Pentagon says new high altitude balloon intercepted over US ‘likely hobby’ craft year after China controversy

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The Pentagon said the latest high altitude balloon detected over the United States is a “likely hobby” craft, about a year after a Chinese spy balloon traversed the continental U.S., sparking controversy. 

“After yesterday’s fighter intercepts, and in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command monitored the likely hobby balloon via ground radars until it left US airspace overnight,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said Saturday in a statement, reported by ABC News and other outlets. No further information was immediately available. 

NORAD first announced the high altitude balloon on Friday, noting that it was observed at between roughly 43,000 and 45,000 feet.

“The balloon was intercepted by NORAD fighters over Utah, who determined it was not maneuverable and did not present a threat to national security. NORAD will continue to track and monitor the balloon,” NORAD said. “The FAA also determined the balloon posed no hazard to flight safety. NORAD remains in close coordination with the FAA to ensure flight safety.”


In this image provided by the Department of Defense, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, a U.S. Air Force U-2 pilot looks down at a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovers over the United States on Feb. 3, 2023.  (Department of Defense via AP, File)

There has been heightened interest in reports of balloon overflights after the military identified — and eventually shot down — a large, white Chinese spy craft that crossed much of the country last year. But officials said the balloon intercepted Friday was not sent by a foreign adversary and posed no threat to aviation or U.S. security, according to the Associated Press. 

NORAD flight file image

In this photo released by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, top, is intercepted near the Alaska coastline, Monday, March 9, 2020.  (North American Aerospace Defense Command via AP, File)

The Chinese spy craft flew from Alaska to the East Coast, where it was shot down by the military over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, 2023. The Pentagon said in June that while the Chinese balloon had “intelligence collection capabilities,” it did not collect and transmit data before it was shot down. 

The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down

The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 4, 2023.  (Randall Hill/Reuters)

Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Chinese craft was used for spying, not weather-related issues as China had claimed. 


It is unclear why the spy mission seemed to fail, but officials said intelligence agencies used countermeasures to prevent data collection. 

Fox News’ Bradford Betz, Liz Friden and Brie Stimson, as well as the Associated Press contributed to this report.