon, “stopped short of calling it a balloon” and described it as “cylindrical” in shape.
The Alaskan UFO was reported to have had no obvious means of propulsion, and that the fact that it was airborne at all was perplexing to the F-35 pilots who got the first visuals on the object — some of whom claimed it “interfered with their sensors”:
The other situations, both domestically and abroad, are less clear.
But for some reason, there has been a rapid escalation not just in the sighting of these objects, but the aggressiveness of the response from governments. It is my understanding that this is the first time either the US or Canadian governments have admitted to shooting down a UFO — and again, we need not assume extra terrestrial origin for the term “UFO” to be applicable. In any case, what John Kirby said in his press conference on Friday is not something advanced military forces like ours have ever been keen to admit: “We don’t know what entity owns this object. There’s no indication that it’s from a nation or an institution or an individual. We just don’t know.”
The mystery pertaining to what is going on cannot be easily dismissed.
The Gap in Our Sensors
The United States of America has, overall, the most advanced military capabilities in existence today. We are world leaders in advanced semiconductor design, which are critical to our technological advantage. The US Navy, according to geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan, “is ten times as powerful as the combined navies of the rest of the world.” That Navy also boasts roughly half the air power of the most superior air force in the world — the US Air Force — and the Navy’s carrier fleet adds mobility for deployment.
And until the Chinese spy balloon incident earlier this month, nobody really questioned American capacity to detect aerial threats.
It’s a problem known as a “domain awareness gap,” and organizations like NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are about to be on the hot seat about sealing the hole in our awareness.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Christopher Mellon, tweeted this past week that the problem may be one of software filtering:
In other words, our sensor systems are so concerned with looking for larger threats that they have actually stopped reporting smaller issues like balloons. It doesn’t mean they don’t pick them up. The data is there. It’s just being filed away, like the radar equivalent of a spam folder.
The growing concern over UFO/UAP incursions into US airspace and the associated attention from Congress may have helped pull the blinders off these systems.
Could this be why we’re detecting objects that went unnoticed before? Literally as I was writing this section of the post, Mellon tweeted again, only seconds ago:
Lue Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, seems to agree. Despite being fairly quiet recently, Lue tweeted out today:
Award-winning investigative journalist Ross Coulthart asks a similar question:
More confirmation from NY Times diplomatic correspondent Edward Wong:
Riffing off of Wong, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand weighs in:
And credit where credit is due: more and more military pilots have been coming forward:
But What Does It All Mean?
The truth is, we don’t have enough information to answer this question. Governments have never been known for their transparency, and any shift in that direction will always appear suspicious until more is done to demonstrate that they can be trusted.
The easiest thing in the world would have been for the White House to say what they shot down over Alaska was simply another balloon. Everyone already has balloons on their minds — as Kirby’s own comments during the press conference show — and most people would have simply accepted it and moved on. It’s the oldest play in the book. It goes back to the time they concocted the same cover story for whatever it was that really happened in Roswell, after the initial military report of a captured “flying saucer.”
They even went so far as to pose intelligence officer Maj. Jesse Marcel with fake weather balloon debris in this famous photo:
The story of the Roswell UFO crash was rediscovered in 1978 by nuclear physicist-turned-ufologist Stanton T Friedman, who was tipped off that a retired military man had an interesting story to tell: none other than Jesse Marcel.
Marcel told Friedman the weather balloon explanation had been a cover story and that the photos had been staged, with weather balloon debris being substituted for the real wreckage.
He claimed that everyone involved in the retrieval was clear the object had indeed been an extraterrestrial spaceship.
But this time, the Pentagon and the White House didn’t go for the “balloon” cover story - even though the fruit was hanging low and lush after the Chinese incursion.
And the question I keep rolling around in my mind is: why didn’t they take the easy way out?
Actual transparency seems the least likely.
Is it, like some claim, a distraction from some other unfavorable news story? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t explain the objects over Canada, Uruguay, and China.
Are they really just balloons that, for some unfathomable reason, those responsible with briefing reporters in both the US and Canada aren’t willing to identify as such?
I know this kind of explanation satisfies professional “skeptics” like Mick West —even when it comes from low-information sources like Schumer — but we already know that confirmation bias is a helluva drug.
The White House said it’s too early to characterize the two latest objects shot down by US fighter jets over North America after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they are believed to have been high-altitude balloons.
One of the objects was downed over Alaska on Friday and the other was brought down over Canada on Saturday, following the highly publicized shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast on Feb. 4.
Schumer said Sunday he was briefed the previous night by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether the objects were balloons, Schumer said, “They believe they were, yes. But much smaller than the first one.”
A spokesperson for the National Security Council said the objects didn’t closely resemble and were much smaller than the balloon from China that overflew the US for days. The administration won’t definitively characterize them until the debris is recovered, according to the spokesperson.
So why is the government not hiding behind its favorite UFO trope?
My inclination is to think that instead, the transparency and reporting structure that has been introduced to pilots is making it impossible to just bury what’s going on. Too many trained and credible servicemembers are involved in tracking and intercepting these objects, and the stigma of reporting such events (or recording them on cell phones, with willing recipients capable of getting them on major cable news programs just a few clicks away) for a disinformation campaign to work.
So instead, they’re acknowledging the anomalous nature of what’s happening, while simply refusing to go into greater detail about what they know. One report I saw said that NORAD made a positive ID on the object shot down over Canada, but simply won’t disclose that information:
Reports about the Alaskan object said that following debris retrieval, the wreckage would be sent to a lab for analysis. It’s unclear to me if this is standard procedure, or if the materials were exotic and needed more in-depth analysis to be identified.
It still appears to be the case that the governments involved know more than they are willing to disclose. But that we, the public, are aware at all that these things are happening in real time is quite extraordinary.
By the time I hit publish on this piece, I fully expect there to be additional developments, and quite possibly additional sightings. They seem to be proliferating these days. (In fact, just now, as I flipped to Twitter to grab another piece of information I’d saved there, I saw that the object over the Michigan area has now also been shot down. I added information about that in the related section above).
I don’t claim to know what’s going on up there, but something unusual is, and the frequency is increasingly drastically. As I complete this post, the Pentagon is expected to give another briefing on the latest object, shot down just a little while ago over Lake Huron.
Keep your eyes on the skies, and your BS-meters tuned to eleven. Something very unusual is afoot.