A Pentagon official has confirmed that a Chinese surveillance balloon is currently located in the central United States.
The balloon, which had been hovering over a nuclear facility in Montana, is said to have an “unusually large payload” and is highly maneuverable. This comes just months after numerous reports of China conducting cyber espionage operations against the US. Quoting Defense Department spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the balloon has “a large payload underneath the surveillance component.”
The balloon is traveling at 60,000 feet and is expected to remain within US airspace for a few more days. Ryder said, “We know the balloon has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable. We have conveyed this directly to the PRC at multiple levels, and in terms of specific locations I will not be able to go into specific locations other than to say it is moving eastward at this time.”
He also commented on the balloon’s ability to maneuver in the air but downplayed the risk of a foreign spy balloon traveling across the US. “We know this is a Chinese balloon and it has the ability to maneuver. We assess the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground. We will continue to monitor and review options.”
it is believed the balloon’s intelligence capabilities are limited in comparison to spy satellites. The Department of Defense has taken unspecified mitigation measures against it.