The US is tracking the spy balloon found in the airspace since the last few days.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday “The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now” According to authorities, the Pentagon opted not to shoot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been observed over American airspace for a few days since doing so could endanger civilians on the ground. However, the U.S. is tracking the spy balloon.
According to a senior defense official, the United States has “extremely high confidence” that the object was a Chinese high-altitude balloon that was flying over key locations to gather intelligence. One of the states where the balloon was noticed was Montana, which is home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields. To discuss sensitive information, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
He claimed that recent years had seen comparable spy balloon activity. He continued by saying that the US took precautions to prevent the collection of sensitive data. According to the defense official, the U.S. has “engaged” Chinese authorities through a number of channels and conveyed the gravity of the situation.
Days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken is anticipated to visit China, the Pentagon made its announcement. His trip plans, which the State Department has not formally disclosed, may be impacted by this, but it is unclear how.
“NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely,” Ryder said. NORAD later said in a statement that its commander, Gen. Glen VanHerck, “assesses the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time. The balloon is currently traveling at altitude well above commercial air traffic.”
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that a ground stop occurred in Billings on Wednesday but would not provide further information. The presence of the F-22s and the FAA’s ground halt, according to the senior defense official, were put in place just in case it was decided to shoot down the spy balloon.
“We didn’t take the shot, but that’s why you saw the reports that you saw,” the official said. Why not shoot? reporters asked. “The first question is, does it pose a threat?” the official said. “Our assessment is it does not,” they said.
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