A giant “spy balloon” from China has been floating over the northern United States for the last few days, forcing the U.S. government to restrict airspace and close airports as the mysterious aircraft floats by. The Pentagon says the huge balloon is about the size of three large city buses. Images captured by television stations appear to show some large structure being carried by the balloon.
The Pentagon has been tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon that has been flying over the United States but has decided it is too risky to shoot it down. Senior US military leaders considered shooting down the spy balloon over Montana, which is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base, but eventually recommended against it because of the potential safety risk from debris. Malmstrom is home to 150 intercontinental ballistic missile silos.
Defense Department sources say the military had prepared fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon, but an order to do so never came in from the White House.
All air traffic at the Billings, Montana, Logan International Airport was placed on a temporary ground stop on Wednesday as the military provided options to the White House. Additional airspace and airport restrictions are possible as the balloon moves about.
Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder provided a brief statement on the issue, saying the government continued to track the balloon. In the statement, Ryder said, that the balloon was “currently travelling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground”.