The United States is on alert after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over the state of Montana. The balloon, the size of three buses, was not shot down for fear that it could hurt people on the ground.
According to the AP, the balloon increases the tensions between the U.S. and China.
A Pentagon official stated the U.S. has “very high confidence” that the Chinese high-altitude balloon is flying over sensitive sites to collect information. Montana is home to three nuclear missile silo fields, stored at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
According to Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, the balloon is “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.” The U.S. has taken steps to ensure the balloon does not collect sensitive information.
The White House has fighter jets, including F-22s, ready to shoot down the balloon upon request.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., wrote: “The fact that this balloon was occupying Montana airspace creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission. … It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy balloon was utilizing.”