Mystery Over Missing Sidewinder Missile That Failed to Shoot Down UFO

Two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles were used in the U.S. Air Force takedown of an unidentified object flying in United States airspace on Sunday, with the whereabouts of the first missile unknown.

The Pentagon said on Sunday that an F-16 fighter jet had fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile to "successfully shoot down an airborne object" flying over Lake Huron, in Michigan. The unknown object was flying at around 20,000 feet, according to the Pentagon, and President Joe Biden authorized the move on the recommendation of Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and military leaders.

The Department of Defense did not consider the object a "kinetic military threat," but deemed it a "safety flight hazard and a threat due to its potential surveillance capabilities."

On Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that work was underway to "recover remnants" of the object downed from U.S. airspace, saying it was first detected at 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday by the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

F-16 Jet and a AIM-9 Sidewinder
The above photos show the U.S. Air Force's F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter and an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile (inset). AIM-9X Sidewinders have been used to shoot down unidentified flying objects across North American airspace this weekend. Getty/David Monniaux

A separate unidentified object was shot above Canada on Saturday, and a third UFO was downed by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet in Alaskan airspace on Friday. Both missiles were AIM-9X Sidewinders.

The object shot on Sunday marked the fourth unidentified flying object targeted by U.S. missiles in little over a week, after what the Pentagon called a "Chinese surveillance balloon" was taken out over South Carolina on February 4. The F-22 Raptor jet that took out the "Chinese spy balloon" earlier this month also used an AIM-9X Sidewinder.

But the F-16 jet tasked with shooting the object over Lake Huron on Sunday "missed on its first attempt," according to Fox News correspondent Lucas Tomlinson.

Citing U.S. officials, Tomlinson wrote on Twitter that a second Sidewinder air-to-air missile was required, and it is "not clear where the first missile landed."

A Defense Department spokesperson told Newsweek they were "certainly aware of the reporting on this," but did not have any other details they could provide at this time.

The Sidewinder was modified by the U.S. Air Force for use with fighter aircraft after originally being developed by the U.S. Navy for air defense, according to the Air Force. A supersonic air-to-air missile, it is kitted out with an infrared heat-seeking guidance system and a "high-explosive warhead."

The cost of each Sidewinder missile is listed as "variable" by the Air Force, but a Newsweek estimate based on the defense budget for the 2021 fiscal year suggests that AIM-9x Sidewinders range between $430,818 and $472,000. The AIM-9X is the newest variant of the missile.

Jodi Vittori, a professor of practice and co-chair of the Global Politics and Security program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service said that the Sidewinder is "relatively cheap, as far as air-to-air missiles go."

"The warhead is relatively small, as is the missile, limiting potential damage if it misses or something goes wrong," Vittori previously told Newsweek.

National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, said on Monday that the objects downed in Alaska and Canada "are in remote and wintry terrain," with the object over Michigan likely to be "in very deep water in Lake Huron." This makes salvage operations more difficult, he added.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Air Force for comment.

Update 2/14/23, 8:09 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from the Department of Defense.