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Military downs unidentified "airborne object" over Lake Huron

Michigan, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron from space
One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on July 11 captured this high oblique view of Lake Michigan (left) and Lake Huron and much of the state of Michigan in between.

The U.S. military shot down an unidentified "airborne object" over Lake Huron Sunday.

The Department of Defense said in a statement that the object was flying at about 20,000 feet when it was brought down by a missile fired from an F-16.

The object's "path and altitude raised concerns, including that it could be a hazard to civil aviation," the department said.

Several elected officials in Michigan said they had been notified of the incident, which happened over Michigan waters, by the Defense Department.

"The location chosen for this shoot down afforded us the opportunity to avoid impact to people on the ground while improving chances for debris recovery. There are no indications of any civilians hurt or otherwise affected," the department said. "We did not assess it to be a kinetic military threat to anything on the ground, but assess it was a safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities."

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed sections of airspace over Lake Michigan and Lake Huron earlier in the day. The FAA told Michigan Radio in a statement that the closures were "to support Department of Defense activities."

Earlier this week, U.S. officials said the military had downed other objects over Alaska's coast and Canada's Yukon Territory, following the destruction of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

On Sunday afternoon, U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (R-MI 1) tweeted that the military had "decommissioned another 'object' over Lake Huron."

Shortly afterward, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI 7) said she had heard similar information. "The object has been downed by pilots from the U.S. Air Force and National Guard," she tweeted.

In a statement, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI 6) said she wanted more information.

“The increasing incidents of unidentified objects, the latest over Lake Huron in Michigan airspace, are disturbing. We need the facts about where they are originating from, what their purpose is, and why their frequency is increasing," Dingell said.

Rep. John James (R-MI 10) said the incident "highlights the essential function of Selfridge Air National Guard Base" in Harrison Township north of Detroit. James is one of the legislators that has been pushing for the military to base modern fighter aircraft at the installation.

“There is no longer a question: America must have air defense in Michigan before it’s too late," James said in a statement.

The destruction of the object over Lake Huron did not cause any collateral damage, said General Glen VanHerck, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

VanHerck said he personally instructed pilots to be careful. "We worked closely with the FAA to clear out the airspace. I gave directions specifically to the pilots to use their visual acuity to check for mariners on the ground, airplanes in the air, (and) to clear with their radars as well," he said.

Defense officials said the object was likely the same one picked up over Montana days earlier. Its track carried it over Wisconsin and Lake Michigan before the military was cleared to intercept it over Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

VanHerck said it was ultimately brought down with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile about 15 miles east of the UP, and the debris likely fell in Canadian waters. He said the U.S. and Canada will work together to find the wreckage.

Brett joined Michigan Radio in December 2021 as an editor.
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