The drama began in late January, when a giant Chinese balloon — dubbed a spy craft by American officials — drifted for days through US skies before being shot down February 4 by an F-22 jet off the South Carolina coast. China insisted the balloon was conducting weather research and had gone astray.
The Pentagon said it had a gondola the size of three buses and was equipped with multiple antennas and had solar panels large enough to power several intelligence-gathering sensors.
It also appeared to be able to steer itself, using winds and possibly a propulsion mechanism, officials said.
Then Friday, US fighter jets downed another object off northern Alaska. It was much smaller than the Chinese balloon, and lacked any system of propulsion or control, officials said.
On Saturday, a US F-22 jet, acting on US and Canadian orders, downed a “high-altitude airborne object” over Canada’s far northwest Yukon territory, saying it posed a threat to civilian flight. Canada described it as cylindrical like and about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
On Sunday Biden ordered US warplanes to down yet another unidentified object over Lake Huron. The object was described as an octagonal structure with strings hanging off it.
It too posed a hazard to civil aviation as it flew at about 20,000 feet (6,000 meters), officials said.
The Pentagon said none of the four objects appeared armed or posed any threat of attack.
Officials would not comment on the origin or function of the three objects that came after the Chinese balloon. Only the balloon has been attributed to Beijing so far.