U.S. monitoring high-altitude balloon over the west

The U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon in February 2023.

US Department of Defense | Handout | Anadolu | Getty Images

The U.S. military is monitoring an unidentified “small” balloon flying at high altitudes over the west, according to two U.S. officials and a defense official.

A fighter aircraft was sent to observe the balloon after it was spotted over Utah this morning. The balloon, which is hovering at between 43,000 to 45,000 feet, does not appear to pose a national security threat to the U.S., the officials said.

The U.S. is not saying who owns the balloon, but two U.S. officials said that early indications suggest it is not from a foreign government.

The balloon is not maneuverable and has a small box-like payload, the officials said.

NBC News has reached out to the White House for comment. A National Security Council official referred NBC to the Defense Department for official comment.

“NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon,” said a defense official, referring to the North American Aerospace Defense Command. “The FAA also determined the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety. NORAD remains in close coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety.”

The balloon, which was first reported by CBS News, was spotted roughly a year after the U.S. shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon in February 2023. NBC News previously reported that the spy balloon was able to gather intelligence from multiple sensitive U.S. military sites, and that the balloon used an American internet service provider to communicate, according to multiple sources.

Chinese government representatives had denied that last year’s balloon was used to spy. Instead, they said that the balloon was a civilian airship used for meteorological research that unintentionally drifted into the U.S.

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