13 February 2023

Melissa Dalton Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs and Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, Hold an Off-Camera, On-The-Record Briefing


(Lightly edited to fix obvious spelling errors.)

Melissa Dalton Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs and Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, Hold an Off-Camera, On-The-Record Briefing

Feb. 12, 2023

Melissa G. Dalton, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs, Department of Defense; Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary; General Glenn VanHerck

Q:  Secretary Dalton, are you on the line?

MELISSA DALTON:  Yes, hi.  Good evening.

BRIGADIER GENERAL PAT RYDER:  Great.  Thank you, ma’am.  Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and thank you very much for joining us tonight, particularly so short notice and on Superbowl Sunday here in the U.S. no less.

In light of tonight’s takedown of an airborne object over Lake Huron, Michigan, we wanted to ensure you have the latest information and also answer any questions you have in order to provide any additional context on NORAD’s efforts to monitor, tracking, and appropriately address these kinds of objects.

Joining us tonight is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Melissa Dalton, and General Glen VanHerck, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

Today’s discussion is on the record.  I’ll turn it over to Assistant Secretary Dalton who will provide some brief comments followed by General VanHerck, and then we’ll take your questions.

With that, over to you, Secretary Dalton.

DALTON:  Great.  Thanks so much, Pat, and good evening everyone, and thanks for joining the call.  We do you aim to be transparent about our military operations, and so we want to provide you an update on the most inside homeland defense operations that occurred this afternoon.  I’m going to provide a brief overview and then turn to General VanHerck to provide an operational perspective as well.

In light of the People’s Republic of China balloon that we took down last Saturday, we have been more closely scrutinizing our air space at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week We also know that a range of entities, including countries, companies, research organizations operate objects at these altitudes for purposes that are not nefarious, including legitimate research.

That said, because we have not yet been able to definitively assess what these recent objects are, we have acted out of an abundance of caution to protect our security and interests.  The spy balloon from the PRC was, of course, different in that we knew precisely what it was.  These most recent objects do not pose a kinetic military threat, but their path in proximity to sensitive DOD sites and the altitude that they were flying could be a hazard to civilian aviation and — and thus raised concerns.

Again, as we have said, we do not assess that the recent object posed any direct threat to people on the ground and near laser focus on confirming their nature and purpose, including through intensive efforts to collect debris in the remote locations where they have landed after being shot down.  We are in close coordination and cooperation with the Government of Canada, as well as through — through NORAD with the Canadian military.

Thanks very much.  Look forward to your questions.  And I’ll hand it over to General VanHerck.

GENERAL GLENN VANHERCK:  Thanks, Secretary Dalton.  Appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today and provide you an update.

Every day, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command monitor the approaches to North America and the United States of America across all domains.  And yesterday evening, approximately 1645 or 4:45 Eastern Time on 11 February, NORAD detected a radar contact in Canadian airspace approximately 70 or so miles north of the United States border.

We began tracking that radar contact and when it became clear, it was unknown.  Following normal NORAD procedures, it was not talking to the Federal Aviation Administration (inaudible) and approaching our Air Defense Identification Zone.  I scrambled the F-15 fighters from Portland to Oregon, along with a KC-135 tanker support from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington to go investigate to identify what the radar contact was.

At 1800 Eastern, or 6 P.M.  Eastern, the radar track crossed into the United States sovereign airspace.  At 7:04 Eastern Time, the F-15s with their tanker support were on station to investigate.  We continue to investigate.  What’s important to point out, this is near dark within a half-hour 45 minutes of dark.  We continue to investigate to identify, locate the object we were unsuccessful.

It’s also important to point out in this part of United States that we did not have data link for (Q.E. ?) like we had had before.  Data link allows the radars on the ground to share information to the fighters airborne, allowing them to queue their sensors and their visual acuity in an attempt to visually identify the track.

At sunset, we were unable to find the track.  Also, our radar operators lost the track on radar.  And the FAA was never tracking the radar.  Therefore, that’s why we called it an anomaly because we weren’t able to identify it.

Several hours later, overnight, we began seeing an intermittent radar contact east of the position in Montana as it approached Wisconsin.  At that point, we’ve developed a game plan once we started seeing another radar contact to go investigate.  It’s likely, but we have not confirmed that the track that we saw at Wisconsin was likely the same track in Montana.

We elected to scramble with the best position to intercept if — if we needed to engage with the lowest collateral damage.  And that was in the eastern portion of Wisconsin, just prior to Lake Michigan when the fighters came on the — the track of interest at that time.  We monitored the track of interest as it passed over Lake Michigan.  We assessed that it was no threat, physical threat, military threat, (inaudible) infrastructure.  That’s my assessment.  It continues to be today.

However, at this point, we still have an unknown force of broader discussion about what is this object that’s in our U.S. sovereign airspace.  It’s within our Federal Aviation Administration airspace, not providing any communications, not providing any notice that could — excuse me, potentially help us deconflict.  And therefore, we wanted to investigate further.

We did.  It tracked across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We were cleared to engage the target in Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan over land and, ultimately, down the object at this point about 15 nautical miles east of the Upper Peninsula in Lake Huron.  What we saw was in object that began drifting, potentially most likely landed in Canadian waters in Lake Huron And we have ongoing recovery operations with Coast Guard assets moving towards this area.

I would like to highlight this entire time.  I remain in contact with my Canadian boss, Air General Wayne Eyre.  The Canadians were very supportive.  The Canadians launched two F-18s plus their tanker as well to support this operation.

The fighters were from Madison Wisconsin Air National Guard Unit.  We utilized the tanker from Pittsburgh Air National Guard, and we had AWACS on station from Tinker Air Force Base Oklahoma.

That’s all I have for my operational update.  I look forward to your questions (inaudible).

GEN. RYDER:  Secretary Dalton, General VanHerck, thank you both.  For our first question, we’ll go to Associated Press, Tara Copp.

Q:  Hi, thank you very much both of you for doing this at this late hour.

For Secretary Dalton and for General VanHerck, you know, we’ve had four shoot downs in the last eight days.  Can you talk about the sense of concern you have?  And should Americans be worried?  This is a very rare thing to have this many shoot downs or any shoot downs over U.S. airspace.

And then secondly, General VanHerck, can you give us any indication of what your pilots are seeing in reporting?  Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Hey, before we jump into the question, just reminder everyone, please mute your phones.  Thank you.  It sounds like we have an open mike out there.  My apologies.  Over to you, ma’am.

DALTON:  Right.  Tara, thanks so much for — for the question and for dialing in and also at — at a late hour.  The (thinking ?) security of the American people, our job number one for — for us at the Department of Defense and — and certainly for NORAD and — and General VanHerck’s team, we — following the track of the PRC balloon last week, as I mentioned at the top, we have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in the objects detected.  But we also know that there are range of entities out there, whether they’re private companies, research organization that operate objects at these altitudes for purposes that are not nefarious, including legitimate research.

But because we have not been able to definitively assess what these recent objects are, the — the President wanted to act out of an abundance of caution to protect our security and in our interest.  So we will remain vigilant.  We have made these enhancements to — to our radars.  And the operations this past week have been successful in — in bringing down these potential threats.

And we are hard at work now recovering the debris to better understand, but certainly, the capabilities of the surveillance balloon from the PRC, but also the nature of these unidentified objects to better understand where they surveillance objects, what was their purpose, what are their capabilities.  And we look forward to sharing more as we learn more in — in the coming day.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Thanks, Melissa.  Let me just add on.  So your question is about assessments being concern.  I assess all of these to be non-kinetic threats to homeland.  And I don’t see that changing even when we recovered debris.  Every day, NORAD, United States Norther Command are ready to defend (inaudible) as required.  So I think this is a story where we were successful in detecting and if — if needed to respond.

What I would tell you is what we’re seeing is very, very small objects that produce a very, very low radar cross-section.  I’m not going to go into detail about shapes or anything like that really because it’s really, really difficult for pilots at the altitudes we’re operating.  These are very, very slow object in the space, if you will, going at the speed of the wind essentially.  And our pilots are (inaudible) 100 miles per hour to give us what I would consider a factual scientific-based description of what we see.  Therefore, I — I’m hesitant to tell you that.

With that being said, I would like to talk about the radar and the challenges we face.  Some — something going this slow is (inaudible).

So as Assistant Secretary Dalton talked about, radars essentially filter out information based on speed.  So you can set various gates.  We call them velocity gates that allow us to filter out low-speed clutter.  So if you have radars on all the time that we’re looking at anything from zero speed up to, say, 100, you would see a lot more information.

We have adjusted some of those gates to give us better fidelity on seeing smaller objects.  You can also filter out by altitude.  And so, with some adjustments, we’ve been able to get a better a categorization of radar tracks now.  And that’s why I think you’re seeing these overall.  Plus, there’s a heightened alert to look for this information.  I hope that adds additional clarification.

Q:  Just one quick follow-up, you know, four shoot downs in eight days, when was the last time that U.S. fighters were scrambled and shot something down over U.S. airspace?  I — I can’t remember anything, and it just seems like there’s a — a large and quick escalation to shooting down objects.

GEN. VANHERCK:  (inaudible) to get with our history, I believe this is the first time within United States or America airspace that NORAD or United States Northern Command has taken kinetic action against an airborne object.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you, Tara.  Thank you, sir/ma’am.  Let’s go to Jen Griffin, Fox News.

Q:  Hey.  Thanks, Pat.  This is Liz.  I’ll be asking for Jen today.  Are these balloons that have been shot down since Friday, are — are they weather balloons?

GEN. VANHERCK:  You want me to take that?

DALTON:  Thank you very much for your question.  Yeah, go ahead — go ahead, Glen.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Yeah.  So I’m not going to categorize these balloons.  We call them objects for a reason.  Certainly, the event of South Carolina coast for the Chinese spy balloon, that was clearly a balloon.

These are objects.  I am not able to categorize how they stay aloft.  It could be a gaseous type of balloon inside a structure or it could be some type of a propulsion system.  But clearly, they’re — they’re able to stay aloft.

I would be hesitant to — and urge you not to attribute into any specific country.  We don’t know.  That’s why it’s so critical to get our hands on these so that we can further assess and analyze what they are.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  Next, we’ll go to Nancy Youssef, Wall Street Journal.

Q:  Thank you.  So both — so both — you’re saying that their preliminary assessment is that they don’t pose a kinetic threat, but that they are objects and not balloons, and that you need to sort of adjust your radar.  And I guess, I’m trying to get an understanding, what is the — the expectation going forward at least in the next few days?  Are you — is it your plan to continue to — to shoot these down or to make adjustments such that you can make assessments better that they don’t always have to happen when you’re shooting something down?  I’m trying to get a sense of the adjustment, General VanHerck, that you referred to and what that will look like practically speaking in the days ahead.  Thank you.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Nancy, thanks for the question.  So the expectation going forward is we’ll continue to doing — doing our mission exactly like we’ve been doing.  Now, we’re approaching 65 years for NORAD.

If there’s an unknown object that enters either Canadian or U.S. airspace, we will go out.  We will attempt to identify if it’s a threat, kinetic threat, military threat.  I am delegated the authority if it commits a hostile act or hostile intent.  Let me describe hostile act.

Hostile act would be shooting a missile, dropping a bomb, taking aggressive action.  Hostile intent would be maneuvering to an offensive position against our forces or something like that.

In that situation, I am clear directly to engage without further permission.  In this case, there is no hostile act or hostile intent, but it is an unknown object and therefore, we have to have a further discussion across the government, both the government of Canada, in some cases, and the government of the United States to assess is it a risk to national security by passing over key covered facilities such as our missile fields and other structures?  Is it a risk to flight safety?  Is it a risk to personnel on the ground?

And then if you’re going to take action, you have to make an assessment of what is the risk of collateral damage to potentially boats and mariners out of the water, our infrastructure and people on the ground.  That’s essentially the process you go to and have to go through.  We’ve done that on each one of these.  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you very much.  Let’s go to David Martin, CBS.

Q:  You say that this is the — the first time we’ve ever had shoot downs at least to the best of your memory.  But has any of this happened before the Chinese balloon was discovered?  Have there been these unidentified objects, which have been tracked for a while and then left U.S. airspace, but — but have entered, and for one reason or another, we’re not — what I should say — prosecuted like you’ve — you’ve been doing these — the one since the — the — the Chinese balloon?

GEN. VANHERCK:  David, so great, great question.  Thanks for that.  So we have scrambled in the past against radar tracks that we’ve been unable to correlate with fighters.  That has happened over years.  And sometimes it’s attributed to potentially being birds.  Sometimes it’s been attributed to weather.  Sometimes we don’t know what to attribute it to.

What I would say is you go back and look over time.  We’ve been able to figure out the best way to track various sources, including the high-altitude balloons that we’ve talked about recently back to 2019 and prior, and couple that with our adjustments of our radar.  It gives us a better ability to detect and have better domain awareness as you’ve heard me talk about.

I don’t know if Secretary Dalton wants to add anything to that.

DALTON:  Thank you very much, General VanHerck.  I would just add to that that as — as we learn more about these objects and certainly, the PRC balloon, they’re going to enhance our understanding of the characteristics of them that will perhaps enable us to — to look back at prior instances that were potentially overlooked or what part looked closely enough at, you know, to see if — if there’s a comparison to be made there, and certainly will help us going forward to better identify and — and track these types of objects in the land.

Q:  Have you reached the — the object that went down off north of Alaska?

GEN. VANHERCK:  David, we’re — we’re actively searching for that objects right now.  I’ve got an Navy P-8, which is surveilling there and with helicopters as well.  Once we locate that object, we’ll put an arctic security package in there and begin the analysis to recovery, but we don’t have it right now.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Courtney Kube, NBC.

Q:  Hi, thanks.  How are you so confident that the initial balloon was Chinese?  Were there some markings on it?  I’m trying to figure out why?  Because from — from very early on, it seemed there was a real confidence versus these last three that we can’t get any sense of who owns them or what they were doing.

UNKNOWN:  There’s some sort of an emergency …

DALTON:  Thanks, Courtney.  We — we know from …

UNKNOWN:  … (inaudible) that was (inaudible) closed now.

GEN. RYDER:  We have a hot mike out there.  Go ahead, Secretary Dalton.

DALTON:  Thanks, Courtney.  Yeah, thank you.  So, Courtney, for the — the PRC balloon, we had a basis in intelligence to know definitively that its point of origin was the People’s Republic of China.

Q:  So what I’m — what I’m struggling with now is these — these last three that we still are calling objects.  We don’t know what they are.  You knew that the Chinese one was — was surveilling and potentially, you knew who it belonged to, and — and yet there was no effort to — there — there was a decision not to take it down until it was over the ocean.

I understand that there was concerns about everything on the ground there, but can someone explain why the decision is made to take these last three unknown objects?  We don’t know who they belong to.  We don’t know what they’re doing, but, you know — but I still don’t quite understand why the decision was made to literally in — in succession, it seems like they’re being — being taken down faster and faster and faster.  I mean, is there — is there some other concern or threat that you’re tracking that — that is giving a heightened sense of need to take these down?

DALTON:  Courtney, the — thank you.  The — the process that General VanHerck described earlier in terms of criteria that we work through to determine whether, you know, these objects or in the case of the PRC balloon — the balloon was — was a threat.  We look to see if it’s going to pose a kinetic military threat.  In both cases, that — that was not the case.

We look to see is it surveilling potentially DOD sensitive sites.  We knew that was the case in both instances, then it was even more concerning in the case of the PRC balloon because we knew that it was a PRC balloon.

We also consider is it a threat to civilian aviation.  In the case of the PRC balloon, it was flying in an altitude, but it did not pose a threat to civilian aviation.  And so that was part of the criteria for bringing it down over — over the water when we could basically do so.  In addition to its enormous size, it was 200 feet tall payload with the size of three school buses.

And, you know, for these — these unidentified objects being much smaller, but unfortunately flying at an altitude that — that did pose a risk — risk potentially to safe civilian aviation, that was part of the criteria that went into deciding to take the objects down over the last three days sooner in — in the — the tracking cycle.  So, you know, that’s the process that we have rigorously worked through over the last week.

General VanHerck, anything you want to add?

GEN. VANHERCK:  So, Melissa, I think you’re — you’re right on.  I don’t have anything to add.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Brett Dahlberg, Michigan Radio.

Q:  Hi, thanks.  A missile seems like a particularly destructive weapon to be using if there is a desire to investigate and figure out what these are afterwards.  Can you explain why — explain the weapon’s choice.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Absolutely.  Melissa, if you don’t mind, I’ll take this one.  So, first of all, maintaining a radar track on an object this small is very hard.  So taking a radar shot such as AIM-120 would be a lower probability of success.  We assessed taking a gunshot yesterday in that event, as well as today.  And the pilots in each situation felt that that was really unachievable because of the size, especially yesterday in the altitude, and also because of a — the challenge to acquire it visually because it’s so small.

It’s also potentially a safety of flight issue because you have to get so close to the object before you see it that you potentially could fly into the debris or the actual object.  Therefore, in each situation, the AIM-9X, a heat seeking missile or infrared missile that sees contrast, has been the — the weapons of choice against the — the objects was — we’ve been seeing.

In each case, we have taken extreme caution to ensure that we limit potential collateral damage.  So today, we work closely with the FAA to clear out the airspace.  I — I gave directions specifically to the pilots to use their visual acuity to check for mariners on the ground, airplanes in the air, to clear with their radars as well.  And when they were comfortable that we could minimize collateral damage, they selected the best weapon today that was the AIM-9X, and they took the shot.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Helene Cooper, New York Times.

Q:  Hi, thanks, Pat, and thanks for doing this.  This is for General VanHerck.  Because you still haven’t been able to tell us what these things are that we are shooting out of the sky, that raises the question, have you ruled out aliens or extraterrestrials?  And if so, why?  Because that is what everyone is asking us right now.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Thanks for the question, Helena.  I’ll let the intel community and the counterintelligence community figure that out.  I haven’t ruled out anything.  At this point, we continue to assess every threat or potential threats unknown that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it.

Q:  Thanks.

GEN. RYDER:  Let’s go to Oren Lieberman, CNN.

Q:  Well, thanks for doing this.  Are you currently tracking other unidentified objects in U.S. airspace?  And you’ve now shot down three objects in three days.  Are we to believe these are the first three unidentified objects in U.S. airspace or do you believe there are dozens or potentially hundreds of other such objects that have flown through U.S. airspace?  And have any of these recent objects interfered with pilot sensors?  Thank you.

GEN. VANHERCK:  For your last question, I’m not going to talk about the sensors and what — what we’ve seen.  If you don’t mind, that — that needs to come out through the intel communities and what we’ve seen.  I’m not currently tracking any other objects at this point.  That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be more at some point in the future, but right now, we’re not seeing anything.

As far as, you know, why previously what — I don’t know if there was more.  We do know after the fact that there was high-altitude balloons because we went back and we were able to reconstruct them.  As far as these specific objects at this time, I’m unaware to say it’s certainly possible, but I — I don’t have the fidelity to give you the answer.  We will go look at the data to see if we can figure anything out about the potential, of course, not seeing these previously.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  We go to Phil — Phil Stewart, Reuters.

Q:  Hey, there.  I just want to double check what exactly — I know you talked about the — the fact that you would — you know, we weren’t track — looking for slower speed aircraft and — and that the — these objects had a lower radar cross-section.  But can you just kind of explain to us what makes these objects, in particular, more difficult to track or why you weren’t tracking them before?

And then — and I guess the other question I think everybody is kind of wondering is you now — you’ve tweaked everything.  Should the American public be expecting, you know, lots more shoot downs?  Thanks.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Thanks, Phil.  What — what makes it really hard to detect and track is — is their size and potentially shape.  We’ll get our hands on them at some point.  I can’t confirm that right now, but that could certainly play a — a rule or a — a factor in this.

As far as going forward, I’ll go back to my mission is to defend our homeland in both my NORAD and NORTHCOM hat.  Anything that approaches North America, if it’s unknown, I’m going to go identify it and assess if this is a threat.  If it is a threat, I’ll shoot it down.  If it’s not a threat, the kinetic military threat that we talked about earlier is not committing a hostile act or hostile intent, then we’ll have a broader discussion.

Your second part of that is really about what are we going do in the future is really a policy decision.  I’ll ask Secretary Dalton if she wants to add anything.

DALTON:  I’d only add again that the safety and security of the American people is — is job number one for us.  And for any of these operations, we (inaudible) them to ensure that there’s going to be little to no collateral damage.  None of the operations over the last week have resulted in collateral damage.

Q:  But Assistant Secretary Dalton, could you just explain then, is it — is it — could — could we expected that there’s been a policy decision that will lead us to near daily shoot downs as — as we detect these things more and more?

DALTON:  So, thank you.  We are taking this very much on a case by case basis.  Each operation has — has been different, and we will certainly keep you updated as we continue to learn more about these objects and the PRC balloon, and what that means for us going forward.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  Let’s go to Ben Brasch, Washington Post.

Q:  Thank you very much both for taking the time.  More directly in reference to the last question, you said our policy or preference of the United States government still to not shoot down anything over U.S. territory.  When is it that you make that call?  I know you talked about assessing if anything was a kinetic threat, but is it policy or preference?  Thank you very much.

DALTON:  The — the policy is to — to defend the — the United States and its sovereign territory or — and airspace will stop.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you.  We have time for just a — a few more.  Let’s go to Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times.

Q:  Thanks very much, Pat.  Two questions, at this point, are you able to assess that the — the three objects over Alaska, Yukon, and Lake Huron, are they similar objects as far as you can tell?  And then secondly, the Biden administration has said that it realized this was a problem last year in brief congress in August.  So I’m curious why didn’t you recalibrate the gateways on the radar systems earlier if you knew that Chinese balloons were — were an issue at that point?

GEN. VANHERCK:  Yeah, let me talk about the — the — so the — the way I would characterize similar, they’re similar in size, similar in speeds that go with the wind on these objects that we’ve seen.  As far as specific shapes, we’ve got to get our hands on those to see fidelity of the detail of shape, how they get airborne, do they have propulsion.  All of those things are still to be determined.

Your — your second point of that question, remind me what that was.

Q:  So you said that recently the reason you may be detecting more things as you recalibrated or changed the thresholds for gateways on the radar systems, I wonder given that you briefed — not you, but the administration briefed Congress on the Chinese balloon program last August, why were gateways not changed back then?

GEN. VANHERCK:  Yeah, so that’s a great question.  You know, the timing of the intel and adjustments that I will say is we didn’t necessarily need it — see a need to change (inaudible).  The Chinese high altitude balloon alerted us to the — the speed, the slowness, and being able to detect.  We decided to do that at that time.  I hope that makes sense to you.

Q:  But …

DALTON:  I would just add …

Q:  … just given that there were questions about the program, you know, as early as August last year, and those balloons were flying at those kinds of speeds then, was there not a discussion about changing the gateways back then?

DALTON:  I can perhaps help here as well.  The — the briefings to Congress last year were done, I believe, through intelligence channels.  And again, you know, that was intelligence that was better understood much retrospectively based on elements of the equation that they were discovered after the fact.  And then the high-altitude balloon from the PRC that was shot down last weekend was categorically different than the prior high-altitude balloons because it transited the entire Continental United States, starting with the Alaska across Canada and — and across CONUS.

And so, it’s quite different than — than the prior instances.  And — and on that basis, we determined that we needed to enhance our — our radar.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  We’ve got time for just two more questions here.  We’ll go to Peter Martin, Bloomberg.

Q:  Hi, thanks very much for doing this.  And I wanted to ask has Secretary Austin talked yet with Wei Fenghe from the PRC about the first balloon?  And then in addition, does DOD communicated with the Chinese military at any level about any of these subsequent objects?  Thank you.

DALTON:  Thank you.  There — there have been contacts made with the PRC on the high-altitude balloons.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you very much.  And final question will go to Brian Everstein, Aviation Week.

Q:  Thank you so much for doing this.  Back to the discussion on the AIM-9X, can you talk about what about these objects gave off enough heat signature for the I.R. seeker without any sort of propulsion system?  And secondly, the F-16 presumably has a targeting pod.  I assume you had eyes off from other aircraft.  Will the Pentagon be releasing any of these images?

GEN. VANHERCK:  I’ll let policy decide on — on the images.  That’s not mine.  But the — the AIM-9X, first, I would make an assumption, there wasn’t a propulsion system or there was.  What I would say is what you have is a — a contrast between the — the, you know, the — the environment and the objects them self, which gives often I.R. contrast, which allows the missile to track.  And that’s been very, very effective for the AIM-9X.

Melissa, over to you on the releasing — releasing of photos.

DALTON:  Thank you.  We — we absolutely want to be transparent about our military operations and what we are learning about these objects and the PRC high-altitude balloon and hope to share more in the coming days.

GEN. RYDER:  My — my apologies, I had one last question here just to Nick Slatten, Task and Purpose.  And that will be our final question.

Q:  Thank you.  I wanted to see when we talk about investigating or investigating the debris of this, who’s taking the lead on that?  Is that the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office?  And then also, we’ve seen three shoot downs in three days.  Is — if this was to continue, if this (inaudible) operations was to continue, would that — is that proving to be (inaudible) strain on units or all units able to handle this kind of rapid scrambling in that regard?  Thank you.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Melissa, if you want that, you may take it.

DALTON:  You go right ahead, thank you.

GEN. VANHERCK:  Thanks.  All right.  So as far as the recovering, the — technically the FBI has the lead under counterintelligence authorities.  They are embedded with DOD because we have the resources to enable them to conduct the operations.  In Canada, the Canadians have the lead.  Their Royal Canadian Mounted Police are embedded with their Canadian Special Operations Forces, and we have the FBI forces as well liaison with them to make sure that we’re sharing as much information as possible.

Q:  Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Secretary — Secretary Dalton, General VanHerck, thank you both very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is all the time we have for this evening.  Thank you again for joining us.  We will be posting a transcript to defense.gov once it’s available later tonight.  Thank you very much.  Out here.

Q:  Have a great night.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Go Eagles.