Defense says Chinese spy balloon is over center of country

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As of noon Friday, the maneuverable Chinese surveillance balloon that was over Montana yesterday, was at an altitude of about 60,000 feet and floating over the center of the continental United States in an easterly direction, the Department of Defense said. It poses no risk to commercial aviation, military assets or people on the ground, said the Pentagon.

The balloon is the size of about three school buses. It crossed Alaska over the Aleutian Chain and entered airspace over the mainland of Alaska between Nome and Kotzebue, and then traveled through Canada to Montana. Officials say it has been over Kansas City, Missouri and continues heading east, which would take it close to the nation’s capital and main population centers.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is continuing to monitor and leaders are reviewing options, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who held a media briefing on Friday. 

“The balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the U.S. has communicated that to Chinese leaders at multiple levels. 

The balloon is carrying surveillance gear as well as a payload, Ryder said. He didn’t reveal what the payload is.

A reason not to shoot it down at this point, he said, is that besides not posing a threat to people or aircraft, the resulting debris from a strike of this large balloon could be harmful to people on the ground and result in property damage. 

The balloon most likely will continue floating over the U.S. for the next few days and updates will be provided as needed, he said. 

“Once the balloon was detected, we acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information,” he added, a statement that has been challenged by critics who said the Defense Department didn’t reveal the whereabouts of the balloon until it reached Montana. Bloomberg News reported that the White House kept spy balloon’s presence secret for fear of derailing the trip to China by Sec. of State Antony Blinken. But then, local media in Billings, Montana published a picture of it.

An apparent explosion over Billings, Montana, seen in a video posted by a private citizen and widely circulated on the internet, may be a fake. There is no indication that the Department of Defense has shot down the balloon.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, who was not informed about the balloon over Montana buy the Pentagon until it was already in Montana airspace, issued a statement:

“I received an informational briefing yesterday on the situation involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana. From the spy balloon to the Chinese Communist Party spying on Americans through TikTok to CCP-linked companies buying American farmland, I’m deeply troubled by the constant stream of alarming developments for our national security.”

Gianforte said, “If it was up to Montanans, this thing would have been taken out of the sky the moment it entered our sovereign airspace.”

Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from D.C., said that the balloon was first spotted by bystanders in the state of Montana.

“It was spotted by people on the ground who were wondering what was in the sky. That is how the US government first learned about this, incredibly,” Halkett said. “It was then that the US government started tracking it.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it “a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law…An irresponsible act.” He canceled his trip to China after the photo and news leaked out about the spy balloon.

The Chinese government says it is just a research airship that deviated from its course.

“The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure. The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure,” the People’s Republic of China said in a press release on its website.

On Friday evening, the Pentagon confirmed that a second Chinese spy balloon was “transiting Latin America.”

27 COMMENTS

  1. Sen. Sullivan goes on CNN explaining why we MUST help defend Ukraine’s sovereignty. Will he demand any action regarding this violation of his constituents’ sovereignty? Suzanne, can you get him on the record? And the governor?

  2. Let’s hope the wimpy and lack-luster response to this intrusion is a tactic to mislead the Chinese. Why would they use a balloon when spy satellites have been tactical since before the Cuban Missile Crisis?

    • Wayne, this wimpy and lackluster response to the presence of a spy Ballon by your Government is typical of the Biden Border Security plan. Whether it’s Fentanyl pouring into Arizona or Spy Ballons aloft over Montana , the Chi- Coms know that old Joe is a chump.

  3. What a non story and distraction – though whomever planted it sure did have satisfaction on its effect in the media. Chinese spying? Til Tok anyone? Or a myriad of others means in the games without frontiers. My question is what is it distracting us from?

  4. Politico piece yesterday had it over Alaska Jan 28 – 30. Funny with our NORAD presence and lots of wide open spaces, nobody heard of the incursion. Why is that? Cheers –

    ‘https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2023/02/03/balloon-boy-00081074

  5. Perhaps the genius Republicans who want to shoot down the baloon and recover the valuable Chinese technology can explain what technology will be left? Perhaps we have a Jame Bond type net to snag the balloon and bring it back for Q and M6 to examine

  6. Doesn’t surprise me that Beijing Biden doesn’t seem too concerned about a Chinese spy balloon with an undetermined “payload” is heading across the continental United States.

  7. Of course Brandon won’t shoot the balloon down. Hunter and The Big Guy probably own a share of the company that is controlling it.

  8. Biden et al. assume this to be a surveillance balloon, but that is a fool’s assumption. It is possible it might carry or could be used to carry some weapon (biological, chemical, EMP, etc.) that could be deployed while passing over our country. Such weapon may not be onboard the current or past balloons, but China could be training the US to ignore such vehicles. In the future, the US government will act with complacency instead of aggressive vigilance, resulting in exactly what China wants, a sneak attack on America on its own soil. An attack that may disrupt our energy or transportation infrastructure, or contaminate our food and/water. The US government should shoot these balloons down before crossing our borders or over essentially unpopulated areas, and if possible, inspect each to understand their source, use, and potential uses.

    • So, Art, you are saying China would be willing to strike an unprovoked attack on the US mainland and start another nation state war? And when they decide to do this, they are going to use a balloon carrier payload? Did you come up with this theory yourself? Or are you just regurgitating Rep. Comer? Either way, what an undeveloped premise. China, a nation with a fleet of armed aircraft and claimed hypersonic missiles is resorting to 19th century delivery vehicles? Glad you aren’t a decision maker. Now if you could do something about Comer.

    • Yep. Several of these ‘research’ balloons over CONUS and launch a coordinated EMP–it is game, set, match…

  9. If my history information is correct from whence was the source of funds for “the purchase” of Alaska just after the US Civil War? Also what is the name of the transferring “deed” and what did it say exactly and what did it mean. In your shallow, nondescript high-school classes what were you taught and what does it mean.
    .
    I hate to be a pest but who were the lenders with funds to “give away” as beloved gifts to complete strangers at that time on the earth? Do you have any idea?

  10. It’s obvious senior Xiden officials told the NORAD and Elmendorf’s RAOC to lay low. Alaska’s Region Air Operations Center (or RAOC, usually pronounced “ray-ock”) is part of the Alaskan NORAD Region. I’m sure the RAOC detected this incursion into our airspace early on — up to 250 miles off the coast of Alaska (AN/FPS-117 RADAR and potentially others). The RAOC is jointly manned by both U.S. and Canadian military forces, so both nation’s knew of this balloon’s existence. Again, orders were given to NOT intercept this spy platform until it wholly crossed two sovereign nations, to include multiple strategic anti-ballistic and ballistic missile fields, USAF bomber and fighter bases, bombing ranges, and Army bases. Impeach.

    • And what do you have to say about the inconvenient fact that at least three of these Chinese balloons entered American air space while former President Trump was in office? Maybe if he had responded forcefully, they would have been done with these games? Or maybe it’s Hunter’s laptop’s fault?

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