NORAD Monitors Hobbyist Balloon Over US; Pentagon Clarifies Amid China Spy Balloon Controversy

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NORAD confirms it monitored the suspected hobbyist balloon using ground radars until it departed US airspace.

The Pentagon has identified the recent high-altitude balloon detected over the United States as a ‘probable hobbyist’ craft, following a controversy sparked by a Chinese surveillance balloon’s journey across the continental U.S. about a year ago.

ABC News and other outlets reported that North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) stated that following the previous day’s fighter intercepts, and in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NORAD monitored the likely hobbyist balloon via ground radars until it departed US airspace overnight.

No additional details were provided.

Two defense officials informed Fox News that the balloon observed flying over the U.S. has been identified as belonging to an amateur balloonist and is not of Chinese origin.

The balloon was sighted over Utah and was travelling eastward. NORAD initially reported the high-altitude balloon on Friday, 23rd February 2024, indicating that it was observed at an altitude ranging from approximately 43,000 to 45,000 feet.

NORAD reported that the balloon, intercepted by their fighters over Utah, was assessed to be non-maneuverable and posed no threat to national security.

NORAD stated its intention to continue tracking and monitoring the balloon, with ongoing coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety. Additionally, the FAA concluded that the balloon did not pose a hazard to flight safety.

Following the identification and eventual interception of a large, white Chinese spy craft that traversed a significant portion of the country last year, there has been increased attention to reports of balloon overflights.

However, officials clarified that the balloon intercepted on Friday was not dispatched by a foreign adversary and did not pose any threat to aviation or U.S. security, as reported by the Associated Press.

The Chinese spy craft traveled from Alaska to the East Coast before being intercepted by the military over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023.

In June, the Pentagon stated that although the Chinese balloon possessed ‘intelligence collection capabilities,’ it did not gather or transmit data before being intercepted.

Intelligence agencies have determined that the Chinese craft was utilized for espionage purposes, contradicting China’s assertion that it was related to weather monitoring.

The reasons behind the apparent failure of the spy mission remain unclear. However, officials stated that intelligence agencies employed countermeasures to prevent the collection of data.

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