Was it a spy balloon or a scientific measuring tool?
Speculation about the large floating airship floating above Montana is a concern for the Pentagon and resulted in Antony Blinken canceling his trip to China following potential espionage.
Thursday defense officials confirmed the high-altitude balloon after several Air Force Boeing C-135 Stratotankers monitored it over the western US for a couple of days.
Although it was floating above commercial aircraft flight paths, a two-hour ground stop was even issued Wednesday between Helena to Billings.
3 x US Air Force Stratotankers have been spotted flying over Montana.
Meanwhile there are reports in media about a Chinese spy balloon flying over Montana.https://t.co/i2BJi32IXG pic.twitter.com/zxN1q97v1A
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 2, 2023
Friday the Chinese foreign ministry said it “regrets the unintended entry,” and responded “It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.”
It just happened to pass over a nuclear missile silo in Montana. The Pentagon declined to shoot it down due to the potential harm to people on the ground.
Meteorologists commonly use latex weather balloons a couple of times every day to gather upper air conditions. But the balloons burst about 90 minutes after launch about 60,000 to 105,000 feet high and rarely travel more than 200 miles.
Weather Authority Meteorologist Mark Collins, says it is suspicious for any type of ordinary weather balloon to last several days and hover stationary over a fixed location as indicated by some of the surveillance sightings. Upper winds would have pushed the airship toward the United States based on model trajectories only if it was a specially designed research balloon.”
One of the places the balloon was seen over in Montana occupies one of the country’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Pictures showing the payload of China’s airship look similar to other high-altitude research balloons designed to stay for days without bursting. Google used Loon stratospheric balloons once as a demonstration project to expand internet connectivity.
NASA’s Balloon Program has provided high-altitude scientific balloon platforms for scientific and technological investigations for decades to understand Earth and space.