US & World

Another Spy Balloon?

“NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon …”

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American military jets intercepted an unmanned, non-maneuverable high-altitude balloon in the skies over Utah on Friday, officials with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed.

The balloon – hovering at an altitude of approximately 43,000 feet – was moving east with the jetstream and was deemed not to be a “threat to national security,” NORAD asserted. Nonetheless, the balloon immediately became a sensation on social media, with the hashtag #ShootItDown rocketing to the top of “trending” terms.

“Shoot it down. Protect our country,” South Dakota governor Kristi Noem wrote on X.

Ownership of the balloon was not immediately established, although the craft intercepted by NORAD jets is reportedly much smaller than the infamous “Chinese spy balloon” which dominated headlines last February.

“Based on reports we are seeing this balloon is mylar and has a small payload which isn’t uncommon,” noted Tyler Rogoway, editor-in-chief of The War Zone. “Totally different class of platform than the Chinese spy balloon”

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“NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon,” the agency said in a statement, adding it would coordinate its efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Last year, U.S. president Joe Biden ordered what his government termed a “high-altitude surveillance balloon” of Chinese origin to be shot down over the Atlantic Ocean near Myrtle Beach, S.C. on February 4. China insisted the device was conducting “meteorological research” – and that it veered off course due to unexpectedly high winds.

Four U.S. Air Force Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptors were scrambled from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Newport News, Virginia in response to Biden’s order to shoot the balloon down. The balloon was ultimately downed by an F-22 with a single AIM-9X sidewinder missile – a short-range air-to-air missile.

The remnants of the balloon landed in fifty feet of water over an area of approximately one square mile off of the South Carolina coast. The debris was collected by U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels and transported to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory in Virginia.

(Click to View)

A U.S. Air Force pilot assesses a Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovers over the continental United States February 3, 2023. (U.S. Department of Defense)

Federal officials concluded the balloon was equipped with an array of surveillance capabilities, but said initially that it did not transmit information back to China. However, American intelligence officials told NBC News last December they concluded the device “used an American internet service provider (to) send and receive communications from China.”

This connection “allowed the balloon to send burst transmissions, or high-bandwidth collections of data over short periods of time,” according to the NBC report.

Three smaller balloons were shot down last February: One in Alaska on February 10, one over the Yukon territory in Canada on February 11 and one over Lake Huron on February 11. None of those balloons originated from China, Biden insisted.

“I gave the order to take down these three objects due to hazards to civilian commercial air traffic, and because we could not rule out the surveillance risk over sensitive facilities,” the president said.

This is a developing situation … please check back for updates.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.

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10 comments

Bloons Tower Defense February 24, 2024 at 10:14 am

The new threat to American democracy: terrorist clowns.

Reply
Thomas February 24, 2024 at 8:09 pm

Shawn Elliot is a freeloader. He is getting a job because of our Athletic Director. The SC Football Program is not a grift to launder your friends and family through for a paycheck. That is exactly how the AD is running this program. Shawn Elliot is a step backwards for the program. He is getting a job with the football program because he cant find a job elsewhere. What kinda football program hires no talent family, friends, and keeps them there afraid to fire them for poor performances all because of a paycheck? South Carolina’s program! What a fn joke.

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 9:40 pm

Binden Isa sleep.this ass can’t protect us from China from the border too the skies this man needs to be fired now before we are in an all out war with the CCP . Biden and vp Harris are a fring joke yet Noone is laughing except China ?? we are closer to war with China now then any time in history . Between the bollons and those coming to our southern border we are in deep shit why do you think China is send all the young men here to fight g us here when they hit tiwand its that simple yet Biden has his head so far up China’s and everyone else ass he can’t see this . That’s why Trump needs to win ? in November 2024

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 9:43 pm

You know it’s funny Biden can’t remember where he is or what day it is how the he’ll do we expect him to defend us here in America he sure is doing it on the border or against China ?? God help us

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 9:45 pm

You know it’s funny Biden can’t remember where he is or what day it is how the he’ll do we expect him to defend us here in America he sure is doing it on the border or against China ?? God help us

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 9:47 pm

If you think Biden will get better with age then maybe you might need to seek help

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 10:10 pm

If Joe Biden thinks his son hunter is the smartest man he knows then I have a few bridges I’d like to sell him really cheap they all need repair and fixing up just like him they have stayed both have stayed o. The shelve past there due date and with Biden that’s about 400 yrs past the due date lol

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 10:17 pm

I only have a fifth grade education and I’m a Suttering hair lip but I swear I could do better then Biden everyone calls Dr lipshits

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 10:20 pm

If you think I’m bad now you should have seen me when I was drinking

Reply
Brad Johnson February 25, 2024 at 10:25 pm

TRUMP IS GOING TO KICK BIDENS ASS THIS NOVEMBER AND RETURN TO THE WHITE HOUSE I HOPE THIS MESSAGE PISSES OFF A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE AND YOU CAN ALL TAKE THAT TOO THE BANK IM BETTING A HAVE A MILLION.IN LAS VEGAS ON THE OUT COME OF THE 2024 ELECTION ON IT

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