A US fighter jet shot down an unidentified object ( UIO ) over Alaska on Friday, the White House said, although it remained unclear what the purpose or origin of the target was.

“The president ordered the military to down the object,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. The incident occurred within the last hour, he said at approximately 1930 GMT.

The object was much smaller than a huge Chinese balloon that crossed the United States last week and was shot down by a US fighter jet off the Atlantic coast on Saturday, Kirby said.

It was “roughly the size of a small car,” he said, and was flying at about 40,000 feet.

It went down in northern Alaska near the Canadian border and fell in frozen water, making recovery feasible, Kirby said.

“We do expect to be able to recover the debris, since it fell not only within our territorial space, but what we believe is frozen water, so a recovery effort will be made,” he said.

Biden ordered the shoot-down because the object posed “a reasonable threat” to aviation.

But Kirby underlined that nothing is yet known about the object.

“We do not know who owns it, whether state owned or corporate owned,” he said. “We don’t understand the full purpose.”

However, the US military sent a plane to observe the object before it was shot down and “the pilot’s assessment was that this was not manned.”