By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Air Force general overseeing North American airspace said on Sunday after a series of shoot-downs of unidentified objects that he would not rule out aliens or any other explanation yet, deferring to U.S. intelligence experts.
Asked whether he had ruled out an extraterrestrial origin for three airborne objects shot down by U.S. warplanes in as many days, General Glen VanHerck said: “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 threat, unknown, that approaches North America with an attempt to identify it,” said VanHerck, head of U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command.
VanHerck’s comments came during a Pentagon briefing on Sunday after a U.S. F-16 fighter jet shot down an octagonal-shaped object over Lake Huron on the U.S.-Canada border, acting on orders from U.S. President Joe Biden.
It was the third unidentified flying object to be knocked out of the sky by U.S. warplanes since Friday, following the Feb. 4 downing of a suspected Chinese weather balloon that put North American air defenses on high alert.
Another U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said separately after the news briefing that the military had seen no evidence suggesting that any of the objects in question were of extraterrestrial origin.
VanHerck told reporters that the military was unable to immediately determine the means by which any of the three latest objects were kept aloft, the means of their propulsion or where they were coming from.
“We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason, said VanHerck, who is head of the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the U.S. Air Force Northern Command.
The incidents come as the Pentagon has undertaken a new push in recent years to investigate military sightings of UFOs – rebranded in official government parlance as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAPs.
However, the government’s effort to investigate anomalous, unidentified objects — whether they are in space, the skies or even underwater — has led to hundreds of reports that are being investigated, senior military leaders have said.
But so far, the Pentagon has not found evidence to indicate Earthly visits from intelligent alien life, those officials have said.