DoD 'Continuing to Monitor' Chinese Spy Balloon Floating Over US; No Order to Shoot It Down

( – Sen. Steve Daines of Montana has written a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, expressing “significant concern” that Malmstrom Air Force Base, which includes nuclear missile silos, is the target of a Chinese ddspy balloon.

“I am alarmed by the fact that this spy balloon was able to infiltrate the airspace of our country and Montana,” Daines wrote.

“Given the serious nature of the event, I am requesting a full security briefing from the administration on this situation.”

‘Track and monitor’

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters on Thursday.


“The U.S. government, to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely,” Ryder’s statement continued:

“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. Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. 

“Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”

A senior defense official who joined Ryder at the press conference said DoD is “confident that this high-altitude surveillance balloon belongs to the PRC.”

It’s not the first time such a thing has happened, but in this case, the spy balloon is hanging around much longer than in others have.

President Biden “was briefed,” and he “asked for military options,” the official said, speaking on background.

“It was the strong recommendation by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, and the commander of NORTHCOM, General VanHerck, not to take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field. 

“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective.  But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information. 

“We are also tracking what abilities it could have in gaining insights, and continue to monitor the balloon as it is over the continental United States.”

The balloon, last known to be drifting in the stratosphere over Montana, is large enough to be seen by pilots, but a senior defense official could not give the exact dimensions, except to say DoD didn’t “feel comfortable” about shooting it down.

The defense official would say only that the U.S. has been “tracking” the spy balloon “for some time.” It entered U.S. airspace “a couple of days ago,” he said.

“So clearly the intent of this balloon is for surveillance.  And so the current flight path does carry it over a number of sensitive sites. I’d just say a couple of things. 

“First, our best assessment at the moment is that whatever the surveillance payload is on this balloon, it does not create significant value added over and above what the PRC is likely able to collect through things like satellites in Low Earth Orbit. 

“But out of an abundance of caution, we have taken additional mitigation steps. I’m not going to go into what those are. But we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over.  And we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk.”

Defense officials said:

“We have engaged PRC officials with urgency through multiple channels. They’ve been engaged both through their embassy here in Washington and through our embassy in Beijing.

“We have communicated to them the seriousness with which we take this issue. But beyond that I’m not going to go into the content of the — of the message.

“But we have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland. And so if the risk profile that I described earlier, if that changes we will have options to deal with this balloon.”


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