BRUSSELS — The first U.S. missile fired at an unidentified aerial object over Lake Huron missed the target and “landed harmlessly” in the water before a second one successfully hit, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.

Gen. Mark Milley’s acknowledgment of the errant strike comes amid questions about whether the shootdown of aerial objects that military officials say didn’t pose a threat is creating unnecessary risk.

The military went to “great lengths” to make sure the strikes did not put civilians at risk, Milley said, including identifying what the debris field size was likely to be and the maximum effective range of the missiles used. He also said in each case the Pentagon worked to ensure the air space was clear and to evaluate the potential debris field, before embarking on such a strike.

“We’re very, very careful to make sure that those shots are in fact safe,” Milley said. “And that’s the guidance from the president. Shoot it down, but make sure we minimize collateral damage and we preserve the safety of the American people.”

The object taken down Sunday was the third in as many days to be shot from the skies. The White House has said the objects differed in size and maneuverability from a Chinese surveillance balloon that U.S. fighter jets shot down earlier this month, but that their altitude was low enough to pose a risk to civilian air space.

Milley was in Brussels with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet with members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on additional weapons and defensive needs for Kyiv in advance of Russia’s anticipated spring offensive.

Fox News was the first to report the missed missile strike.

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