Everything we know about ‘Chinese spy balloon’ found hovering above northern US


The US military is tracking a Chinese high-altitude spy balloon as it makes its way over the northern United States.

But the White House decided against shooting it out of the sky after being advised against it by defence officials, including Gen Mark Milley the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff.

Pentagon official told a press briefing in Washington DC the suspected balloon had been spotted over Billings, Montana, on Wednesday.

It had first flown over the Aleutian Islands, through Canada, and into Montana.

This is everything we know so far about the spy balloon.

What has Pentagon said about spy balloon?

“The United States Government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” said Brig Gen Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary.

“The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely. 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.

“Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years.

“Once the balloon was detected, the US government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

F-22s scrambled to intercept balloon but did not take a shot

“You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings Airport and the mobilization of a number of assets, including F-22,” a senior defence official told reporters.

“The context for that was that we put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana.

“So we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area. But even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So we didn’t take the shot.”

Why did military advise against shooting balloon down?

“Why not shoot it down? We have to do the risk-reward here,” a senior defence official told reporters.

“So the first question is, does it pose a threat, a physical kinetic threat, to individuals in the United States in the US homeland? Our assessment is it does not.

“Does it pose a threat to civilian aviation? Our assessment is it does not. Does it pose a significantly enhanced threat on the intelligence side? Our best assessment right now is that it does not.

“So given that profile, we assess the risk of downing it, even if the probability is low in a sparsely populated area of the debris falling and hurting someone or damaging property, that it wasn’t worth it.”

Montana’s governor reacts

“I received an informational briefing yesterday on the situation involving a suspected Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana,” said Governor Greg Gianforte

“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.”

What Montana targets could China be interested in spying on?

Montana has long been the location for some of the US’s nuclear arsenal and is home to one of three known major nuclear missile silo fields. The other two are in Wyoming and North Dakota.

The Air Force at Malmstrom maintains 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos across its 13,800-square-mile complex in central Montana, according to the Pentagon.

“Clearly the intent of this balloon is for surveillance,” the official, briefing reporters anonymously, said on Thursday.