A suspicious aerial object looking like a weather balloon has been spotted flying in Romania’s airspace.
The country’s air force scrambled two MiG 21 LanceR jets to the area in the southeast 10 minutes after its surveillance system detected the object, but they were unable to confirm its presence, the defence ministry said.
The jets stayed in the vicinity for 30 minutes before returning to base after not getting visual or radar confirmation of the target.
The ministry said the balloon was flying at an altitude of 11,000 metres.
It comes amid heightened tensions between the US and China after Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon earlier this month.
The US says it has recovered key sensors from the object, which spent around a week flying over the US and Canada before President Joe Biden ordered it to be downed off the South Carolina coast.
The sighting in Romania occurred the same day that Moldova, which borders Romania and Ukraine, briefly closed its air space for undisclosed security reasons – though the Romanian ministry did not link the two events.
US recovers ‘key sensors’ from suspected Chinese spy balloon
Beijing has high-altitude balloon programme linked to army, White House says
US says other objects shot down could be ‘tied to some commercial or benign purpose’
The US military has since shot down three more objects, but the White House has said there were no indications they were part of China’s spy programme.
White House spokesman John Kirby said no group or individual has claimed the objects and the US intelligence community believes they could be “tied to some commercial or benign purpose”.
The White House has said the objects’ altitude was low enough to pose a risk to civilian air space.
One of the objects was downed over sea ice near Deadhorse, Alaska, another was brought down over Canada’s Yukon territory and the third was shot down over Lake Huron.
The US military is yet to recover debris from the three objects, with tough weather conditions hampering recovery operations.
First missile strike missed
The first US missile fired at the unidentified object over Lake Huron missed its target and “landed harmlessly” in the water before a second one successfully hit, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
General Mark Milley said the military went to “great lengths” to make sure the strikes did not put civilians at risk, including identifying how large the debris field was likely to be and the maximum effective range of the missiles used.