(OTTAWA) It would have been “preferable” for a Canadian fighter jet to shoot down the high-flying object over the Yukon last month, according to Canada’s top military officer, but the Canadian planes were delayed by freezing rain.
“I indicated (during the operation) that it would be preferable for the Canadian CF-18s to shoot down the object,” General Wayne Eyre revealed on Tuesday. But I have to say that they were delayed on their departure from Cold Lake due to freezing rain. »
Mr. Eyre made the statement during his testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, whose members were hot on the heels of National Defense Minister Anita Anand and him about the four flying objects shot down over over North America in February.
A first object, dubbed a ‘Chinese spy balloon’ by the United States, was shot down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, after flying over Alaska, western Canada and large parts of the northern United States.
Three other objects were then shot down in quick succession between February 10 and 12. One of them was shot down by an American F-22 plane over the Yukon on February 11.
Committee members therefore wanted to know why the object over the Yukon was destroyed by an American fighter plane, even though it had already been revealed that Canadian CF-18s were in the area.
According to Mr. Eyre, the Canadian planes still had a few minutes to travel when the American F-22 fired its missile. The first aircraft in position to fire had been ordered to do so.
Mme Anand also defended the fact that it was an American fighter plane that shot down the object, recalling that this plane was operating at the time under the jurisdiction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
“Planes under NORAD authority were mixed,” she said. The decision to shoot down the suspect balloon using NORAD assets was made by the Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) after his calls with President Biden and with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. »
The items did not come from a foreign state
Minister Anand did not provide many new details about these flying objects, other than to say that they do not appear to be “state-affiliated”, which means they were probably not owned and operated by a foreign government.
However, she declined to comment further, noting that efforts to recover wreckage from the object shot down over the Yukon as well as those shot down off the Alaskan coast and over Lake Huron have been suspended.
The Canadian and American authorities had already indicated that they suspected that these objects were balloons, but that they did not pose a risk to national security.
Mme Anand was also asked about reports that Chinese monitoring buoys have been recovered from Canada’s Arctic waters, but she would not comment on the matter for national security reasons.
“The buoys in Canadian waters have been intercepted and recovered for operational security reasons,” she said.
Minister Anand and General Eyre were also hesitant to comment on reports that the Chinese balloon destroyed on February 4, after several days of flight over western Canada, may have jammed military communications.
The Chief of the Defense Staff mentioned that he was still trying to figure out what the purpose of this Chinese balloon was, the wreckage of which was recovered and is currently being analyzed by the FBI.
“At the end of the day, from my point of view, we don’t know,” he said.
“A surveillance balloon may offer some advantages, but there are other capabilities, including satellite capabilities, that could provide nearly identical, if not better, collection capabilities. »