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Norad shoots down 'unidentified object' over Yukon under PM Trudeau's orders


A U.S. fighter jet shot down an "unidentified object" over central Yukon on Saturday as part of an operation with Norad, the joint Canada-U.S military organization responsible for airspace defence.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he personally ordered the takedown of the object after it violated Canadian airspace.

"Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled, and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object," Trudeau said in a statement on Twitter.

"I spoke with President Biden this afternoon. Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object. Thank you to NORAD for keeping the watch over North America."

The White House released a readout Saturday night of Biden's call with Trudeau, stating that the unidentified object was "unmanned" and "closely tracked" by Norad over the last 24 hours.

"Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of their militaries, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau authorized it to be taken down," the statement says.

"President Biden authorized U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to NORAD to conduct the operation and a U.S. F-22 shot down the object in Canadian territory in close co-ordination with Canadian authorities. The leaders discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin.

"President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau commended NORAD's and U.S. Northern Command's strong and effective partnership and agreed to continue their close co-ordination to detect, track, and defend our airspace."


Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand also confirmed that the object had been shot down, saying on Twitter that she discussed it with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "and reaffirmed that we'll always defend our sovereignty together."

Anand held a press conference later in the evening, during which she confirmed that Norad took down the object at approximately 3:41 p.m. EST about 100 miles from the Canada-U.S. border over central Yukon.

She said the object was flying at approximately 40,000 feet in the air and posed a "reasonable threat" to the safety of "civilian flight."

"To the best of our knowledge, this was the first time that a Norad operation has downed an aerial object," Anand said.

The operation included two American F-22s from U.S. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska and two Canadian CF-18s from Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake in Alberta, who worked together to lock onto the object using infrared, Anand said.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said during the press conference that an AIM-9X missile from the American F-22 took down the object.

Although Anand did not refer to the object as a "balloon," Eyre did make reference to one when he said the aircraft, which were under the direction of the Canadian Norad region, received instructions that whichever jet had the "first best shot to take out the balloon had the go ahead."

A CP-140 aircraft, normally used for maritime patrol, is pinpointing the location of the debris, Anand said, while the Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police are working on the recovery.

Although Norad had been tracking the object for at least 24 hours, no details were provided on where the object came from or where it was going.

"We have no further details about the object at this time, other than it appears to be a small cylindrical object and smaller than the one that was downed off the coast of North Carolina," Anand said, referring to the suspected Chinese spy balloon that the U.S. shot down last week.

Asked why the daylight was not enough to determine if the object was a balloon, Anand said, "The purpose of the mission today was to take down the object and it wasn't possible to analyze that object at the exact same time."

Prior to the press conference, Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong criticized the federal government for having to rely on a U.S. jet to take down the object.

"So it's just confirmed that this 'object' over Canadian airspace was taken out by a U.S. F-22 jet. We do not have the capacity to defend ourselves and our sovereignty. Hard questions need to be asked about the state of the Canadian armed forces," he said in a tweet on Saturday.

In a statement, Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai said he spoke to Anand and was briefed by the Canadian ministers for public safety and northern affairs on the shooting down of the object over the territory.

Trudeau is set to attend a fundraising event in Whitehorse, Yukon, on Sunday.

"We recognize events like these can generate concern, but I want to assure Yukoners that at no time was the safety of Yukoners at risk. I also want to commend the Prime Minister for taking decisive action to protect Yukoners and all Canadians," Pillai said.

"The federal government's co-operative approach to information sharing is helpful as we work together to ensure Yukoners are kept informed and up to date about events as they transpire."


Norad, or the North American Aerospace Defence Command, confirmed in a statement to CTV News earlier on Saturday that it was monitoring a high-altitude airborne object flying over Northern Canada.

"Military aircraft are currently operating from Alaska and Canada in support of North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) activities. NORAD confirms that we have positively identified a high-altitude airborne object over Northern Canada," Norad and the U.S. military's Northern Command said in a statement.

"While we cannot discuss specifics related to these activities at this time, please note that NORAD conducts sustained, dispersed operations in the defence of North America through one or all three NORAD regions. NORAD is a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America."

This comes a day after the United States shot down another unknown high-altitude object about the size of a small car off the coast of Alaska on Friday near the Canadian border.

Anand said in a statement to CTV News on Friday that the object did not fly into Canadian airspace.

She added that Canada supported the U.S. "taking action" to take down the object. Trudeau also said Friday night that he supported the decision after being briefed on the matter.

Recovery efforts are now ongoing at a reportedly frozen stretch of the Beaufort Sea.

The incident comes after the U.S. downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4 after it spent a week moving across Canada and the United States.

CTV military analyst and retired Canadian major-general David Fraser said while political leaders seem much more quick to want to take down these unidentified objects, it's still unclear whether they are the same as the alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew over North America.

"So this is unusual and I suspect the diplomatic political airwaves are burning behind the scenes right now trying to figure out what's going on," Fraser told CTV News Channel on Saturday.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced late Saturday that it had reopened some airspace in Montana after it was briefly closed for undisclosed U.S. Defense Department activities. The FAA declined to say whether the previous directive was related to another suspected balloon or flying object.

Commenting on the Montana airspace restrictions, Norad and U.S. Northern Command said in a joint statement that they "detected a radar anomaly and sent fighter aircraft to investigate."

"Those aircraft did not identify any object to correlate to the radar hits," the statement said. "Norad will continue to monitor the situation."

With files from CTV National News Parliamentary Bureau Reporter Annie Bergeron-Oliver, writer Daniel Otis, The Associated Press and Reuters Top Stories

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