Anand spoke after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday afternoon he had ordered the object shot down after it violated Canadian airspace. That followed confirmation from the North American Aerospace Defense Command of an exclusive Global News report published at 3:36 PM Eastern that officials with the continental defence alliance were monitoring an object that could be another potential spy balloon.
“I will not be speculating on the origins of this object this evening. It is far too early in our analysis of the debris as we are still collecting,” Anand said Saturday.
Anand noted the object is “potentially similar to the one that was shot down to the one shot down off the coast of North Carolina though smaller in size and cylindrical in nature.”
“At the direction of the prime minister, aircraft assigned to NORAD successfully took down this high-altitude airborne object at approximately 3:41 p.m. Eastern Standard Time,” she said Saturday evening during a press conference, noting it was visually identified using NORAD fighter aircraft.
“Recovery operations are now underway.”
Trudeau said in his tweets announcing the downing of the object that both Canadian and U.S. aircraft had been scrambled, and it was a U.S. F-22 that “successfully fired at the object.”
The object was downed approximately 100 miles from the Canada-U.S. border over central Yukon.
“To our knowledge, this is the first instance of NORAD downing an object in Canadian airspace, and the importance of this moment should not be underestimated. We detected this object together and we defeated this together,” Anand said.
The object was flying at approximately 40,000 feet and “posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight,” Anand said.
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre added that the instructions given to the pilots of the aircraft — two F-22s and two CF-18s — was for “whoever had the first best shot” to take it.
In a phone call Saturday between Trudeau and Biden, “the leaders discussed the importance of recovering the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin,” according to a readout from the White House.
“The President has been continually briefed by his national security team since the object was detected,” the readout stated.
“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. President Biden authorized US fighter aircraft assigned to NORAD to conduct the operation and a US F-22 shot down the object in Canadian territory in close coordination with Canadian authorities,” the readout said.
Global News reported Saturday, citing three security sources, that NORAD was monitoring one or two more objects that may be potential spy balloons.
Within minutes of publication, NORAD confirmed in a statement that they “have positively identified a high-altitude airborne object over Northern Canada.”
“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,” said Maj. Olivier Gallant, a spokesperson for NORAD, in a statement to Global News.
Gallant added that military aircraft “are currently operating from Alaska and Canada in support of (NORAD) activities.”
The U.S. shot down a “high-altitude object” over Alaska, near Canada’s northern border, on Friday.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon said at the time the balloon was believed to be heading towards Canadian airspace.
The “high-altitude” object shot down on Friday had not entered Canadian airspace, Defence Minister Anita Anand said in a statement on Friday.
The incident came a week after a Chinese surveillance balloon that had flown into Canadian airspace and the northwestern U.S. for several days before being shot down over the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S Air Force.
It’s not known if the object being monitored on Saturday originated in China.
Asked why Canada didn’t intercept the first balloon when it passed through Canadian airspace, Anand told reporters that the government had monitored the craft and “determined that it posed no imminent risk to Canadians at all.”
“We were watching it very carefully to ensure we were doing what is necessary to protect Canadians, and we’re doing that in the context of the NORAD relationship, of course,” Anand said at a press conference with her U.S. counterpart, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in Washington on Friday.
“When the United States made that decision to shoot it down, Secretary Austin did thank Canada because we were making these decisions jointly about imminent threats.”
American security and defence officials have accused China of using surveillance balloons to spy on countries over several years and across five continents, the Associated Press reported last week.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his government has briefed dozens of countries about the Chinese balloon program. Beijing maintains the balloon shot down over the continental U.S. last week was civilian, conducting meteorological research — a claim the U.S. rejects.
The U.S. began collecting pieces of the downed Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast on Tuesday and will examine the craft’s payload to better understand what it was surveilling. Parts of the craft have already begun arriving at the FBI’s Quantico, Virginia headquarters.
— With files from Global’s Aaron D’Andrea and the Associated Press