A Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon is spotted over the western United States.
The Pentagon, the U.S. Defense Department, have been tracking the suspicious balloon for the past few days, and the balloon seems to be traveling at an altitude above the airlines and is expected to not pose a potential arm threat to either the nation or the civilians.
Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Press Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defence, took the role of a spokesperson and said that the government of the United States was well aware of the presence of the balloon over the boundaries of the nation and the balloon had brought under tracking since the day it made its way over the northern United States.
He continued that as the air balloon was traveling at an altitude well above the commercial air traffic, and of the present evaluation it was not a physical or military threat to the people on the ground.
A senior defense official from the Department of Defense said that the department was confident that the high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the People’s Republic of China.
It was added to the statement that instances of the activity had been observed for the past several years even before the present administration.
He further said that Joe Biden, the president of the United States of America has been provided advice by military officials to not shoot down the balloon in relation to the existing concern of such an action might cause the remains of the balloon to be of a safety threat to the people below it on the ground.
According to the records of assessment, it was known that the balloon only has a limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective. Although the current path of flight followed by the balloon includes multiple sensitive sites and locations it is not estimated of having the capacity to gather intelligence.
The U.S. informed that the government is implementing measures for the protection of the nation against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.
The U.S. is also recurringly tracking the abilities such as the possibilities in gaining insights and has not stopped the monitoring process on the balloon as it passed above the Northern states of America.
The senior defense official has further released a detailed statement addressing the concerns of the media and people. From the statement, the capabilities of the Chinese spy satellites were revealed.
As per it, the spy satellites of China in the low orbit of the planet Earth have the potential to offer likely or advanced intelligence collection. This limits the value of anything that Beijing can glimpse from the high-altitude balloon.
The balloon is estimated to have a size equivalent to that of three buses. It was also included in the press release that, the balloon does not create significant value added above and over the abilities of the PRC to collect information through machines like satellites launched in the low Earth orbit.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is keeping track of the flight path, deviations, and activities of the balloon.
The balloon was identified over Montana on Wednesday. A U.S. military aircraft was also spotted at a fairly close distance to the balloon.
Above the city of Billings, the largest city in Montana, U.S. Air Force F-22s were seen. The military aircraft is a single-seat, twin-engine tactical fighter aircraft suitable for all weather types.
Initially, the news that circulated said that the F-22s were on air as a move to shoot down the balloon.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) stated that the balloon was not shot down and the fighters were landed on the ground stop, at Logan airport in Billings. The FAA was asked by the journalists why was the balloon not down.
An official from FAA said that it was not shot down because the initial assessment have not found any possible threats that could be an outcome of the balloon.
Col. Steve Ganyard, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs viewed the balloon as an experiment.
He stated that the balloon seemed like a standard research vessel, that was unpowered and that the path of the balloon was not controlled, it was just drifting with the jet stream.
He said that after the release of such vessels, it was not possible to bring them under control from another location and they are designed in a way to deflate over an open area.
It was also added that no matter what the balloon is under the full-time monitoring of multiple US government agencies and the moment it seems like a deployment it would be shot down and destroyed.
Kevin McCarthy, the current speaker of the United States House of Representatives, called for an intelligence briefing on the spy balloon navigating over the state of Montana.
He requested for a Gang of Eight, eight leaders from the US Congress who would be briefed by the federal government on details related to classified intelligence.
McCarthy posted a tweet on his official Twitter account that read China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty was a destabilizing action that must be addressed. He urged President Joe Biden to speak, by writing that the President of the nation could not be silent.
Steve Daines, The Senator of Montana, said that it was vital to establish the flight path of the balloon and any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that was being utilized by the spy balloon, if any.
He added that he was alarmed by the fact that this spy balloon was able to infiltrate the airspace of the country and Montana; given the increased hostility and destabilization around the globe aimed at the United States and allies of the nation.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, the U.S. Republican rep from the 14th district of Georgia, in a tweet, demanded that the president should take immediate measures to shoot down the balloon as soon as possible.
Marco Rubio, the Republican senator of Florida, said that the balloon was a sign that the Chinese espionage efforts targeting the U.S. have become intense and brazen.
The Pentagon, the HQ (headquarters) building of the United States Department of Defense, was the first one to officially release a statement on the balloon traversing over the nation.
Ryder, in the statement, did not confirm the nation behind the balloon. It was understood, from another official, that the Pentagon has to maintain the anonymity of the balloon because it has very high confidence in the nation of China.
Roger Wicker, the Republican Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the Pentagon owes a full, and accurate accounting of what has been going around.
President Joe Biden has not officially addressed the nation about the incident. Reportedly, he is traveling in the Philippines, and he had made recommendations on shooting the balloon down.
However, Gen. Glen VanHerck, the Chief of the Northern Command of the United States, was against this and had viewed that it might come as a hazard to the people below as it was an area with residences, businesses, and other multiple properties on the site.
The Chinese Embassy in America, in Washington. D.C. has not yet responded.