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Why Not Use Bullets?

U.S. fighter jets fired five heat-seeking AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to take down four aerial objects floating high over U.S. and Canadian airspace between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12, U.S. officials said. The unidentified floating octagon shot down over Lake Huron in upper Michigan required two Sidewinders, because the first one failed to detect the object, "did not fuse," and crashed "harmlessly" into Lake Huron, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The military and Biden administration got some blowback for using $400,000 Sidewinders to take down four balloons, three of which are likely "benign" objects. But "the military's ability to respond to balloons and similar craft is constrained by physics and the capabilities of current weapons," The Washington Post reports, and you can't really pop a giant balloon with gunfire at 40,000 feet.

"You can fill a balloon full of bullet holes, and it's going to stay at altitude," David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and fighter pilot, tells the Post. The air pressure that high up doesn't allow helium to freely escape through small holes, even if fighter jets flying by at hundreds of miles per hour can riddle the near-stationary balloon with bullets.

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