(CNN) — The unidentified flying object shot down in Canadian airspace on Saturday appeared to be a “small metallic balloon with a payload tethered underneath,” according to a Pentagon memo sent to lawmakers Monday and obtained by CNN.
The memo offers the first official details of one of the three objects shot down in recent days that was previously described as a “cylindrical object.” The object flew near “sensitive US sites” before being shot down, the memo said.
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Defense officials also wrote in the memo to lawmakers that the object shot down over Lake Huron, Michigan on Sunday, “subsequently slowly descended” into the water after impact.
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A defense official told CNN Monday night that the Pentagon has not sent an official memo to Capitol Hill, but acknowledged that they continue to report and correspond with the relevant committees.
The new details come as lawmakers on Capitol Hill push for a better understanding of why the Biden administration shot down three unidentified objects in three days after the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that traversed the US the previous weekend. .
Lawmakers and congressional aides told CNN the back-to-back shootdowns at first felt like an overcorrection of the alleged Chinese spy balloon incident , though they cautioned it was still too early to say definitively.
“What is happening now is that we are actually looking for them with extra vigilance. We are looking for them in different ways. We’re starting to see them in different ways,” Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow said Monday on “CNN This Morning.”
“My speculative assumption as to why we’re seeing these things happen in rapid succession is that now we’re really tuned in to looking for them, right?” said Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. House of Representatives on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
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“The truth is that most of our sensors and most of what we were looking for did not look like balloons. Now, of course, we are looking for them. So, I think we’re probably finding more stuff,” Himes added.
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The Senate will hold a classified briefing for all senators on the toppled objects on Tuesday, according to a spokesman for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The White House on Monday denied that President Joe Biden’s recent swift actions to shoot down high-altitude objects that have been detected hovering over US airspace were the result of political pressure, following earlier criticism that he waited too long to order the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon.
“These were decisions based purely and simply on what was best for the American people,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said Monday.
A defense official said the radar used by the North American Aerospace Defense Command was adjusted after the initial sighting of the high-altitude balloon. “We are continuing to refine the detection setup, and that will not stop just because we have identified these smaller objects,” the official said.
A US official told CNN over the weekend that there has been caution within the administration about descriptions made by pilots of the unidentified objects due to the circumstances in which they were observed.
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“These objects did not look much alike and were much smaller than the PRC balloon and we will not definitively characterize them until we can recover the remains, which we are working on,” a National Security Council spokesperson said.
The memo said the object shot down over Alaska on Friday was the “size of a small car” and not similar to the Chinese balloon shot off the coast of South Carolina.
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“We have no further details about the object at this time, including the full scope of its capabilities, its purpose, or its origin,” the Pentagon memo states.
The memo said “recovery/exploitation” efforts were underway to recover the downed object in Canada’s Yukon Territory, noting that US and Canadian officials were trying to identify the debris. Canadian officials are leading that investigation, although the FBI was working with them, according to the memo.
“The events of the past several days should not be assumed to be connected,” the Pentagon noted in the memo.
US Coast Guard boats were deployed to search the Lake Huron site where the third object was shot down, and the Pentagon memo said no additional information was available on that object’s description.
“The priority now is the recovery and use of the object,” the memo said.
The first missile that was launched by an F-16 fighter jet at the object near Lake Huron on Sunday missed its target, three people briefed on the matter told CNN.