The use of missiles to take down aerial objects is becoming increasingly common, as the U.S. military and Biden administration recently used five heat-seeking AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to take down four unidentified floating octagons over U.S. and Canadian airspace. While the use of these expensive missiles to take down what are likely “benign” objects has been met with some blowback, the military’s ability to respond to balloons and similar crafts is constrained by the capabilities of current weapons and the physics at 40,000 feet.
At such an altitude, air pressure does not allow helium to freely escape through small holes, even if fighter jets flying by at hundreds of miles per hour can puncture the near-stationary balloon with bullets. This was made apparent when Canadian CF-18 fighter jet pilots fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition at a giant runaway weather balloon in 1998, only to have it survive the assault and drift over British, Norwegian, and Russian airspace before finally crashing in Finland.
It is clear that the use of missiles is the most effective and efficient way to take down aerial objects, as the U.S. recently demonstrated. It is also a safer option than bullets, as missiles travel much faster and can be more accurate than bullets, reducing the risk of collateral damage.
The ability to use missiles in these situations is a valuable tool in the U.S. military’s arsenal and can be used to protect the airspace of the United States and its allies from potential threats. However, it is important that the use of these weapons is done responsibly and with proper consideration for the cost and potential risk of collateral damage. It is also important to consider the potential benefits of using alternative methods such as bullets or other non-lethal weapons.