3 February 2023: Across the United States

A large surveillance balloon was spotted over U.S. airspace for several days in early February. U.S. Pentagon officials opted not to shoot it down right away citing concerns of not being able to predict where it might land and possibly causing harm to people on the ground. A senior defense official said the U.S. has “very high confidence” the high-altitude balloon belonged to the Chinese and that it was collecting intelligence. The balloon was spotted several times, once over Montana, which officials noted is home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The U.S. government tracked the balloon, according to Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, who provided a statement. He said it 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 balloon was seen “drifting in and out of clouds and had what appeared to be a solar array hanging from the bottom,” according to the Billings Gazette. Eventually, the balloon was shot down by the U.S. after it entered airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the remnants of the balloon were recovered by the U.S. military for analysis.