U.S. Shoots Down Chinese Spy Balloon Off the Coast of the Carolinas

In this photo provided by Brian Branch, a large balloon drifts above the Kingstown, N.C. area, with an airplane and its contrail seen below it. The United States says it is a Chinese spy balloon moving east over America at an altitude of about 60,000 feet (18,600 meters), but China insists the balloon is just an errant civilian airshipused mainly for meteorological research that went off course due to winds and has only limited “self-steering” capabilities. (Brian Branch via AP)

UPDATE: The US has downed the Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast and an operation is underway to recover the debris 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: The government has been keeping tabs on a Chinese surveillance balloon that has been suspended in the northern U.S. sky for several days, NBC News reported.

There have been talks of shooting it down.

Photo Credit: Megan Nelson via KSVI, taken from the ground in Montana Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

On Wednesday, the balloon was sighted in Billings, Montana, having traveled from the Aleutian Islands, passing through Canada and landing in Montana, the report said.

“The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now,” Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told NBC News. “Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information. We continue to track and monitor it closely.”

A top defense official confirmed that the balloon remains over the U.S. but refrained from disclosing its current location.

“Currently we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective over and above what the PRC can do through other means,” a senior defense official reportedly said. “Nevertheless we are taking all necessary steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.” The official said the balloon does not pose a threat to civil aviation because of its altitude.

Such balloons can track moving ground targets by intercepting electronic signals and communications.

This is a breaking news story.

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