Chinese spy balloon tracked over northern US: Pentagon

The US has been tracking a Chinese spy balloon that has been floating over the northern part of the country for days, Pentagon officials announced Thursday.

A top Pentagon official said the US is confident that the craft is a Chinese high-altitude balloon that has been flying over sensitive sites to collect information for the past two days. 

The official, speaking anonymously, said that one of the locations the balloon has been spotted was over Montana — home to one of the US’ three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Fighter jets —  including F-22s – were prepared to shoot the balloon down at the White House’s orders, but the Pentagon recommended against it out of safety concerns for civilians on the ground, despite the balloon being over a remote area of Montana, the official said.

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters in a brief statement that the balloon is“currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

Airman 1st Class Jackson Ligon, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron technician, prepares a spacer on an intercontinental ballistic missile during a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman test Sept. 22, 2020, at a launch facility near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana
The spy balloon was hovering over Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, where the US houses nuclear weapons.

The defense official said that the US has been “engaged” with Chinese officials to communicate the gravity of the situation — which comes just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to go to China.

It’s not clear if the incident will affect Blinken’s travel plans.

The official added that similar balloon activity has been observed over the past several years. The US has taken steps to ensure no sensitive information is compromised.

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the balloon is not a threat.

The official could not comment on how large the balloon is but said it is visible to commercial pilots even at its high altitude.

The most concerning aspect regarding the balloon is its high altitude and the duration of its flight, he said.

It is still flying over the US.

The exterior of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing China
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit China in a few days.
VCG via Getty Images

Earlier this month, a newly declassified government report revealed that a majority of “UFO” sightings reported over the last year were actually balloon-like objects.

The sightings “continue to occur in restricted or sensitive airspace, highlighting possible concerns for safety of flight or adversary collection activity,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote.

With Post wires