(NewsNation) — An “unidentified object” was shot down with a missile by U.S. fighter jets Sunday over Lake Huron, and it was believed to be the same one tracked over Montana and monitored by the government beginning the night before, U.S. officials said.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., tweeted that “the object has been downed by pilots from the US Air Force and National Guard.” The shootdown was confirmed by two U.S. officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I appreciate the decisive action by our fighter pilots,” Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman posted on social media. “The American people deserve far more answers than we have.”
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.
Earlier Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a NOTAM for northwest Michigan, declaring an area that includes part of Lake Michigan as “national defense airspace.” The FAA did not clarify why they have stopped civilian use of the airspace. Neither the FAA nor the Pentagon has offered comment on the restriction.
Previously this weekend, the agency declared a national defense space over Montana. Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale tweeted that this was not an anomaly.
“I am in constant communication with NORCOM and they have just advised me that they have confidence there IS an object and it WAS NOT an anomaly. I am waiting now to receive visual confirmation. Our nation’s security is my priority,” his tweet read.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the two objects shot down in recent days were balloons, though smaller ones than the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was downed last week.
The downing comes after earlier objects in Alaska and Canada were shot out of the sky because they were flying at altitudes that posed a threat to commercial aircraft, according to the officials, who had knowledge of the downings and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operations.
On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered a cylindrical, high-altitude object shot down over Canadian airspace. The country’s investigators are now looking for wreckage from the object, which was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet over the Yukon territory, Reuters reports.
On Friday, an object roughly the size of a small car was downed over remote Alaska, according to the White House. Both this object and the object downed over Canada appear to be balloons, according to U.S. Senate lawmakers.
The first balloon, which was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 3, was capable of collecting electronic communication. U.S. officials came to that conclusion based on photos of the balloon taken while it was in flight as well as debris recovered from the ocean.
The alleged spy balloon was believed to be part of a fleet developed for surveillance and an intelligence official told reporters balloons had been flown over more than 40 countries.
The Biden administration has said the first balloon was not a major breach, noting intelligence-gathering is happening all the time. Republicans have criticized the president for not shooting the balloon down sooner, but he has defended his decision to shoot the balloon down over the water to avoid potential deaths.
The balloons are believed to be part of China’s efforts to beat the U.S. in the sphere of “near space.” While balloons are older technology they can hold some advantages over satellites, including the ability to hover over a target for an extended period of time. They are also more difficult to detect with radar than other means of surveillance.
Officials said there is a blind spot when it comes to Chinese balloons, with intelligence indicating balloons had traversed U.S. airspace before during the Trump administration.
The U.S. is restricting six Chinese companies believed to be connected with the balloon program. Those companies will not be able to access U.S. technology without government approval.
China has maintained the first balloon was a civilian weather balloon and has called the U.S. irresponsible and “hysterical” for shooting down the flying objects.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.