US Scrambles F-22 Raptors To Intercept A High-Altitude ‘Threat’ Amid High-Octane Confrontation With Russia

Amid all the tensions in Ukraine with Russia, the US Air Force scrambled its F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to identify an object floating in the air off the shore of the Hawaiian island of Kauai on February 14.

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The incident has been confirmed by the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), but no further details have been disclosed since the matter is still under investigation.

The Adjutant General of Hawaii issued a statement on Twitter on February 17 saying, “Indo-Pacific Command detected a high-altitude object floating in the air in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.

In accordance with homeland defense procedures, Pacific Air Forces launched tactical aircraft to intercept and identify the object, visually confirming an unmanned balloon without observable identification markings.”

While the military has not revealed the details related to the aircraft deployed in the mission, F-22s, however, are the only fighter jets stationed in Hawaii.

The 199th Fighter Squadron (199 FS) is part of the 154th Wing of the Hawaii Air National Guard, based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii. The unit is equipped with the F-22A Raptor. The F-22 fighter jet is often assigned to the quick-reaction alert role. 

Locals have also confirmed that Raptors were used by the military in the mentioned event, which they refer to as a UFO. Videos shared on a Facebook group “Kauai Community” reveal what appears to be a fixed white oblong object in the sky, surrounded by at least two vapor trails (line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft engine exhaust or changes in air pressure).

Intrigued by the possibility of UFO sighting, some residents said that the object remained stationary. “Someone who works in aviation here on the island received communications that there were F-22s intercepting a UFO.

UFO means an unidentified flying object to them. I wonder what the fighter pilots saw. It being a STATIONARY object,” one comment reads. “The aviation person told me that the UFO is many miles offshore from Princeville over the ocean. It remained in one spot for at least 40 minutes.”

File Image: F-22 Raptor

Another resident wrote, “I watched this from Lihue to Kapaa. Two jets flying around and around. And this just stationary not even close to the altitude the jets were.” 

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a Newspaper based in Hawaii, Kauai County Councilwoman Felicia Cowen heard two booms, each strong enough to shake her house. “I would like to understand what were the powerful explosion sounds that were strong enough to shake my house in Kilauea, Kauai, and what looked like smoke in the sky. Was any object hit and did it explode? If so, what was it, and why?”

However, the “responding aircraft did not destroy the balloon,” as per an Air Force spokesperson who spoke to the paper on Thursday, February 17. “We don’t have anything else to provide at this time,” the official said, adding that the service is “actively monitoring it via joint capabilities and it is under evaluation.”

Why It Was A Cause Of Alarm

The incident alludes to a far bigger problem: the use of balloons to gather important intelligence. Balloons are used to collect intelligence on radar and communications systems. Even the Pentagon is working on the possibility of utilizing surveillance balloons.

In 2019, it was reported that the US military is testing high-altitude, solar-powered balloons that will allow the Pentagon to perform continuous surveillance across America. Since the Pacific Missile Range’s primary facility is located on Kauai’s northwestern coast, the recent event could be a serious source of concern for the US military. 

Pacific Missile Range Facility - Wikipedia
Pacific Missile Range Facility – Wikipedia

According to the US military, “the facility is part of  ‘the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supporting surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously.” Moreover, since the 2000s, the military has undertaken a number of missile defense experiments at this installation. 

There are about 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace and over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range. In addition to missile defense, the site also hosts training exercises ranging from small single-unit drills to large-scale multi-unit battle group scenarios.

Such an installation would pique the attention of America’s rivals given the important equipment located there, as well as the sensitive electromagnetic waveforms some of them emit.