Surveillance Balloon, Likely Chinese, Lingering Over U.S., DOD Says
The U.S. government has detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S., and a senior defense official says the Pentagon is highly confident it belongs to China.
The Pentagon announced the discovery on Feb. 2, saying that though the balloon has flown over sensitive locations including nuclear missile fields, senior military officials advised President Joe Biden not to shoot the balloon down to avoid potential debris.
“We had been looking at whether there was an option yesterday over some sparsely populated areas in Montana, but we just couldn’t buy down the risk enough to feel comfortable recommending shooting it down,” the official says.
A senior defense official told reporters the balloon is flying at an altitude higher than commercial aircraft and does not pose a direct physical threat. The official also said the balloon is loitering over the U.S., and the Pentagon has assessed that it does not provide increased value over other surveillance means such as satellites, despite not knowing specifically what the surveillance payload is.
U.S. officials have expressed their concerns about the balloon to the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy in Washington and the American embassy in Beijing, adding that the U.S. will do whatever is necessary for its protection. The Air Force scrambled F-22s on Feb. 1 and temporarily stopped traffic at the Billings, Montana, airport in case the decision was made to shoot the balloon down.
The official would not provide details on the dimensions of the balloon, but it was assessed that it is big enough to create a damaging debris field if downed.
This is not the first time a balloon like this has been spotted over the U.S. Similar instances have occurred a few times before, though the official would not provide more details. This balloon has loitered over the U.S. longer than in prior incidents, the official said. There have been reports of unknown balloons over the U.S. reported by pilots in Pentagon unexplained aerial phenomena reports as well.
The pentagon says that they do not know what the mission package of the balloon does? Then why didn’t take the opportunity to force it down so that they could examine it?
If the pentagon is concerned about a falling balloon hitting something in Montana, then where else in the US would they ever be “comfortable” with forcing such a device out of the sky?
Finally, balloons don’t “loiter”. Their flight path is at the whim of the winds.