U.S. Shuts Down Montana Airspace Amid Flurry of Military Activity

Pentagon shoots down two 'unidentified objects' in 24 hours in days after Chinese flew spy balloon over country

F-15 fighter jet / Getty Images
February 11, 2023

The U.S. government closed down airspace around Montana "to support Department of Defense activities" on Saturday evening, a Federal Aviation Agency spokesman confirmed to the Free Beacon, just hours after an "unidentified object" was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet over Canada.

"The FAA closed some airspace in Montana to support Department of Defense activities," an agency spokesman told the Free Beacon, adding that it had been reopened just before 8:30 p.m. EST. The airspace closure came just hours after the United States, in coordination with Canada, scrambled F-22 fighter jets to destroy an unknown object flying at high altitude, the second such strike in two days. A similar type of "unidentified object" was shot from the sky over Alaska on Friday after federal authorities determined it posed a "reasonable threat to civilian air traffic."

The flurry of incidents are raising concerns that China is sending potentially dangerous objects into North America and the United States as spy concerns mount. The Biden administration was forced to scramble earlier in the week when a Chinese spy balloon was detected traversing the continental United States. After several days, and outrage among Republicans in Congress, President Joe Biden authorized a strike on the balloon once it floated into the Atlantic Ocean.

The second object detected on Saturday "was closely tracked and monitored by North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) over the last 24 hours," according to a White House statement. "The President has been continually briefed by his national security team since the object was detected," the White House said. "Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of their militaries, President Biden and [Canadian] Prime Minister Trudeau authorized it to be taken down."

The United States and Canada say they are trying to recover "portions of the object in order to determine more details on its purpose or origin," according to the White House.

NORAD did not immediately respond to Free Beacon requests for comment on the incident and further details about the Montana airspace being shuttered.

The Chinese spy balloon incident has amplified concerns about the Communist regime’s spy operations inside America, even as Beijing tried to downplay the incident, claiming the balloon was merely for scientific research.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration’s slow response to the incursion, perhaps influencing the White House’s decision to immediately shoot down the two other unknown objects on Friday and Saturday.

John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the U.S. National Security Council, said on Friday that the first object the United States destroyed has unknown origins.

"We’re calling this an 'object,' because that’s the best description we have right now," Kirby said. "We do not know who owns it, whether it’s a—whether it’s state owned or—or corporate owned, or privately owned.  We just don’t know."

The Pentagon said on Friday, after the first unidentified flying object, or UFO, was shot down, that it has "no further details about the object at this time, including any description of its capabilities, purpose, or origin." The object, it said, "was about the size of a small car, so not similar in size or shape to the high altitude surveillance balloon that was taken down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4."

The Defense Department said it is attempting to recover the downed Chinese balloon to assess its capabilities and determine what information it was collecting as it traversed the United States.