US Tracking Balloon Flying Over West, Poses No Security Threat: Military

US Tracking Balloon Flying Over West, Poses No Security Threat: Military

A U.S. Air Force pilot looked down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovered over the Central Continental United States February 3, 2023. Recovery efforts began shortly after the balloon was downed. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense via Getty Images)

Andrew Thornebrooke

Andrew Thornebrooke

2/23/2024

Updated: 2/24/2024

U.S. military aircraft have intercepted an unidentified high-altitude balloon flying over the western continental United States, military officials have acknowledged.
Fighter aircraft continue to track the balloon over the western United States though it appears to pose no immediate threat, according to a statement from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the joint U.S.-Canada command responsible for overseeing North American airspace.
“In close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) detected a small balloon at an altitude varying between 43,000-45,000 ft,” the statement shared with The Epoch Times said.
“The balloon was intercepted by NORAD fighters over Utah, who determined it was not maneuverable and did not present a threat to national security. NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon. The FAA also determined the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety. NORAD remains in close coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety.”
The balloon and its origin have not yet been publicly identified, though it appears to be moving eastward with the jetstream given its lack of maneuverability.
The incident comes just over a year after a major diplomatic incident in which a Chinese spy balloon was allowed to traverse across the continental United States, including over three sites related to the nation’s nuclear program, before eventually being shot down.
That balloon was linked to a much larger espionage campaign conducted against numerous nations by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a single-party state.
Unlike the balloon currently being tracked, the CCP spy balloon was maneuverable, and housed a large array of electronics and power sources.
The Pentagon later conceded that there was an “awareness gap” that allowed three other Chinese spy balloons to traverse over U.S. territory during the Trump administration. Following that admission, the United States updated its protocols for identifying and tracking similar objects on radar, which may have contributed to the detection of the balloon currently being tracked.
During last year’s balloon incident, President Biden ordered the military to shoot down three more unidentified objects, which the administration later said were likely related to commercial balloon services and posed no immediate threat to the United States.
The FBI collected and analyzed the wreckage of the CCP spy balloon only, and eventually concluded that the device had not successfully transmitted data back to China, though the balloon was linked to a CCP military program.
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Andrew Thornebrooke

Andrew Thornebrooke

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Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.

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