A large surveillance balloon attributed to China is flying over the western and northern United States at high altitudes. On Thursday, Nellis-based F-22 Raptor fighter jets were spotted near Montana, reportedly shadowing the balloon.
In a statement, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), which coordinates the air defense of the United States and Canada, said that “the ballon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time. The baloon is currently traveling at altitude well above commercial air traffic”.
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The Pentagon acknowledged that this incident is not unheard of in recent years, but that this time the balloon incursion is longer. “Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”
“First, we are confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” said Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder.
Chinese spy balloon size of three buses with a tech bay spotted flying over the U.S.
The spy ballon was first spotted on Feb. 1 over Montana, Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of three bases in the U.S. with Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). pic.twitter.com/Dmyh07VEuU
— Clash Report (@clashreport) February 3, 2023
The Air Force (USAF) even thought about shooting the balloon down over a sparsely populated area of the state of Montana, but recognized that there could be some risk of causing injury to people on the ground, indicating that it was a large balloon.
Despite this, the Pentagon declined to estimate the dimensions of the flying object. The balloon route, however, suggests that it was some kind of information gathering related to the fact that the state of Montana is home to one of the three sites that have nuclear missile silos in the US.
The US government declined to speculate on the reasons for sending a surveillance balloon if China has spy satellites capable of capturing images and information in low orbit.