Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

The Simple Explanation for All These Flying Objects

| Feb. 13, 2023

American air defense has been looking harder and reacting faster.

The North American skies, it turns out, contain lots of unidentified objects. That is the unremarkable conclusion from a remarkable weekend in which fighter jets downed a trio of separate flying things—over Alaska, northern Canada, and Lake Huron. This weekend's sky wars followed the identification and eventual downing of a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this month, only after it had traversed the continental United States and was safely over U.S. waters.

This is a strange series of events. A single deployment of Air Force units to obliterate something in the sky is unusual; to have three more in close succession seems quite unprecedented. Is this activity connected to a sophisticated new Chinese plot? Russian opportunism? Some other aggression testing our systems? Aliens? Pentagon officials have downplayed that last possibility while offering little additional detail about what these objects are. Before Americans react with rage or fear over the apparent uptick in intrusions into our skies, we should consider the simplest explanation: a recalibration of the U.S. military's policies on aerial intrusions. We are seeing the legacy of the Chinese-balloon incident, which put two new factors in play.

First, the U.S. is finding more things in the sky because it is looking for more things. The scope and quality of the surveillance of American skies have increased since the first incident earlier this month and the subsequent public revelation of previous Chinese incursions....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Simple Explanation for All These Flying Objects.” The Atlantic, February 13, 2023.

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