The first missile launched by an F-16 fighter jet at the object near Lake Huron, Michigan, on Sunday did not hit the target, three people briefed on the matter told CNN.
The Pentagon and White House had not previously disclosed that the first missile did not strike the target. But NORTHCOM and NORAD Commander Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters on Sunday that acquiring and targeting the object was difficult because of its small size.
A radar-guided missile would have a “lower probability of success” because of the small size of the object, which also made it difficult to use the aircraft’s gun to shoot it down. “The pilots in each situation felt that that was really unachievable because of the size,” VanHerck said.
The pilots opted to use short-range AIM-9X Sidewinders, which are capable of seeing the heat contrast between an object and the surrounding area. But even so, the first missile failed to hit its target, sources said. It is not clear what happened to the missile.
“In each case, we have taken extreme caution to ensure that we limit potential collateral damage,” VanHerck said Sunday, though he did not acknowledge the missed shot.
CNN has reached out to the Pentagon for comment
Fox News was the first to report that the first missile missed.