Thursday evening the US Department of Defense did he know to have identified in the airspace of the United States a “spy balloon”, i.e. a balloon used for spying, believed to have been sent from China. From the photos released by the United States, the “spy balloon” looks like a kind of balloon with some equipment attached to it and was spotted Wednesday above Montana, a sparsely populated state in the northwest of the country. The Defense Department added that it was currently flying “far above” commercial aircraft routes and that it poses “no military or physical threat”.
US President Joe Biden, whose job also includes command of the armed forces, has decided not to shoot it down, given that the crash of the debris could cause damage or injuries. At the moment China has not commented yet the news and the allegations of the US authorities.
The “spy balloon” incident occurred a few days before a visit to China by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: the visit has not yet been officially confirmed and it is not clear whether it will take place over the weekend or next week, but several US newspapers take it for granted.
A US defense official who declined to be named told al New York Times that it would not be the first time that China has sent spy balloons over US territory, although in this case it seems that the balloon stayed longer than usual in US airspace. Canada too he confirmed to have spotted it while flying over its territory (Montana shares a long land border with Canada).
Relations between the United States and China have been bad for years now, and for several episodes it has been known that the two countries spy on each other through their own intelligence agencies. Some military experts cited by the Guardian they believe that the launch of “spy balloons” could become an increasingly widespread practice in the coming years: balloons cost much less than spy satellites – much used recently by China – are difficult to detect with radar equipment and can remain at altitude for several days after being punctured.
It is not clear why China would send a “spy balloon” over Montana. The Department of Defense explained that the images it was able to collect are not all that different from those of a satellite. Some noted that the “spy balloon” was flying not far from Malmstrom Air Force Base, where some nuclear weapons are stored. He was approached by three US Air Force planes Wednesday morning, while the civilian airport in Billings, the capital of Montana, was closed to air traffic for a couple of hours.
3 x US Air Force Stratotankers have been spotted flying over Montana.
Meanwhile there are reports in the media about a Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana.https://t.co/i2BJi32IXG pic.twitter.com/zxN1q97v1A
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 2, 2023
A man who photographed the “spy balloon” from his office in Billings he described it to Associated Press like a «big white circle», but too small to be confused with the moon. The man added that he observed it for about 45 minutes, during which he continued to take photos and videos: “I thought it might be a UFO, so I wanted to be sure I documented it.”