The F-16 fighter jet sent to shoot down the aerial object over Lake Huron this weekend missed with its first missile, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley confirmed Tuesday.
The “first shot missed, second shot hit,” Milley told reporters following a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels.
Asked whether the missile miss changes how the U.S. may go about downing the next aerial object over its territory, Milley said officials “go to great lengths to make sure that the airspace is clear and the backdrop is clear out to the max effective range of the missile.”
He added that the missile “landed harmlessly in the water of Lake Huron” and was later tracked down.
“We made sure that airspace was clear of any commercial civilian or recreational traffic. We do the same thing for the maritime space, so we’re very, very deliberate in our planning. … We’re very, very careful to make sure that those shots are in fact safe,” he said.
The U.S. and Canada shot down three unidentified objects over Alaska, Lake Huron and Canadian territory in the last few days, incidents that follow the U.S. downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month.
The first of the three newer objects, which was shot down from 40,000 feet over Alaska on Friday, was hit after President Biden gave the order.
The second object was brought down on Saturday in northern Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau green-lit the mission and Biden authorized fighter jets to fly into Canada.
The third object, initially labeled an “unidentified aircraft,” was downed Sunday over Lake Huron after initially being spotted Saturday in Montana.
The White House on Monday said the uncertainty of the surveillance capabilities of the three objects led to Biden’s orders for the military to shoot them all down, and that the administration will establish an interagency team to look into unidentified objects in U.S. airspace.
While the U.S. government is currently pulling parts of the Chinese spy balloon from the Atlantic Ocean, Milley said it will be difficult to recover the three recently downed objects as they have all fallen into “very difficult terrain.”
“The second one off the coast of Alaska is something in some really, really difficult terrain in the Arctic Circle with very, very low temperatures in the minus 40s. The second one is in the Canadian Rockies in the Yukon — very difficult to get that one. And third one is in in Lake Huron at probably a couple hundred-feet depth,” he explained. “We’ll get them eventually, but it’s going to take some time to recover those.”