A large spy balloon believed to be from China was seen flying over Montana and is being tracked as it moves across the United States. The U.S. government has detected and is tracking the high-altitude surveillance balloon, according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is closely monitoring the balloon and has determined that it does not pose a military or physical threat to people on the ground. The Canadian Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces are working with NORAD and other partners to assess the situation and secure Canadian airspace.
A senior defense official stated that they are confident the balloon was sent by China, and instances of this activity have been observed over the past few years, including prior to the current administration. The defense official also noted that the goal of the balloon was for surveillance, and it is collecting information over sensitive sites. The U.S. has used multiple channels to inform China of the seriousness of this situation and has made it clear that it will take necessary action to protect the people and the homeland.
President Biden was briefed on the situation and asked for military options, but he agreed with the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Northern Command not to take kinetic action due to the risk to civilians from the potential debris field. The senior defense official stated that the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation and keeping all options open. The balloon was seen over Montana on Wednesday and military aircraft, identified as U.S. Air Force F-22s, were spotted in the sky above Billings. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed a ground stop in Billings, but the reason for it was not disclosed.