Airspace over Lake Michigan briefly restricted as 'national defense airspace'

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(NewsNation) — The Federal Aviation Administration briefly issued a NOTAM for northwest Michigan, declaring an area that includes part of Lake Michigan as “national defense airspace.”

The FAA did not clarify why they have stopped civilian use of the airspace. Neither the FAA nor the Pentagon has offered comment on the restriction.

Previously this weekend, the agency declared a national defense space over Montana.

Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale tweeted that this was not an anomaly.

“I am in constant communication with NORCOM and they have just advised me that they have confidence there IS an object and it WAS NOT an anomaly. I am waiting now to receive visual confirmation. Our nation’s security is my priority,” his tweet read.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the two objects shot down in recent days were balloons, though smaller ones than the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was downed last week.

Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC’s “This Week” that he was briefed on Saturday night by President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

On Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ordered a cylindrical, high-altitude object shot down over Canadian airspace. The country’s investigators are now looking for wreckage from the object, which was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet over the Yukon territory, Reuters reports.

On Friday, an object roughly the size of a small car was downed over remote Alaska, according to the White House.Both this object and the object downed over Canada appear to be balloons, according to U.S. Senate lawmakers.

Asked whether those two recent objects were balloons, Schumer said, “They believe they were, yes, but much smaller than the first one.”

The first balloon, which was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 3, was capable of collecting electronic communication. U.S. officials came to that conclusion based on photos of the balloon taken while it was in flight as well as debris recovered from the ocean.

The alleged spy balloon was believed to be part of a fleet developed for surveillance and an intelligence official told reporters balloons had been flown over more than 40 countries.

The Biden administration has said the first balloon was not a major breach, noting intelligence-gathering is happening all the time. Republicans have criticized the president for not shooting the balloon down sooner, but he has defended his decision to shoot the balloon down over the water to avoid potential deaths.

The balloons are believed to be part of China’s efforts to beat the U.S. in the sphere of “near space.” While balloons are older technology they can hold some advantages over satellites, including the ability to hover over a target for an extended period of time. They are also more difficult to detect with radar than other means of surveillance.

Officials said there is a blind spot when it comes to Chinese balloons, with intelligence indicating balloons had traversed U.S. airspace before during the Trump administration.

The U.S. is restricting six Chinese companies believed to be connected with the balloon program. Those companies will not be able to access U.S. technology without government approval.

China has maintained the first balloon was a civilian weather balloon and has called the U.S. irresponsible and “hysterical” for shooting down the flying objects.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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