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Army says high-altitude balloon detected over western US does not pose threat

Army says high-altitude balloon detected over western US does not pose threat

 


The United States is tracking a small, high-altitude balloon that is drifting across the country but poses no threat to national security, U.S. officials and the military said Friday.

CBS News first reported that the military was tracking the balloon as it crossed the western United States earlier in the day. NORAD, the military command responsible for air defense over the United States and Canada, later confirmed it had detected the object and said it was floating between 43,000 and 45,000 feet. His presence caused enough concern that command sent a plane to investigate.

“The balloon was intercepted by NORAD fighters over Utah, who determined that it was unmaneuverable and did not present a threat to national security. NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon,” NORAD said in a statement. “The FAA also determined that the balloon posed no danger to flight safety.”

A U.S. official told CBS News the balloon is expected to fly over Georgia on Friday evening. The official said the balloon appeared to be made of Mylar and that there was a small cube-shaped box, about two feet long on each side, hanging underneath. Its origins and purpose remain unknown.

These developments come a year after tensions between the United States and China reached new heights after a Chinese balloon carrying sophisticated spy equipment flew over the continental United States for several days.

China's Foreign Ministry said the balloon was intended to collect weather data and had “deviated far from its intended trajectory” due to strong winds. The US military finally shot it down off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023 and salvaged the wreckage.

The spy balloon has become a political headache for President Biden, who was criticized by Republicans for his decision to allow it to transit over the United States for nearly a week before ordering it taken down . Biden officials said they waited until he was off the coast to minimize risks to civilians on the ground. But lawmakers questioned why it could not have been shot down while it was near the coast of Alaska, before crossing into the United States.

Although the Pentagon ultimately concluded that the balloon was not transmitting information to China, its presence put the U.S. military on high alert looking for other objects in U.S. airspace. Fighter jets shot down several unidentified objects over the United States and Canada in the following weeks.

The military found no debris from these objects and the search was called off due to dangerous weather conditions. Mr. Biden said the unidentified objects did not appear to be linked to China's spy balloon program.

“The intelligence community's current assessment is that these three objects were mostly balloons linked to private companies, recreational or research institutes studying weather or conducting other scientific research,” the president said. .

The Chinese spy balloon became a major point of diplomatic contention between the United States and China, prompting Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing in February 2023. Blinken ultimately made the trip in June in an attempt to to ease growing tensions on a number of issues. issues, including the balloon and the Chinese military's assertiveness in the South China Sea.

More from CBS News

Éléonore Watson

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