A Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over the North of the USA a few days ago. The trajectory of its movement passes over several important military facilities. This is reported by Reuters, citing a briefing of the US Department of Defense.
“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters. “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.”
The most interesting thing is not that having a bunch of spy satellites, China continues to use reconnaissance balloons, but the fact that all this is happening just a few days before the planned visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The U.S. Air Force took the balloon into “custody” immediately after it entered the country’s airspace and was being monitored from a military aircraft. They even prepared F-22 fighter jets to intercept the suspicious object, but ultimately advised President Joe Biden not to shoot down the spy because they feared the debris could pose a danger to people on the ground.
Separately from the US, Canada’s defense ministry said the military had discovered a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” and was monitoring another “potential incident” of such a plan, without providing any further details.
In response to the US statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning replied that Beijing was “verifying” the situation.
“I would like to emphasize that until the facts are clarified, speculation and hype will not be helpful to the proper resolution of the issue,” she told a regular daily briefing in Beijing on Friday, adding that China abides by international law. “China has no intention of violating the land territory and airspace of any sovereign country.”
US officials said they had raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts through diplomatic channels. “We have communicated to them the seriousness with which we take this issue,” a U.S. official said.
One of the officials noted that the balloon’s flight path would pass over a number of sensitive objects, but did not provide details. Not far from the trajectory of the balloon is located, for example, the US Air Force base Malmstrom (Montana), where mines of 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles are located.
But another US official added that the balloon had “limited intelligence-gathering value”.
High-altitude balloons usually operate at an altitude of 24,000 – 37,000 m, much higher than commercial air traffic. The flight height of modern fighters is about 15,000 m. Even the legendary Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft can only climb to 24,000 m.
Interestingly, people who observed the balloon from the ground mistook it for a UFO or a star.
Not gonna lie. First, I thought this was a #ufo. Then, I thought it was @elonmusk in a Wizard of Oz cosplay scenario. But it was just a run-of-the mill Chinese spy balloon! pic.twitter.com/cBV7goF6Sv
— Chase Doak (@ckdoak) February 2, 2023