Former NORAD official: Adversaries might be testing our systems with aerial objects

A former North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) official on Monday said that adversaries might be testing U.S. systems with aerial objects crossing into American airspace

Retired Maj. Gen. Scott Clancy, the former NORAD director of operations and former deputy commander of the Alaskan NORAD region, suggested during an appearance on CNN’s “This Morning” that the four recent takedowns of aerial objects in U.S. skies are “the confluence” of both improved U.S. detection capabilities and “distinctive” efforts from adversaries. 

“The first thing is what Gen. VanHerck, my old commander, referred to as intelligence gaps that exist with our systems of detection across North America. As he said in his briefing after the initial shootdown of the Chinese-attributed balloon, that they have since closed those gaps … I think there’s maybe a little bit more to that, but what it does is it allows these systems to be seen more often,” Clancy said.

“The second thing, and this is just conjecture, from my perspective, I think you’re also seeing the confluence of distinctive activity by our adversaries to test our systems.”

Though the U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this month, the formal NORAD official was hesitant to attribute the additional three objects to Beijing, urging the importance of considering all adversaries. 

“[The] prudence in making sure that we can recover the objects before attribution is smart. But what I’m saying is: It smells to me, as the guy who was directed to conduct operations to defend North America. I’d be very suspicious, and I’d be on high alert to make sure that all of our adversaries are being counted,” Clancy said. 

The latest aerial object was shot down over Lake Huron on Sunday, marking the third day in a row the U.S. has taken action against an aerial object. Although defense officials have said they’re examining recovered parts of the first China-attributed balloon, it’s not yet clear what’s known about the additional objects.

“What you’re really trying to ascertain is what was the overall intent of doing this with these devices at this time? It looks to me to be a concerted effort, because you have any more than one object, then it looks like a coordinated effort,” Clancy said.

Tags NORAD surveillance surveillance balloon

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