Washington, DC – The Department of Defense announced that the United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon belonging to the People’s Republic of China. The balloon is currently traveling over the continental US at an altitude well above commercial air traffic, but does not pose a military or physical threat to people on the ground, said Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder. The US government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely,
A senior defense official said the US is confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the PRC. “Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration. In this instance, President Biden was briefed and asked for military options,” the official said.
On the recommendation of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, and the commander of NORTHCOM, General VanHerck, the US is not taking any action to shoot the balloon down “due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field.”
The official said the balloon had limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective, but the US is taking steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.
DOD assessed that the balloon was large enough to cause damage from the debris field if we downed it over an area,” the official said. “I can’t really go into the dimensions. But there have been reports of pilots seeing this thing, even though it’s pretty high up in the sky. So, you know, it’s sizeable.”
The balloon was seen over Montana yesterday.