A suspected Chinese spy balloon, captured on video floating over the US state of Montana by a local eyewitness, has been shot down by US fighter jets.
Update: An F-22 US fighter jet shot down the Chinese surveillance balloon as it continued traveling off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday. The US Navy is now working to recover the debris and its “payload” of sensors, which spread over seven miles in shallow waters, reported Reuters.
US officials said they are confident the "high-altitude surveillance balloon" seen floating over the northwest US city of Billings, Montana is most likely a Chinese spy balloon.
The balloon – said to be the size of three buses and flying at 60 thousand feet above sea level – was spotted in the sky by a local resident of Billings on Wednesday, February 1.
The resident decided to film the unidentified flying object and post it on social media gaining the attention of news outlets across the nation.
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted about the incident, calling on US President Joe Biden to address “China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty.”
With tensions running high between the two nations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has since decided to postpone an official visit to China previously scheduled.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, who was briefed by Pentagon authorities about the surveillance balloon, put out an official statement on Twitter.
The Governor stated he was “deeply troubled by the constant stream of national security concerns coming from the communist nation.”
The eyewitness, Chase Doak, said he saw the balloon while getting ready for work.
“I was looking out the window like I normally do, and I just happened to spot it out of the corner of my eye and at first, I thought it was a star, but I thought that was kind of crazy because it was broad daylight and when I looked at it, it was just too big to be a star,” Doak said during a Reuters news interview.
The balloon passed over "a number of sensitive sites," traveling through Alaska and then Canada before it was spotted in Montana, US military officials said.
US fighter jets were put on high alert, but the Pentagon advised the President not to shoot down the balloon, fearing falling debris could impact and hurt civilians, Reuters reported.
The balloon is not considered a significant intelligence risk, according to officials.
China responded to the accusations, calling the “hype” around the incident pure speculation without verified proof.
Meanwhile, another unidentified surveillance balloon was also spotted in Canada this week.
Canadian officials said they are working closely with the US on the matter.
There is no word yet on the origin of the second balloon.
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