Aviation hobbyists and soaring superheroes should triple-check that they don’t deviate from their flight plans because Uncle Sam is feeling trigger-happy in the skies above lately. After popping the Chinese spy balloon last weekend, the White House says that President Biden ordered the Pentagon to shoot down an unidentified thing off the frozen northeastern coast of Alaska yesterday.
We don’t know much about what met its demise at the business end of a Sidewinder missile, only that it was an “object” about the size of a car that had traversed some distance over Alaska at 40,000 feet and potentially posed a threat to civilian aircraft. What remains of it went down hard on the Arctic Ocean ice sheet, with efforts to recover the debris now underway.
Whether it’s open season for sending unauthorized aircraft over U.S. airspace or Biden is merely responding to increased public pressure to shoot first and ask questions later after congressional Republicans seized on the wandering spy balloon as a political cudgel is unclear. The wall-to-wall coverage of the dastardly dirigible may have primed Biden to keep the Air Force on speed dial lest he get marked as the president who let the spy balloons wander free.
In the best-case scenario, we just shot down an innocent meteorological airship or an errant agglomeration of birthday balloons, someone’s too-elaborate school science project, or some kind of marketing ploy gone horribly wrong. In the worst case, China is jabbing at us with a procession of differently-sized spy craft that we’re going to have to keep scrambling the jets for.
Actually, in the very worst case, some friendly extraterrestrials sent a probe only to find out firsthand about the dexterity of human aircraft and the potency of our weapons. Let’s hope they weren’t able to get a signal out to their friends back in Andromeda or wherever before they went down. At the very least, the specter of alien invasion might be what we need to set our differences aside and make common cause with our Earth-bound would-be adversaries.